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Review: Captain America #1 Mixes Ripped from the Headlines Relevance with Old School Marvel Action

On 4th of July aka Captain America’s birthday, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Leinil Yu began a new era for Steve Rogers, Bucky Barnes, and Sharon Carter in Captain America #1.  There’s a lot of plates to spin in Coates’ opening storyline from Russia-based vampires interfering in American politics to Cap trying to balance being an inspirational figure while being confronted by a horde of men dressed like Nuke and his relationship with Bucky, Sharon, and the flag on his shield and chest. However, the comic keeps from being overwhelmed by these things by leaning on action with gritty work from Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, and Sunny Gho. The clean art and lantern jaws of Chris Samnee’s run are replaced by pained face, sharp edges, and a muted, shadow filled and it fits a story where Thunderbolt Ross (Who is still a buzzkill). There’s even a well-placed use of a nine panel grid, which I hear is all the rage these days and kudos to Coates and Yu for using for a difficult interpersonal scene between Steve and Sharon and not just a knife fight or something. (Not that there’s anything wrong with knife fights.)

Probably, the boldest decision that Ta-Nehisi Coates makes in Captain America #1 is facing Secret Empire head on and having Steve still fighting to clear his name while also re-casting that whole debacle of an event in the real world light of the election of Donald Trump, Russian tampering of that election, and the increased boldness and acceptance of fascists and white supremacists, who have been here all along. The United States didn’t fight a war against Russia or an army of fascists and lose: they lost at the ballot box and have been losing since 1492, 1607, or 1619 when the first African slaves were transported to Jamestown. Coates and Leinil Yu deal with these real world issues and complicated nature of patriotic iconography through an icon himself: Captain America and explores how problematic he has become in-universe like when Thaddeus Ross benches him for a mission to see who is behind the opening attack of New York City. But somehow guys like Baron Strucker are okay because they helped lead the resistance against HYDRA.

Steve’s struggles with his iconography being co-opted first by HYDRA Cap and then in this issue, by the Nuke wannabes attacking Washington DC, is the emotional heart of Captain America #1. Yu and Gerry Alanguilan give readers plenty of prototypical Captain America shots like throwing his shield into battle, using the shield to protect an injured dad and his son, and then Coates gets to write a great Cap speech. But, then, the narration undermines these moments as Cap wonders what to say to a woman who has lost her daughters and looks around at the collateral damage surrounding the National Mall. And, after the battle, he is immediately undermined by Ross because “appearances matter” and the cloak and dagger spy and assassin skills of Bucky and Sharon are more useful than a guy running around in an American flag costume. A symbol is useful to any resistance, but not a tarnished one, and Yu eschews the heroic poses for middle distance disappointed faces.

But Captain America #1 isn’t all about Steve and his feeble attempts at restoring his legacy. Ta-Nehisi Coates and Leinil Yu using the opening and closing moments of the comics to set up a compelling villain: Selena, a millennia old mutant with “psychic vampire” abilities. She both uses her powers and a mysterious protege, Alexa, to take down HYDRA cells in Russia and to also influence the American government as the head of Faith Based Initiatives in a blink or miss TV screen cameo. In Captain America #1’s cold open, Selena and Alexa prove to be a formidable threat to a group of HYDRA soldiers with plenty of pyrotechnics and snow from Yu, Alanguilan, and Sunny Gho. Coates doesn’t go the secret villain cliche route and immediately introduces the threat while promising to unpack her connection to the U.S. government and finding some way for Steve to confront her in subsequent issues. Having a powerful Russian force interfere with the American government is compelling in light of current events, but that having that threat be a New Mutants villain with vampire-like abilities is a very Marvel way to go about it.

Playing off the classic Captain America quote from Frank Miler and David Mazzucchelli’s Daredevil: Born Again “I’m loyal to nothing except the dream”, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Leinil Yu unpack the role of Cap as an icon and hero in Captain America #1 while kicking off an action conspiracy storyline that is like our current reality, but draped in Marvel Comics lore.  There is a questioning aspect to this story as Steve, Bucky, and Sharon are consumed with doubt and separated by their new roles in this ever shifting new status quo. Also, it’s kind of sad that the weapon that Steve uses to finally take down the Nukes could also incapacitate his best friend.

Captain America #1 is thrilling, thought provoking stuff and hasn’t been this meaty and compelling since Ed Brubaker’s run on the title.

Story: Ta-Nehisi Coates Pencils: Leinil Yu Inks: Gerry Alanguilan
Colors: Sunny Gho Letters: Joe Caramagna 
Story: 9.2 Art: 8.4 Overall: 8.8 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Marvel Reveals a Captain America #1 Variant by Frank Miller!

