Marvel Legacy is in full swing this November, with current titles taking on silver and bronze age numbering in the latest marketing trick-up-their-sleeves, and Captain America is leading the charge. With Mark Waid and Chris Samnee at the reins, Steve Rogers is back to being the sentinel of liberty and all that good stuff, but there’s a lingering shadow hanging over Cap. It isn’t quite manifest in this introduction issue (and as a one-shot, I’m not entirely surprised by that), but there is certainly something bubbling beneath the righteous salutes and linked arms of the American people and their hero.
Right off the bat, I need to commend Matthew Wilson, the colorist of this and the most recent Waid/Samnee run on Black Widow, on his diversity of mood and titular personalization. To differentiate, let me present to you the shadow-scape of Natasha’s world. Everything is, fittingly, black and red, and yet there’s a cold, harsh tone muting everything. Lots of snowy scenes, the cover of night, abandoned complexes. He and Chris Samnee work together to create a stark reality that this assassin lives in despite a certain softness in her face, an emotional presence that gives both the Black Widow and the reader drive to keep reading.
In contrast, Captain America is one of the brightest, most saturated comics on the shelf this week. Again, there’s a tell-tale softness in Captain America’s face, a jovial innocence in his interactions with kids and Cap fans, but what makes this still familiar to the team of Waid, Samnee, and Wilson? The predominant color schemes throughout the book are personalized to our featured hero: warm reds, whites, and blues. America, fuck yeah.
Backing off my palette-gushing, Captain America #695 is a really pleasant one-shot, referencing the previous story arc as quickly as possible while moving on and teasing a new, interesting future for Steve, maybe one that will even show us more of the man behind the mask. In true ‘American Hero’ fashion, he’s kicking Nazi ass again and yes, he’s actually taking names! Not only do we see the profound effect that a superhero’s legacy can have on the nation he fights to protect, on everyday people without powers to protect themselves from super villains and evil armed fanatics alike, but we’re also shown the strategist in Cap, solidifying his worthy position as a crime-fighter in the same way ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ proved his place among the other, crazy-powerful Avengers. His message is a resounding, important one: ‘The strong protect the weak. Thats the rule’. I can understand if it sounds condescending, but this message literally does apply to EVERYONE; there will always be someone that we can help, that we can teach, that we can shield. Comics and superheroes need to regain some heart, and a message like this is a really good start. Think about it. It’s easy to forget that behind Batman, there’s Bruce Wayne with his flawed coping mechanisms, his control-complex, his crushing, life-long sadness. In this same regard, I hope that we are entering into a new Captain America series that gives STEVE just as much time to shine as our hero, and show that superheroes do these good things because regular citizens, genuinely good PEOPLE did them first.
Now, this new story is touted to be a road-trip of Steve Rogers re-identifying as his old self, but also dealing with the fallout of Secret Empire. This first issue starts us off in rural Nebraska, where a White Supremacist group has taken root and works to spur rapid expansion, a systematic take-over inspired by Hydra’s short-lived reign of terror…Sound familiar yet? For progressive readers, this is a gimme, an easy way to lead back into classic Cap, and while this is a good start, it honestly makes me far more interested in where we’re stopping next; will Steve Rogers be rolling through Ferguson to address police brutality? How about Wall Street to go head-to-head with corporate greed? Sandy Hook to help kids feel safe about going to school again? Chicago’s South Side to curb crime and help Black communities?
Or is it even his place to do any of those things? I’d die to see these superhero stories more closely mirror current, real-world issues, to motivate and inspire especially young readers to stand up for one another, empathize with one another. On the other hand, do we really need Cap to tell us we should care about other people, or should we be doing it ourselves, and serve as an ongoing inspiration to motivate Captain America and his comics?
I know, this got too deep too fast, but I’m in love with this character, and this is the first time in a long time I’ve felt really hopeful about an upcoming series with him, especially taking teen readership into account. He’s taking up the shield and not just reconnecting with himself, but he’s helping us to reconnect with what should be the core values of this country and of our own humanity. I feel more prepared than ever to debate the presence of politics in comics, but more seriously, to also stand fast in the ongoing fight against hate. Captain America doesn’t accept it, and neither should you.
Too long, didn’t read? I rate Captain America #695 at 8/10 stars!
Honorable mentions: No. 1 With a Bullet #1, Batman: White Knight #2, and Grave Diggers Union #1.