The United States of Captain America showcases a powerful look at the hero and our nation that is very much needed and deserves far more time to be developed. Solid artwork makes the more typical superhero action scenes work even as they lose some of the teeth of the opening. Aaron Fisher, the first of the newly introduced Captain Americas, is a really solid addition to the Marvel Pantheon and helps bring some levels of intrigue back to the issue.
When people think of Captain America the first things that probably come to mind are Chris Evans or the shield or the blond-haired blue-eyed Steve Rogers. Maybe flag imagery, apple pie, and the eternal fight for the “American dream” too. A hero whose heart is in the right place but as a white man in the United States, he misses the point at times and veers a bit into the overdone patriot-type mindset.
That’s why the intro to the first issue of The United States of Captain America, a series meant to celebrate 80 years of the character, is powerful and refreshing. Chris Cantwell pushes past much of those images of Steve/Cap and gives us a truly powerful mental monologue that finds the star-spangled Avenger truly mulling over the lies of the so-called “American Dream” and the failures of this nation as well as the good and bad part he plays in it all.
It’s probably one of the most effective Captain America series openers that we’ve seen in quite some time, as it not only gets the character vibe but moves him forward in a good way. It’s the Captain America that is needed more in this modern time where much of the masses have no room for the extreme patriotic lies that fly around like Cap’s shield.
Unfortunately, the rest of the issue isn’t quite as powerful.
That’s not saying it’s a bad issue, far from it. There are quite a few interesting moments but the second that a shadowy figure steals Steve’s shield the story becomes a lot more of a typical action comic. This is comics and just like with a lot of movies, the powers that be assume (and they could be right, I can’t say for sure) that each entry needs to be action-packed to keep attention. That being said, Cantwell has a really good grasp on Sam Wilson’s voice too, giving us quite a few fun moments between them later in the issue as Sam prepares to suit up as Captain America once more.
The aforementioned shadowy figure utters not a single word, is apparently super-fast, and right now isn’t much more than the narrative tool used to get Steve out on the road to meet all the new Caps that will be debuting in the mini-series. It’s not a bad thing, but it is a bit disappointing to learn not a thing about this nostalgic (they are wearing an old version of one of Steve’s costumes) shadow antagonist.
A few possible theories to their identity come to mind, and they would be a bit disappointing if they turned out to be true. We’ll see where this all goes though.
Speaking of the other Caps, the introduction of Aaron Fischer as a gay homeless runaway who became the Captain America of the railways (where he protects others who ride the rails and need a defender) turned the issue around from just an action piece. This is truly what makes the series so interesting is the dedication to introducing a variety of individuals inspired by Captain America that span so many diverse marginalized groups.
Not only are those new characters debuting here they’re backstories, which are backups in the issues, are written by diverse creators from within the same marginalized communities as the characters. Aaron’s story has a gay man as the writer and a trans woman as the artist. The stories of the upcoming other Captain Americas follow suit.
While the story devolves into mostly superheroic action it’s well put together by Dale Eaglesham, Matt Milla, and Joe Caramagna on the art duties for the first story. Eaglesham captures the energy of the moments that are presented and Milla has a shinier color palette that pairs well with Eaglesham’s art. A lot of aforementioned action scenes definitely come off looking images ready to jump off the page to a movie screen which is kind of cool. That’s helped by the always well-done letter work by Caramagna, especially a lot of the work done in the big train scenes.
Aaron Fisher’s backup story is a solid origin though it does feel a bit almost sanitized, in the sense that it skirts the lines without really going too far. Fisher comes off almost too even-keeled/blasé while coming up against the atrocities that Roxxon is committing against the homeless they are rounding up and are putting into slave labor type conditions. Josh Trujillo does a solid job despite that introducing Aaron and how he came to be the railway Captain America and what pushes him to keep going. Hopefully, this is a character that we get to see much more of in the future because not only do we need more representation but the character is just really really interesting and clearly has more stories to be told.
Jan Bazaldua has such a clean and energetic style of artwork, which when paired with Milla’s colors almost looks like a fine painting somewhat. If that makes sense. All the establishing shots in panels feel lived in and colorful, despite the heavier topic that is being tackled within the story. The shot from when Aaron fully becomes Captain America and leaps at the Roxxon guards is just so so good. And so very powerful for so many reasons.
Overall, the series is quite good, even if the middle sags just a bit as it moves into typical superhero realms after opening with such a powerful ferocious look at our society and symbols. Perhaps if Cantwell had a full regular ongoing Captain America series that can devote time to such a take, we could get more of that.
The United States of Captain America #1 is now on sale in print and digitally from Marvel Comics.