Review: Captain America: Sam Wilson Vol. 1: Not My Captain America trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

[Review by Doug Glassman, who Tumblrs at '80s Marvel Rocks!]

It's unfortunate that Nick Spencer's Captain America: Sam Wilson Vol. 1: Not My Captain America isn't coming out alongside Al Ewing's Loki, Agent of Asgard. Both titles are defined by the numerous callbacks to '80s Marvel classics; before the title launched, Spencer confirmed Mark Gruenwald's influence. Like Ewing and his love of Simonson's The Mighty Thor, Spencer uses SamCap (as I like to call it) to bring back some long-vanished characters, especially reinvigorating Captain America's rogues gallery. At least one of those revivals led to major news coverage and political outrage.

Even if you haven't read SamCap, you've probably heard about the return of the Sons of the Serpent and their new role as analogues of the Minutemen border patrollers. Fox News spent a lot of time complaining about how this was a corruption of the original comics ... never mind that the Sons of the Serpent have been one of Marvel's go-to Ku Klux Klan analogues since their inception back in 1966. The complaint loses even more steam once the story moves on and reveals that they're part of a larger conspiracy involving a missing teenager and the return of mad scientist Dr. Karl Malus. This ends up returning to one of Gruenwald's crazier concepts with Sam turning into a new version of Cap-Wolf.

The dynamic between the former Falcon and the former Captain America drives the first part of this trade after Sam holds a press conference to give his opinion on a controversial SHIELD project. Steve still works for SHIELD after joining them in Avengers: Time Runs Out and is none too pleased that they are working on using Cosmic Cube fragments to change reality in small ways. This project was leaked to the public by a whistleblower called the Whisperer, and Sam and Steve almost come to blows over how to deal with him. The Whisperer and Cosmic Cube subplots lead into the Avengers: Standoff event, as does Maria Hill's frosty relationship with Sam Wilson.

Since he's feuding with SHIELD and the Mighty Avengers are dissolved, Sam decides to restart the Captain America Hotline to seek out trouble. He's joined by former Hero for Hire Misty Knight who befriended Sam back in All-New Captain America; she's the sensible back-up to his headstrong leader. The third member of their group is the suddenly-revived Demolition Man as their pilot. D-Man's resurrection was explained in the hilarious Secret Wars Too one-shot and it's a shame that that story wasn't reprinted in this trade. He's one of the elements that really cements the Gruenwald connection. Another major Gruenwald character, Diamondback, reappears in the second half of the trade along with the Serpent Society, now rebranded as the Serpent Solutions PR firm.

I should probably explain here that SamCap is one of the funniest Marvel titles not featuring Deadpool, Squirrel Girl, or Howard the Duck. Some of the humor is derived from Spencer applying modern tropes to older characters. The aforementioned Serpent Solutions are the most ruthless one-percenter parodies since Archer and Armstrong's One Percent cult, but at the same time, such obvious, over-the-top evil works in Marvel's overall weirdness. There's a recurring gag about the overall negative perception of Sam as the new Captain America, which isn't helped when he becomes a werewolf. This is in contrast to another running joke, which is the enduring popularity of his falcon, Redwing, who now has a sonic cannon. (Redwing is also a vampire thanks to Baron Blood's shenanigans. Thanks, Rick Remender.)

The art for SamCap is primarily by Daniel Acuna, with some assistance by Paul Renaud and Joe Bennett due to some deadline issues. This is the best I've seen Acuna's sometimes off-putting art and shiny coloring. Renaud in particular gets to draw the debut of the Acuna-designed All-New All-Different Falcon; it ends up being teenager Joaquin Torres who became a falcon-man in the same process that turned Sam into Cap-Wolf. His armored green costume is a little odd-looking until you recall that Sam's very first costume was green (it still looks a little too much like the Vulture for my liking). Should a new Young Avengers assemble, Joaquin should be on that roster immediately.

Because I like SamCap so much, I'm trying my best to not spoil the best parts of Captain America: Sam Wilson Vol. 1: Not My Captain America. It's one of the stand-out All-New All-Different Marvel books, which has been a stellar range of titles to begin with. The title should satisfy both older and newer Captain America fans thanks to its humor and its wide range of callbacks.
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1 comment:

  1. I couldn't believe the news picked on this comic. They really have to stay away from things that they just don't get. That "expert" they had to talk about it.....oof.