America is in tatters. A megalomaniacal leader took over and corrupted the nation. And then there was Secret Empire in the comics. Eh…that joke seemed better in my head.
Anyways, in the aftermath of Secret Empire, Steve Rogers is actively trying to regain the trust of America. Mainly he is trying to stop the rogue factions of Nukes, super enhanced soldiers that helped bring down Hydra. They have become home grown terrorist, believing America has betrayed them.
Steve is trying to take down the factions as they spring up, at the same time struggling with his guilt over the whole Hydra Affair. Clearly, people look and see his face as the face of Hydra. Steve is both angry and frustrated. There is a recurring theme that there is something noble in the ideals of the dream. And a lot of those were used by Hydra to coerce Americans into complacency.
In the third issue, Steve sits in a hoodie conversing with a miner explaining why he was willing to live under Hydra rule. Hydra seemed to make everything work. Healthcare, schools, jobs…they made these things accessible, and nobody wanted to question the how. And now that they have gone, a new secretive company is covering where they left off. The Government is scrambling to put out fires and this private company is giving the illusion of jobs and a security and education.
Ta-Nehisi Coates is the writer on the latest Captain America series, and he is facing the controversial Secret Empire storyline in the eyes. Rather than trying to downplay or avoid it, he has Steve confronting and trying to correct it. Captain America and Steve Rogers have long represented a notion of the selfless man who always puts others above himself. He will throw himself on the grenade to protect everyone else. Coates has a precision focus on who Steve is in the aftermath of his heroism being poisoned in the eyes of the world. Coates also has really pushed Steve and Sharon’s relationship to the heart of the series. Sharon is the voice of serenity and forgiveness in Steve’s ear. She is also a badass sixty something agent. I really like that they have not chosen to present her as a thirty something babe, but as a more mature woman.
There were some upset when it was announced that Coates would be taking on Captain America. “He will ruin Captain America” they wailed angrily. And he has a long history of vexing certain folks with his less idyllic view of race relations in America. He was accused by these voices of being a diversity hire when he got his gig on Black Panther, as if he was not an established author.
If the fear was that he would make Cap to political…well, come on now. Captain America was punching Hitler before we officially entered World War Two. He is at his best when he is confronting the American Dream. Coates is infusing the book with a Rogers who has deeply held ideals and seeks to hold tightly to them, even when America lets them down. But I don’t really think Coates is preaching outwards. Honestly? I feel like, just maybe, Coates is writing as much to himself as anyone else. That he is trying to challenge himself.
In the third issue, there is an exchange between Rogers and T’Challa. When it is revealed that there may be a connection between the government and Nuke terror attacks, Steve wearily says, “I wish I weren’t so surprised. I should start expecting this stuff.” But T’Challa offers a rather hopeful note against the easier cynicism.
“No, you should not. You should never expect such things from your own people. They day you are not surprised is the day that Captain America dies.”
It is a powerful thought…and it feels like one of those things Coates wants to believe as much as it might be a messaged aimed at readers. The personal is political…and trying to tear the politics from Captain America is foolish.
The story is punctuated with amazing art from Leinil Francis Yu. I have always loved the kinetic energy of his fine line artwork. He draws an impressive and noble looking Cap. I have really appreciated his work throughout this series. The main covers are beautiful paintings by Alex Ross. And the colors by Sunny Gho flow wonderfully with the artwork from Yu. Sunny has a beautiful painted style that does not clash with the lines. Sometimes colorists can produce overly glossy colors at odds with the art. But here, Gho is complimenting Yu’s work perfectly.
Three issues in and I am extremely pleased with the latest Captain America series. I recommend this book.