The United States of Captain America is a book at war with itself as it tries to live up to its promises of diversity and representation while shoehorning in an uninspired very by the numbers comic book plotline. Really solid artwork and some good character work as well as the backups focused on the various new Captains truly help keep this book afloat.
On paper, the idea of a miniseries that celebrates the legacy of Captain America by bringing in a group of diverse individuals that were inspired by the hero to help in their own communities is a solid one. In execution though, Marvel’s attempt through The United States of Captain America is sadly lacking in so many ways.
Christopher Cantwell is trying his best here to make it all work together, but the overall plot of Speed Demon and Red Skull’s daughter Sinthea “Superior” Shmidt stealing the shield and pretending to be Captain America and a flag clad assassin respectively in order to wreck Cap’s legacy just isn’t working. There is so much in recent history that could be used to sully Cap’s overall legacy, hell there was everything that happened with the “we don’t speak about it anymore” event known as Secret Empire that could be used as a springboard.
Chasing these two across the country and happening to stumble across these various Captain America’s just feels like a weak hook. There truly is no reason for such a hook, when all they had to do was build off the truly effective opening pages of the first issue (where Steve questions his role) and have Steve find out about this Captain America network and then travel with Sam across the country to see what he has helped inspire. Bam, there is the hook.
This would work better because this issue introduces Joe Gomez the Captain America of the Kickapoo reservation in Kansas, and just like Nichelle Wright and Aaron Fisher of the previous two issues, his inclusion here feels like a gimmick more than a celebration. In the previous two cases, the overall “who is the speedster and assassin” and the trouble they caused took up most of the issue bandwidth with the two other Captains getting little room to breathe/be fleshed out.
In Joe Gomez’s case, he gets a bit more time but mostly to showcase that he’s an even bigger Captain America fanboy and then gets badly injured while then getting a bit of a moment to fight back later. Such a huge deal, rightfully so, was made by Marvel about these diverse new additions and while their backup stories do them more justice the overall main story just uses them like an exchangeable gimmick. Thus, last reviews ‘Diversity Bait and Switch’ headline.
Dale Eaglesham, Matt Milla, and Joe Caramagna are doing a great job on their respective artistic ends of the story. There is a lot of weight and life to Eaglesham’s work that is very solid for a story like this, really setting the Captains apart and making them all distinctive and stand out as well as really making each new location feel different from one another. Milla’s colors bring those bright pops of life to the work and add their own sense of weight as they slide between the light and shadows to varying degrees.
Caramagna is a veteran and master of lettering and makes these pages sing with the way he fits all the captions and dialogue, giving them all their own flavors and emotion. The same bright and muted colors found in the other art also help bring the variety of bold and big SFX to life as the action kicks off.
These pages are just a delight to look at and take what could be a better overall story and elevate it greatly. If this was just an exploration series with the action being a more local thing centered around each of the new Captains and their areas, allowing the artists to explore areas and themes and characters even more it could be elevated even higher.
Joe Gomez’s backup comes from Darcie Little Badger, David Cutler, Roberto Poggi, and Caramagna. While it is a solid story that showcases Joe in his previous life and how he had the strength and heroic nature before, it also leads right into how he became a big Captain America fan and took on the stars and stripes. Now, almost dying and being saved by Captain America when one thought such heroes would never be in your areas or save people like you probably would be a powerful moment that caused you to change a mind but it feels a bit too simple. A bit too textbook to get from A to B.
That said the story does showcase a lot of good character and story work and seeing Little Badger on something else would be cool to see what she could do on a bigger scale with Marvel stuff.
Cutler and Poggi have a very similar but different feel to their art and colors to the main story work of Eaglesham and Milla. It’s bright and got a weight to it, and there is a lot of emotion and energy in the facial and other work. There are some really solid closeup panels that showcase so much about the character in such a small space.
The United States of Captain America #3 is now on sale in print and digitally from Marvel Comics.