Diversity Bait And Switch: Reviewing ‘The United States Of Captain America’ #2
by Scott Redmond
The United States of Captain America made a valiant promise but has slightly failed to deliver as the diverse characters used as a selling point are secondary to a villain of the week action plot. Solid artwork and an intriguing backup bring some life back to the issue in spite of the issues that plague the overall series.
Captain America is one of the stalwart Avengers and superheroes of the Marvel Universe, existing even before the rest of what we know to be Marvel even came to be. The character as a concept can be a hard sale at times because of the divided and difficult feelings surrounding the United States, a character he stands as representation for.
The idea of seeing young people of all walks of life and various marginalized groups being inspired by the hero and claiming the mantle for themselves to do what is right for those like them and around them is a solid concept. There is a lot to explore with it, a lot of realms to walk down, and ways to discuss the merits and flaws and failings of this nation. Unfortunately, that’s not what we’re getting in The United States of Captain America.
What could have been this introspective type series, which we got a brief glimpse at with the strong opening to the first issue, has been back burnered for a pretty typical cliché superhero style. Much like the appearance of Aaron Fischer last issue, the introduction of Nichelle Wright as the Captain America of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania is pretty low-key as the plot with the shield thief and mystery assassin and Steve and Sam chasing them takes the lead.
Christopher Cantwell writes these characters quite well, let’s just get that out there. The back and forth of Steve and Sam is solid and there are a lot of interesting nuggets surrounding Nichelle’s story. Unfortunately, the stuff that could be the most interesting and thought-provoking, and different has little room to breathe.
Truly the shield thief/assassin plotline should have been left out. Overall, the series could have been potentially much stronger if it had been about the disillusionment and reality of the dream that Steve spoke of in the first issue tied to him meeting these new Caps and seeing how they are using the mantle for good. It could have been an opportunity for Steve to learn and grow alongside these new generations that were inspired by him and give us a real good look at solid representation and diversity in this land.
Instead, the reveal of just who the shield thief and assassin are comes with a big sigh as it feels as if supervillain stuff had to be tagged on to get this greenlit or something. The two characters that are behind this are seemingly just engaging in the most ridiculous moustache-twirling needlessly complicated “can you tell we’re villains” type of plot. Sure, they are evil, and one has Nazi ties, but come on.
Despite all that, Dale Eaglesham, Matt Milla, and Joe Caramagna do a great job at bringing the story to life and making the action moments (as needless as they feel) come to life. There is a combined lightness and heaviness to Eaglesham’s artwork that really makes thing stand out which would have been just great for a deeper character/world study type piece that this series feels like it wanted to be at the very start. There are some artists that nail differing facial expressions and body language quite well and that’s the case with Eaglesham. The proverbial “weight” that is on the shoulders of each of the Captains in this issue, all for different reasons, can be felt just by looking at them.
Milla’s colors are bright but also bring that weight sense to the artwork, sliding between the light and the dark to bring more depth to everything. While things are bright, they aren’t overly bright. They are more realistic which is befitting of the seriousness of what this title is trying to touch upon. These are the same more muted and real colors that are found upon Caramagna’s big bold SFX lettering that can be found all over the place through the issue.
This month’s backup carries on Nichelle Wright’s storyline after she parts ways with the other Captains, coming from Mohale Mashigo, Natacha Bustos, Milla, and Caramagna. It’s an interesting story that has a bit of action but also showcases how dedicated some of the community is to helping Nichelle continue her mission within the area. It’s a bit cliché in a few ways, with the clearly racist young men holding up the restaurant and the ally that shows up just in time to whisk Nichelle from the police, and the introduction of a supporting cast feels a bit rushed but it works.
There is a whimsical sense to Bustos’ artwork that flows quite well with the action scenes and doesn’t detract from the heavier topics of the story. This pairs perfectly with Mila’s coloring, really giving the pages a bit of a pop and even more power.
There is much that this series could offer but unfortunately, the diverse Captain Americas that were used as a selling point are little but a footnote in much of the actual story.
The United States of Captain America #2 is now on sale in print and digitally from Marvel Comics.