Over the last two months or so, Marvel have been undergoing a major publishing shake-up. With the establishment of the “All New, All Different” Marvel Universe, they’ve hit the reset button on every book in their line-up – cancelling some series, introducing brand new ones, and starting all ongoing lines with new #1s and fresh story arcs.
One of the beneficiaries of this shake-up is Sam Wilson, friend to Steve Rogers (Captain America) and, until now, the superhero known as Falcon. In this new universe, Rogers has retired; enter Sam Wilson: Captain America.
One thing is certain – the “All Different” moniker is very fitting here. This is not the Captain America you know; not just because it’s a different person carrying the shield, but also in terms of tone and direction. Nick Spencer is no stranger to rebooting characters (Ant-Man 2015 is excellent, for example), and he and David Acuna have created a Captain America for 2015.
Let’s backtrack briefly. Captain America was originally created in 1940, a year into World War II, when American patriotism was at a high. He was a symbol of American values of the time; of freedom, of hope, of not giving in to the Nazi threat.
Fast forward to the 2000s, and in Dylan Moran’s words, “we’re all a bit funny about Americans now.” There’s a lot of political unrest, both within the USA and in terms of their foreign policy. What is the American Way, in 2015? Is it a united front against any and all external threats, or the ability to look inward, at the fracturing of society along lines of race and class, among others? This is the America that Sam Wilson is dealing with.
To their credit, Spencer and Acuna don’t pull any punches, and Captain America: Sam Wilson tackles these themes head-on. Issue #1 introduces a Captain America who is disgraced in the eyes of the media, after calling a press conference to denounce “a noise machine spouting intolerance and fear.” Wilson isn’t interested in playing a non-partisan All-American superhero like Steve Rogers, earning him headlines like “Sam Wilson: Captain Anti-America” and “Cap Versus the Constitution?”
No longer working for S.H.I.E.L.D. or the US Government, Cap has taken his heroics into his own hands… by setting up a hotline through which people can call for help. It’s through this that Spencer gets to run with his penchant for humour, even within the context of a serious story like this, as callers seek help from Captain America on everything from catching a cheating lover to getting a cancelled show back on air.
It’s also through this hotline that Wilson finds himself protecting a group of refugees trying to cross the border from Mexico from the Sons of the Serpent, a group of violent nationalists seeking to protect “this sovereign land” from “invaders”.
As far as first issues go, Captain America: Sam Wilson hits every note flawlessly. It sets the tone, introduces our new Captain America, offers insights into his motivations, and opens the door to an exciting tale of superheroes and villains. And it does this all within the space of 24 pages, while avoiding the common issue #1 woes of overloading readers with details.
If Captain America: Sam Wilson is anything to go buy, All New, All Different Marvel is going to be something special.