Can you think of a better way for comic book fans to celebrate The 4th Of July than a monumental Captain America debut? Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and artist Leinil Francis Yu kickstart a new era for our favorite red, white, and blue soldier boy when we need him most.
***SPOILERS LIE AHEAD***
Not too far removed from the events of Secret Empire, Captain America finds himself in an unfamiliar setting. His beloved country is broken, it’s people divided and angry, even his trusted allies don’t provide their usual support. Steve Rogers has an American mess to sort out, and it’s got Hydra’s finger prints all over it.
Ta-Nehisi Coates comes out of the gate with a subtly powerful swing on his first Captain America issue. Steve’s world is an uneasy one that could explode at seemingly any minute. This clearly reflects the state of our own lives in this current era we live in, but without beating us over the head with it. If any character can lead us through the dark times with a strong head on our shoulders, it’s Captain America. Coates is well aware of that and isn’t taking this opportunity lightly.
The atmosphere of this issue is murky, unsettling, and anxious. Readers find themselves right along with Steve, trying to find a light to shine on a country full of violence and misguidance. There’s a dark cloud following Cap that he doesn’t know how to shake.
We’re also treated to some classic Captain America moments as he jumps into action, saving lives threatened by patriotic lunatics. Steve’s narration throughout the issue sets the tone of where his head’s at as he sorts through the events of yesterday and today. Coates gives him a strong and focused voice, making it clear that Steve is the man we need him to be.
While this is nowhere near a simple comic book confronting the politics of today, there’s clearly a correlation. Coates masterfully finds a way to craft a Captain America story that could be not only be applied to the state of the world today, but that of almost any era. These fears are not new, they’re just more amplified now.
Captain America comic books haven’t necessarily had much weight to them in recent years. Coates is bringing a perspective to them that is both fresh and dignified. It’s only the first issue, but he’s got the right voice and is ready to make Cap stand for something again. This is the first time in a long time that Steve has read strictly like comic book Cap and not Chris Evans (no disrespect).
Leinil Francis Yu does a spectacular job making this feel like a classic Captain America book. The action is top-notch, the emotional beats carry weight and illustrate character struggles. This isn’t the bright and happy pulp comic that we got from Waid and Samnee. It’s also not the dark and tone of hopelessness we got from Spencer’s run.
Colorist Sunny Gho has a lot to do with balancing out this issue’s art. There are plenty of bright panels, but never does it get into poppy-bubble-gum territory. We’re not hammered into the ground with a dreary and dark pallet of sadness. It’s an effective balance.
This could end up being one of those Captain America runs that finds its way onto essential reading lists for the character. The tone, look, plot, and structure is exactly what it should be. Captain America‘s creative team seems to be up to the task. If this issue is any indication, we’re in for a real great series.