REVIEW: Captain America #2

Captain America 2 feature

Captain America #2 / By: Ta-Nehisi Coates & Leinil Francis Yu / Inkers: Gerry Alanguillan & Leinil Francis Yu / Color Artist: Sunny Gho / Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna / Cover Art: Alex Ross / Graphic Designer: Carlos Lao / Publisher: Marvel / August 1, 2018

Good Time to Return

Captain America #2, Winter in America: Part II,  continues to thoughtfully lay the groundwork, particularly with Cap’s frame of mind, to explore what it means to be Captain America in a post-HydraCap world. If you, like me, dipped out on Captain America during the Secret Empire run, come back now. Run to your local comic book store (or drive, walk, take public transit, scooter, whatever) and catch up. Ta-Nehisi Coates and Leinil Francis Yu are (re)building a character and a world that is truly engaging and creative and fresh.

Guilt and Forgiveness

Captain America #2 has something interesting to say about the idea of weakness. It opens and closes ruminating on just how far we are willing to go to be strong in the face of doubt, of our enemies, of ourselves. What I find most compelling about these early issues is the truth that one’s desire to be strong—and the lengths we will go to to be strong—can break and compromise us in ways we never anticipated. Steve’s outward focus this month is on taking down the Nuke threat, as it should be. Complicating matters for Steve his feeling of guilt and the very strange place he finds himself: untrusted by the American people.

Of course, the flip side of guilt is forgiveness. People who never feel guilt never worry about forgiveness, do they? Of course Steve feels guilt. So much evil was done in his name and with his face. People were tortured and lives destroyed. Americans harmed other Americans in Cap’s name. That doesn’t just disappear, and Coates wisely spends the time to let that sink in. Thankfully, Coates doesn’t just give Cap sad sack platitudes either. He makes a really strong point in Cap’s narration about the compounding nature of the weight of being Captain America.

But the truth is that the world keeps churning out super soldiers. Cyborgs and clones. Mystic spawn of the cosmic cube. And every time I see another of them… I see another part of me. If I sound upset, it’s because I am. Upset and tired. Tired of Supreme Commanders and Grand Directors. Tired of Schmidts and Nukes. Tired of having to prove that no part of them is part of me.

The rest of the world responds to each super soldier, cyborg, clone, and mystic spawn, and they assign a little bit of Cap to those manifestations. Even when proven false, there’s a small (or not so small) bit of legitimacy granted by the public to the power of those acting in Cap’s name or face. The weight of those actions, the guilt, and the pain, are all things Steve carries. All those iterations of him are, in his mind, his burdens to bear. Of course, Steve Rogers carries guilt like no one’s business; that’s a core character element for him. I appreciated Coates taking the time to allow Cap to feel this, to reveal how tiring it is to be the original Captain America and have the weight of expectations and consequences foisted upon his shoulders time and time again.

Steve and Sharon

I’m very much enjoying how Coates builds the relationship between Steve and Sharon. Coates doesn’t fall into the trap of making Sharon a one-note character, there only to make Steve Rogers feel better about all his bad feelings. Sharon’s much more interesting in Coates’ Captain America, and the story is better for it. Sharon still carries the evidence of HydraCap’s machinations on her face. Her age lines are just as prominent here as they were in Captain America #1, but her “age” doesn’t send her to the heap, doesn’t erase her. Sharon’s got her own mission and work to do. She has wisdom Steve needs to take in, and she’s smart enough to let him work through it. Coates gives Sharon layers and her own point of view. That’s refreshing.

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Weight of the World

Leinil Francis Yu masterfully guides the reader through the tricky path of a story that’s still taking its time in the exposition stage. The strongest section for me is early on in the issue. Steve is pondering the weigh and guilt of being Captain America in a post HydraCap world. He contrasts Steve’s words of frustration or exhaustion against the energy images of Cap quelling an attack in Chicago at the hands of Nuke soldiers. All of Cap’s actions are drawn with strong lines and bold colors, giving the impression of confidence, strength, and stability. All that belies the internal battle Steve’s facing behind the shield.  My earlier quote regarding Steve being tired plays out powerfully in these panels because nothing in them looks weak, tired, or broken.

The Nuke Threat

Last month, I commented on my reaction to the Nuke soldiers. I’m still physically struck at how they are portrayed in Captain America #2. That hyper-masculine, white, crew cut, American flag painted face appearance is so aggressive and off-putting, especially on the whole page dedicated to them. Visually, to me, it’s like the descendants of Rambo mixed with modern alt-right hate groups, at least how those groups wish to be seen by others. The art in these moments, focusing on the Nuke threat, remind me that power for the sake of power is disgusting. It’s out of balance with the natural world. Cap’s power was always in defense of justice and human dignity. These guys, despite their rage at past injustice, are not working from a place of dignity or respect. They live up to the Nuke name, and Yu, Alanguillan, and Gho’s art brings them, chillingly, to life.

Excited for What’s Next

Captain America #2 thoughtfully explores these early days of Cap’s redemption. He’s floundering, as he should, and it will take something truly special to help him find his way through. If the reveal at the end of the issue is any indication, it’s going to be epic. 

Rating: 5 of 5 stars!

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I'm a curious, creative, comic(al) woman. I am unapologetically Team Cap, but not HydraCap because there is a line in the moral sands of the universe and that whole thing is on the other side of it. I teach high school students all about the joys of mythology through comic books, graphic novels, and films. I wandered into the comic book world in 2015 and is a proud member of the #DoYouEvenComicBook gang.

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