Marvel is celebrating Captain America #1 from Ta-Nehisi Coates and Leinil Yu with a new variant cover from Frank Miller!

Fans got a sneak peek at the creative team’s story in the Avengers/Captain America Free Comic Book Day issue and praise is already high for the new series, with Adventures In Poor Taste claiming “the story presented here is almost dreamlike and should pique readers’ interest.”

Don’t miss the opportunity to dive into this fresh new adventure July 4th, when Captain America #1 hits comic shops!

Captain America #1 Gets a Variant Cover from Marko Djurdjević

Marvel is celebrating Captain America #1 from Ta-Nehisi Coates and Leinil Yu with a new variant cover from superstar artist Marko Djurdjević!

Fans got a sneak peek at the creative team’s story in the Avengers/Captain America Free Comic Book Day issue and praise is already high for the new series, with Adventures In Poor Taste claiming “the story presented here is almost dreamlike and should pique readers’ interest.”

Don’t miss the opportunity to dive into this fresh new adventure July 4th, when Captain America #1 hits comic shops!

Captain America #1 Gets a Joe Jusko Variant

Marvel is celebrating Captain America #1 from Ta-Nehisi Coates and Leinil Yu with a new variant cover from superstar artist Joe Jusko! The comic features a main cover by Alex Ross.

Readers got a sneak peek at the creative team’s story in the Avengers/Captain America Free Comic Book Day issue this past weekend and praise is already high for the new series, with Adventures In Poor Taste claiming “the story presented here is almost dreamlike and should pique readers’ interest.” Don’t miss the opportunity to dive into this fresh new adventure on July 4th, when Captain America #1 hits comic shops!

Review: Weapon H #1

The Weapon X Program has done it again! At the cost of their own destruction, they’ve completed their biggest and possibly most dangerous experiment yet… With the strength of the Hulk and the rage and claws of Wolverine comes WEAPON H!

It’s been some time since Weapon H escaped and destroyed his creators. Now, our hero is on the run, as he tries to escape his mysterious past and seclude himself from the rest of society. But when a new kind of Wendigo threatens the lives of others, will Weapon H be able to shirk his responsibility? Does any of his humanity remain?

I’ll admit, I was skeptical going into Weapon H #1 but the fact Greg Pak is writing the series had me intrigued full of some hope. Pak is an excellent writer and his Mech Cadet Yu is one of my favorite current series. While he’s made kids with mechas awesome and the Hulk interesting, what about Hulkverine? While the series feels like one no one asked for and one we don’t really need, Pak has delivered a first issue that has an old school feel about it all. Like the character himself, Weapon H is a blend of the Hulk and Wolverine. We have a loner whose trying to hide from the military and keep the beast within and a loner in the woods hiding out trying to keep the beast within. Whether Pak has done this on purpose is unknown but what he’s delivered is a surprisingly good comic.

Where Pak’s story stands out is the details and how he builds on the story. The story is most interesting when he has his character hide out within a bunch of day laborers hiding his ability to speak English and keeping his head low. That Pak uses this situation is an interesting one, especially where that goes. Not only does he highlight this real world slave labor situation but also the pitfalls that comes with it. It also helps build sympathy for the monster and at the same time reiterates the monster.

And “the monster” is a key focus. That’s down to the first major villain that’ll be be an obstacle Wendigo. Not only does the character have history with both Wolverine and Hulk it’s also a creature that Pak can work off of with juxtaposing monsters. Add in an evil corporation and there’s clearly thought as to why Pak has chosen this as the first obstacle for he series. That evil corporation is reiterated in a back-up story which adds to the world Pak is creating. It’s a smart way to add to the greater story without interrupting it and emphasizes some of the villains Pak is setting up.

The art by Cory Smith and Marcus To with color from Morry Hollowell and lettering by Joe Caramagna is good. There’s good detail and they use angles and perspectives so that we don’t always see the monster. It’s a trope in a way but one that works really well. Reactions, especially towards the beginning helps build the mystery and horror of it all and the artists help build towards the big reveal later. The lettering too helps emphasize the chaos of the monster emerging bringing together the dialogue and art.

The team has done a solid one here with a story that gives us some tropes and a blending of what we’ve seen before but does it all in such a way that it’s still entertaining. It feels like a story that honors what has come before in many ways. This may be a comic that felt like no one was asking for but what has been delivered is something I want to see where it goes.

Story: Greg Pak Art: Cory Smith, Marcus To
Color: Morry Hollowell Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover: Leinil Yu, Romulo Fajardo, Jr.
Variant Covers: Gustavo Duarte; Dale Keown and Val Staples; Adam Kubert and Matthew Wilson; Skan
Story: 7.85 Art: 7.85 Overall: 7.85 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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