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Empyre: Captain America 1
Writer: Phillip Kennedy Johnson
Artist: Ariel Olivetti
Color artist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterers: VC’s Ariana Maher with Joe Caramagna
In Marvel Comics’ Empyre: Captain America #1, on sale July 28, writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson brings the Cotati invasion to America, where Steve Rogers fights alongside the nation’s armed forces. The issue’s patriotic themes resonate in an increasingly challenging time. By the end of the comic, even jaded readers will feel red, white and blue coursing through their veins.
In Empyre, the Cotati’s invasion of Earth plunges the planet into a global fight for survival. Naturally, Captain America steps up to defend his homeland. Right away, the narrator of Empyre: Captain America #1 (presumably Rogers) frames the Cotati as the threat in this high-stakes war. “[They are] led by a self-styled messiah…in a holy war to kill all animal-based life in the universe,” the narrator states. Artiest Ariel Olivetti complements the script by repeatedly proving several cinematic images that are sure to pull at your patriotic heartstrings. In the first few pages, she shows the Cotati annihilating some American soldiers with the Washington Monument towering in the background.
This emotional sight makes the reader feel sympathetic for the soldiers, who are dying with the nation’s capital a stone’s throw away. But Olivetti similarly evokes a strong response when she shows Captain America literally swooping in to save the day. The First Avenger looks angelic as he flies through the air with the sun brightly shining behind him. Cap immediately tips the scales of the battle and helps the troops fend off the invaders and score one for the good guys.
Any Captain America story, especially with an all-out war like the one featured in Empyre, is the perfect opportunity to tie in real-world politics and philosophy. Kenny Johnson capitalizes on this opportunity by offering some commentary on non-interventionism. When Captain America travels to The Pentagon, he tries to convince a military general to lend a helping hand to America’s allies around the globe. “Our allies need to us supporting them so they’ll support us and one another,” Cap says. The general denies Rogers’ plea, saying that the armed forces need to focus on defending America.He also refuses to help nations who will never be able to return the favor. Olivetti shows unflinching resolve and obstinance on the general’s face, which conveys his unwillingness to compromise.
This self-interested attitude angers Cap, who states that all life is threatened, so every human needs to stand together. In this exchange, Kennedy Johnson may be commenting on some ideological conflicts we’ve seen time and again in the real world; he’s suggesting that in the face of such a powerful threat, border-based philosophy should cease to exist in favor of unity. Thankfully, Cap convinces some soldiers to fight by his side, so the planet might not be doomed after all.
Empyre: Captain America #1 is the event’s first openly political comic. In a story where two opposing empires unite and threaten the Earth, it’s likely that there will be many more to come. If so, they’ll have a hard time topping Kennedy Johnson’s opening salvo, as he comments on real-world philosophy and makes the reader feel proud to be an American at a time where it’s increasingly hard to do so.
What’d you think of Empyre: Captain America #1? Where do you hope to see the story go from here? Check out your local comic shop to see if you can pick it up there, or consider buying the issue online.