Captain America #1 Review – The Fresh Start Cap Needs

Posted July 4, 2018 by Alden Diaz in Comic Books

Written By: Ta-Nehisi Coates

Art By: Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, Sunny Gho

Cover By: Alex Ross

Published By: Marvel Comics

“A man loyal to nothing except the dream.”

I’m going to be upfront about the basis of my experience with this book: I was extremely interested just on the pitch and the creative team alone. In a lot of ways, Marvel already had me wanting to be excited about the start of this run, and what this issue had to do in my mind was deliver on its frankly immense potential. I mean, releasing the first issue of the new post-HYDRA storyline Captain America book on the Fourth of July? Yes. And then giving the high level assignment to a diverse creative team, with writing duties going to MacArthur Genius Grant recipient and Black Panther scribe Ta-Nehisi Coates? Double yes. And then you add in Leinil Francis Yu on art and I was practically ready to throw my money at this book until a bald eagle somewhere shed tears of happiness. And I make that half-joking bald eagle comment because I did genuinely expect this book to be intelligently infused with not only classical American spirit, but also with the grim implications of the current political landscape and the morale of this nation’s people.

And with all that said, I’ll be upfront once more: This book delivered on both of those expectations. This is a book that’s very upfront about its themes, and it has all of the trappings of something truly special.

So what exactly does this issue explore? I already mentioned the American spirit and the darkness of the modern era, but those are both really broad concepts. With those things as the more grand catalysts, the book takes a dive into several more intimate ideas as well: Battle scars, both emotional and physical. The place of soldiers in a nation that’s constantly changing and battling over its own fabric. The idea that our heroes expect better of us just as we expect better of them. The horrifying and increasingly accurate notion that society perpetuates the growth of its worst examples. All of those things serve as pillars for this new chapter. And of course, a good story doesn’t simply touch on ideas, it explores them through character interactions and conflict. Coates employs Steve Roger’s internal monologue in this issue to great effect as Cap tries to talk himself through the complexities of his own relevancy, his responsibility to the people, and society’s responsibility to its own moral compass. The voice crafted here is consistent with all of the best Cap material. He sounds experienced, true, but appropriately shaken given the context of this story arc.

The dialogue in this issue between Steve and the supporting cast members (including Sharon Carter, Bucky Barnes, and Thunderbolt Ross) presents contrasting viewpoints and different personal struggles that all work together to give us a more fleshed out picture of the issues that are being presented. Coates doesn’t paint any of the characters as “wrong” in their thinking. They’re all on the side of good, but those seeking to do good often see their methods as superior to the methods of their allies. If that sounds familiar, it’s because this book is VERY much so about being an American NOW, in 2018. That focus is all over the main superhero vs. villain conflict of the issue. Captain America fighting angry “patriots” with the flag painted on their faces while a child looks on in horror is something I’d argue needs to be happening in this title right now.

If comics are doing their job, then they’re an escape from the real world. That’s true. But if they’re doing their job REALLY WELL, then they’re an escape that can show us what we should be aspiring to and what pitfalls we may face.

The last but certainly not least thing I want to discuss here is how cinematic and gorgeous Leinil Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, and Sunny Gho have made this story look. The action is dynamic, the facial expressions convey lovely levels of emotion, and there’s a few panels that are downright iconic in their composition. I’m not sure whose decision it was to straight up use the completely classic costume for Steve, but it’s gloriously realized here. It’s the only costume I’d want him to be wearing for THIS story. I love that Yu’s signature style that leans more toward the side of “gritty” blends with the coloring in this issue to form a poignant contrast between Steve’s internal optimism and the world around him. I can’t wait to see what this team does as we move further into the story (and into what seem to be more fantastical directions).

This is one of the rare comics that makes me feel like I’m a new reader again. That’s a difficult feeling to explain, but maybe I just needed this issue right now? I think I needed to see this beacon of hope feeling as conflicted as some of us feel right now in the real, not-Marvel universe. Everything here lands for me. The writing and the art work together seamlessly. The ideas are laid out out expertly and Coates clearly has a take on this character in a way that I’d argue we haven’t seen since the Ed Brubaker days. It’s focused in its mission to explore what it’s about without beating you over the head with the fact that it is indeed about things. This is classic Marvel, relaunch woes be damned. Pick this up if you’ve ever been unsure about diving into comics about Cap. Pick this up if you like the movie version but you’re unsure about comics in general. This is a book where Cap is as unsure as you are, but he’s gonna be with you for the ride.

About the Author

Alden Diaz

Alden Diaz is a WTN writer whose roots go back to the site's two predecessors. So basically he has a seat on the Council AND the rank of Master? Right? He's a geek with lots of opinions on film, comics, TV, etc., a graduate of broadcasting school, a smark, and a shameless collector of Funko Pop figures. Ask him why pigs are the best animal.