REVIEW: Steve Rogers: Captain America #1

I love a good story.
I define a good story by how it makes me feel.  Was I happy after I read something? Sad? Did I feel anything at all?  This is the power that a good writer and artist has over us, the fans. And Steve Rogers: Captain America #1 made me feel something alright. And that emotion was anger.  And I was not alone.  Given the state of the internet since Wednesday when this book dropped, it’s hard to imagine writer Nick Spencer has come out of his bunker given the very real death threats (really??) that he’ received over the publishing of this book.  Even Ed Brubaker has come out on his twitter feed to try to get the rabid fans to leave him alone.  He hasn’t worked for Marvel in five years!  Editor-in-Chief Tom Brevoort took a more lighthearted attitude about the fan turmoil by stating that after he ruins an icon he likes to kick back and binge watch The Americans.
So let’s talk about what led to that controversial last page reveal this week.  Fresh from his rejuvenation at the hands of a sentient Cosmic Cube in the form of a 5-year old girl, Kobik, in the pages of Assault on Pleasant Hill Omega, Steve is back in fine form in a sleek and updated new costume along with a brand new shield that harkens back to his original triangle shield during WWII.  There’s room for two Caps in this post-Secret Wars Marvel Universe as Sam Wilson continues to operate wearing the flag in his book.  We have what looks to be the start of a strong supporting cast.  Rick Jones is back as The Whisperer, hacker extraordinaire, as is Agent 13 Sharon Carter.  Repercussions from Pleasant Hill will play out here as Maria Hill must answer for her actions. Surprising is the unearthing of two early 90’s chestnuts, Jack Flag and Free Spirit.  Spencer enjoys his D-list characters as they are all over his previous work in Superior Foes of Spider-Man and his current run on Astonishing Ant-Man.
Antagonists are revealed to be a very Donald Trump-like Red Skull, seen here recruiting for Hydra, and Baron Zemo who believes himself to be the true leader of Hydra, but is back to square one here, recruiting a cast of nobody’s to be his new Masters of Evil.
Our final page reveal is teased throughout the issue as we get flashbacks to Steve’s childhood where we see just how abusive a household he grew up in and an opportunity for his Mom Sarah to get involved in civil activism seems that it will lead to her participation in a certain nefarious organization.  The final few pages involve a heart-wrenching plot twist and the utterance of two words that will set the tone for this story. ‘Hail Hydra’.
My anger at reading those last few pages has admittedly dissipated over the last few days and I can now look on it with an objective eye.  Spencer’s writing here is very good. In particular a scene in which Rick, Flag and Spirit discuss being Cap’s sidekick, and another involving Zemo’s embarrassment over how far he has fallen. Comedy is Spencer’s strong suit and he has fun reminding us of old, best forgotten storylines and his characters are in on the joke, which makes it more amusing.  Jesus Saiz’ art pops off the page in his strongest effort to date.  Cap moves fluidly through the action sequences and Zemo looks particularly menacing with a new hood looking more like his father’s.
I have no doubts that things are very much not what they seem here.  This is a gigantic, headline grabbing (literally) moment in the Captain America mythos.  With Steve Rogers being squarely in the public eye after Civil War, Spencer and Saiz have picked the perfect time to rock the status quo in a storyline they can now take their time with as we won’t be seeing Chris Evans appearing as Cap until Avengers Infinity War a couple of years down the road.  As far as explaining the fan outrage, myself included, Captain America has been a cornerstone of my comics life for well over 30 years.  They’ve had him walk away from service more than once, had him butt heads with the government he’s sworn to serve several times, had him on the losing end of a Civil War, killed him off, brought him back, turned him old (not the first time) and made him young again.  But this is different.  This is changing what he stands for.  What he’s fought for.  He’s embodied the greatest qualities of all of us, been a role-model and inspired us to be better than we know how to be.  Is it a lie now? Have we been wrong in putting our faith in this symbol?
I guess I’m going to have to keep reading to find out. Well done, Mr. Spencer.  Well done, Mr. Saiz.  Well done, Marvel.
5 stars across the board!
Steve Rogers: Captain America #1
Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Jesus Saiz
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
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