Captain America #1
Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Artist: Leinil Francis Yu
It’s a fair assessment to say that Captain America is my favorite character in fiction. When I heard that Ta-Nehisi Coates would be writing Captain America I was excited and hopeful, as I’ve been enjoying his run on Black Panther. It’s safe to say that my expectations were not only met but greatly exceeded. Ta-Nehisi Coates and Leinil Francis Yu deliver a book that understands who Captain America is, and places him once more in a world he doesn’t know.
The issue opens on a Hydra convoy in Russia, transporting a prisoner. A lone woman attacks the convoy, killing every Hydra member. The attacker, the woman Hydra was transporting, and one lone Hydra survivor then teleport away from the scene. We then cut to Washington, where an attack is underway on a group of protestors and their opposition. The attackers are cybernetic super soldiers, modeled after the supervillain Nuke. Right down to the American flag on their face.
“These men brought terror to the capital of the free world. But they also found me. A soldier at home or away. A man loyal to nothing… Except the dream.”
Enter Captain America. Failing to talk the soldiers down, Cap defeats the soldiers with assistance from Bucky Barnes, The Winter Soldier. As well as Sharon Carter, Agent 13. Though they are not the last familiar faces we see pop up in this issue. In the aftermath of the fight, we see Cap comfort a child whose father was shot, telling him to continue being brave. But we also see a different side, when Cap is at a loss for words for a mother who lost her children. All from soldiers wearing the same flag that is his costume.
We see Thunderbolt Ross arrive in the aftermath of the attack, on a mission from the President. Last seen in prison, he’s now been cleared of all charges for leading a resistance against Hydra during Secret Empire. He recruits both Sharon Carter and Bucky Barnes. But not Steve Rogers, pointing out that appearances matter in this new world. We see more of the damage “Stevil” Rogers left, as Sharon refuses to share information about the attack. She still feels the effects of what he did.
There’s a feeling of faith lost. Both in Captain America himself, and what he stands for as a symbol. When Captain America’s face is used to bring the nation to its knees, how do you trust him again? This issue seems to be setting up a story to answer that question. Cap can give all the speeches, and save the day, but what does it mean when even those closest to him have their doubts?
Coates is no stranger to making real-world social and political commentary in his writing. Without delving too deep into it, it’s very much on display here. There’s a protest of “Hydra nostalgic” people, and their opposition. As well as the antagonist being a group rising to power in Russia. Both emblematic of real-world headlines. But Captain America made his comic book debut during World War II. He is a character made to deal with real-world topics and ideas in the comic book format.
Stepping back into the comic, the art by Leinil Francis Yu is very dynamic. With an almost cinematic style to it. There’s crystal clear definition on every close up of character faces, and we can see the emotion on display. The line work and colors help add to the feel and tone of the issue (done by Gerry Alanguilan and Sunny Gho, respectively). With as much detail in the foreground in some of the panels showing a wider scene, the background can sometimes look bare and lacking details.
I did like Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s short run on Captain America. It told a good tale and was a throwback to classic Marvel stories. But it mostly felt like sweeping Secret Empire under the rug and carrying on, business as usual. With a detailed art style and a plot that pulls from recent comic book history and real-world headlines, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Leinil Francis Yu have delivered a modern, relevant Captain America story that has me excited for what’s to come.
Captain America #1
Ta-Nehisi Coates writes a modern and relevant Captain America story that doesn't shy away from recent history, with detailed and expressive art by Leinil Francis Yu that matches the tone and feel exceptionally well.