Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sam Wilson: Captain America #1 - A Review

Confession time, kids. I've never been a big Captain America fan.

I don't dislike Captain America. I just never really connected with Steve Rogers the same way I did Peter Parker or Dick Grayson. I preferred heroes I could relate to rather than ideals to live up to.

As such, the new Sam Wilson: Captain America title didn't hold much interest for me. Most of the Marvel Now! campaign has left me cold and the idea of Sam Wilson taking up Steve Rogers' shield just seemed like a cheap publicity stunt. It was the sort of event that would be quickly ended as soon as the next Captain America movie hit the big-screen.

Then the controversy started. And various media outlets began waxing wroth about this book. And it wasn't because of a black man bearing Captain America's shield.

No, it was because this Captain America marched in a gay pride parade. And sympathized with the Black Lives Matter movement. And dared to stand against a white-supremacist group that was killing people they suspected of being illegal immigrants along the United States' southern border.

This is hilarious to me on multiple levels. Any reputable scholar of American comic book history can tell you that Captain America's origins are steeped in New Deal liberalism. Steve Rogers was the original social justice warrior, punching Nazis not because they were enemies of America but because they were enemies of everything America stood for - Freedom, Equality and Justice.

Here's a fun fact - the famous cover of Captain America #1 where Steve Rogers is punching Hitler? That came out a year before the USA joined World War II. Joe Simon and Jack Kirby got death threats from conservative groups such as The German-American Bund because of it. In fact, the Timely Comics offices received so many bomb threats that New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia saw fit to give Captain America's creators round-the-clock police protection.

So if anyone tells you that Captain America has always been a proponent of conservative values - at least what we define today as conservative values - they're ignorant at best and disingenuous at worse. Yes, Captain America always tried to uphold the Law of the Land. But when the law conflicted with the ideals America stood for, Captain America always backed the ideal. And it's hard to believe that anyone could defend the actions of The Sons Of The Serpent in this issue - threatening unarmed civilians with torture and death - as being in line with any system of morality worthy of consideration.

Politics aside, this is a damn good comic.  Nick Spencer's script quickly establishes the new status quo for Captain America, who is now free of SHIELD and free of direct government influence over his actions. Daniel Acuna is a fantastic visual storyteller and the action of the story flows naturally from panel to panel.

I'm not sure if I'll keep picking this book up. I'm still not that big of a Captain America fan. But this issue did make me think and lead me to a greater appreciation of what the character and The American Dream means. And that's something I can't say about a lot of modern comics.

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