Captain America: Sam Wilson #18 Review

Posted January 18, 2017 by Jason Adams in Comic Books

Written by: Nick Spencer

Art by: Daniel Acuña

Publisher: Marvel

Who could have guessed when the current Captain America: Sam Wilson series began that the changing political climate in the U.S. would prove the perfect fertile ground for Nick Spencer to give us arguably the most real-world-relevant mainstream superhero comic we’ve seen in recent memory? Probably a good number of people, but still, that shouldn’t detract from how hard a story where a Captain America faces a country as increasingly divided in the pages as it is becoming in reality hits home.

Hopefully Marvel could sense the potential in putting Spencer (who has a history in local politics himself) at the helm of this book and it wasn’t a lucky coincidence. In recent issues Spencer has thoughtfully navigated political subjects and societal issues that don’t necessarily directly affect him while managing to skewer commentators at both extremes of the matter. Spencer’s ability to play off of real world stress is never more apparent than in this issue where a heavy foreboding tension follows you through the whole issue purely based on the context in which we’re reading this story, and not because of super-powered fist fights that would normally create that tension more bluntly (in this issue not a single punch is thrown, not a single kick is round-housed). Seeing Sam battle a moral dilemma and an intangible enemy that can’t just have super strength thrown at it, which we’ve seen characters like Rage and the new Falcon already try, seems ever more valuable to me after the recent conclusion of another Civil War.

Not that this is Rage’s first appearance in this series or close to it, but it felt like the first time we really consider him a part of Sam Wilson’s team. One of Nick Spencer’s biggest contributions to the Captain Americas, as well as to Ant-Man, is giving them a solid supporting squad of characters with enough range to make them interesting and enough chemistry to make them lovable. Batman’s “family” has grown to Duggar family levels, and seems to be something that a lot of Marvel’s biggest characters lack. Now under Spencer, Sam Wilson, who has been treated as a right-hand man at best and a glorified sidekick at worst, has a cemented cast strong enough to stand on its own and support its own book. Recent more fun plot-detour issues showcasing Misty Knight, D-Man, and Joaquin and Rage were enjoyable even without the titular character being that important in them. Now when Joaquin’s right to stay in the country is questioned, we get defensive; when Rage gets profiled and treated with excessive force, we get angry.

It’s impossible to review an issue of Sam Wilson without tying it to Steve Rogers and vice versa (side note: Marvel is killing it with writers with dual contrasting series right now between the Cap books and Al Ewing’s offerings). If you don’t read the other Captain America story, Steve’s advice to Sam still stands on its own as the advice you would expect to hear from Good Ol’ Cap, but if you’ve been following both series, it’s a fun little inside wink to readers in that it’s clear his advice doubles as advice to help divide American citizens further. Just as Captain Falcon is quickly becoming my new favourite costumed hero, Hydra-Cap is also becoming one of my favourite (and in some ways, the most unsettling and terrifying) Marvel villain of the present.

It’ll be interesting to see where Spencer takes the conclusion to the Americops storyline and how he’ll work more recent political turmoil and problems into a Marvel Universe take on the subjects. This series is definitely looking to be the most relevant superhero series for the time we’re living in.

About the Author

Jason Adams