Best Shots Advance Review: CAPTAIN AMERICA: STEVE ROGERS #4 Brings Storyline Into Broader Marvel U

Marvel Comics July 2016 solicitations
Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics

Captain America: Steve Rogers #4
Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Javier Pina, Miguel Sepulveda, and Rachelle Rosenberg
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by George Marston
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

Editor's Note: This review withholds several key spoilers in the issue. Look for more of a breakdown of this issue on Wednesday when the title is released to the public.

We’re now four issues into Captain America: Steve Rogers, and with this latest issue, the series has started to move away from its rocky, unaffected start and weave a web of intrigue that encompasses an entire corner of the Marvel Universe. That’s not to say Captain America: Steve Rogers #4 is perfect, but it is much closer to the level of drama one would expect from a story about the arguably Marvel Universe's greatest hero secretly working for his greatest villain.

Captain America: Steve Rogers #4
Captain America: Steve Rogers #4
Credit: Marvel Comics

The cracks are starting to show, however. As Steve moves forward with his personal mission – teased at the end of #3 – it’s becoming clear much more is at stake than just S.H.I.E.L.D. or even Hydra, as the U.S. Government and even Wakanda are being sucked into Steve’s transom. Beset by all sides, a weaker character than Steve Rogers would likely buckle, though it’s his strength that creates the most frustrating part of Nick Spencer’s story so far.

As of now, we’re still only seeing one side of Steve Rogers – the secret side. And though that’s the part of him that’s unique to this story, it still leaves him feeling a little flat. Without the kind, bold, brave Steve Rogers showing up, even as a mask, it’s easy to lose sight of why Steve acting as a brutal, dispassionate enforcer is so jarring. That’s not to say there’s nothing of the “real” Steve on display – his endgame at least implies that he’s still in there somewhere – but the dichotomy is noticeably absent right now.

Captain America: Steve Rogers #4
Captain America: Steve Rogers #4
Credit: Marvel Comics

The other effect of the one-sided view is that Captain America: Steve Rogers fits into a strange place in the Marvel Universe. Appearances by villains, heroes, and supporting cast from throughout the world leave no question about the story taking place in the here and now, the implication is that readers will have to visit other titles to get the side of Steve that makes his Hydra allegiance such a blow.

What we do get is more insight into how Steve’s past has changed. Steve’s ties to Hydra may go even deeper than previously thought, with a surprising twist concerning his mother calling into question much more complicated aspects of how Kobik altered his timeline. We also get a brief check in with Kobik herself, whose allegiances are just as much in question as Steve’s.

Captain America: Steve Rogers #4
Captain America: Steve Rogers #4
Credit: Marvel Comics

Though he’s yet to really plumb the depths of what Steve’s secret means, Nick Spencer is becoming more comfortable balancing drama pacing with this issue. His script is peppered throughout with references to high stakes TV dramas, and that’s an apt comparison as Captain America: Steve Rogers #4 feels like a midseason episode of a big budget TV series. The action jumps from location to location, checking in with some surprising supporting cast members and tying together threads. Spencer’s dialogue is also more on point; less tongue-in-cheek and more dialed in to a tone that builds the mood rather than detracts.

Likewise, artists Javier Pina and Miguel Sepulveda are welcome additions to Captain America: Steve Rogers. Though Pina and Sepulveda’s art isn’t as polished as one-man-show Jesus Saiz’s pages, Pina’s storytelling is clear and engaging, while Sepulveda’s inks carry more weight than series regular Saiz’s style. Considering how brutal some scenes of this issue get, it’s a needed shift. Colorist Rachelle Rosenberg does an excellent job of maintaining Saiz’s style, particularly in the very specific look of the flashback scenes.

Captain America: Steve Rogers got off the ground by relying on a shocking premise, though it faltered in its first issues for a lack of actual propulsion. Now that the pieces are all in place, and it’s moving full steam ahead, this story is starting to build up to something that could fulfill the promise of Cap’s drama-laden “Hail Hydra!” moment. There are still seams showing, like a lack of room to show both sides of Steve’s life, but we’re getting there. And, at only four issues in, there’s still plenty of time to really build a massive deluge that could flood the Marvel Universe when the levee finally breaks.

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