Marvel Pick Of The Week – October 14, 2015 [SPOILERS]


Pick Of The Week:

Captain America: Sam Wilson 1, by Nick Spencer and Daniel Acuna

I have loved reading Captain America stories for years, especially when Marvel lets one of their flagship characters push controversial issues. When I was a child, he got so tired of the politics in Washington that he threw away his uniform and went into freelance superhero game. In Marvel’s Civil War, he took a liberal side, supporting vigilantes who valued privacy and independence over Iron Man’s platform of government registration and oversight. I stopped reading the good Captain’s solo adventures after Ed Brubaker finished his awe-inspiring take on Steve Rogers as a spy and all-around action hero badass, but I’d seen that Sam Wilson, the former Falcon, had become the new Captain America in maybe ten panels of the fumbled relaunch of Uncanny Avengers, and I was cool with that. I hadn’t planned on reading his new series – I’m going to get plenty of him in the main Avengers book. But when I saw Nick Spencer was writing this for Daniel Acuna’s art, I changed my mind, and damn if it didn’t make Pick Of The Week.

The story is perfectly constructed. Spencer opens with Sam Wilson stuck in a coach seat between a pair of hilarious bros whose oblivious entitlement could have come fully-formed out of the early part of the incomparable Morning Glories series.

The story then takes careful steps around several layers of flashbacks, beginning with SHIELD’s Maria Hill delivering some of the best chilly dialogue I’ve ever read. At this point, the reader has no idea why she is so pissed at him, but we are dying to know more, and her scorn is written with such respect that both parties look better at the end of the argument. The hints of backstory are dropped in ways that read naturally and crank up the tension.

That backstory is explored in vignettes from further flashbacks, including this one of Captain America at a Pride parade. Nick Spencer knows how to land a punchline, and Acuna makes perfect choices about showing sexy men without making fun of their population. I’m gay; we can take a joke. And this was a good joke.

The backstory slowly condenses to explain that Captain America was tired of keeping quiet about his own politics, so he held a press conference and immediately dropped his approval rating, so he separated himself from the government and started missions that matter to him, like investigating the hate group Sons Of The Serpent who hilariously spout Trump rhetoric as they threaten unarmed undocumented immigrants.

I have praised Nick Spencer’s Ant-Man and Superior Foes series for their dark humor. This book, I praise for its heart. Sam Wilson (and his supporting cast including Misty Knight and D-Man) is respected as a longstanding Marvel Comics character, and he fits well in a more politically evocative book. Spencer has crafted this book with complexity I’ve never seen in a Captain America script – each layer of embedded story hooks deftly into the adjacent ones, inviting careful reading and almost writing itself as a perfect pilot episode to an action prime time series. Acuna is a fantastic collaborator, bringing majesty and energy to every gorgeous page. Secret Wars hasn’t finished yet, but this book gives me hope that it’s going to turn out okay.

Honorable Mentions:

Spider-Gwen 1, because the Bodega Bandit may be a jerk, but he is a jerk with a small dog in a cute outfit, so he’s okay by me.

Uncanny Avengers 1, because there is something loony about the combination of Rogue, Deadpool, Spider-Man, Brother Voodoo, Johnny Storm, elderly Captain America, and a new Inhuman rushing into battle. This book isn’t great yet, but it’s got a fantastic Challengers-style lineup and embrace of the weird. (Bam Smack Pow’s David Goodman had similar ambivalence – check out the full review here!)

Ms. Marvel 19, for the sheer unabashed romance of this Bruno guy. Bruno! Call me!

Check out previous Picks here!

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