Captain America: Steve Rogers #5
Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Javier Pina and Rachelle Rosenberg
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Whatever you do, don’t trust him. Don’t trust Steve Rogers.
While we’ve had four issues digging into the Star-Spangled Avenger’s new status quo as a secret agent of Hydra, this week writer Nick Spencer really twists the knife, showing just how far this “hero” is willing to go for his perverted ideals. Thanks to this Civil War II tie-in, we finally get to see Steve Rogers as an actual threat to the Marvel Universe, and this commitment to Cap’s newfound dark side gives this issue the most energy this run has seen yet.
Whereas previous issues of Captain America: Steve Rogers have taken great lengths to get inside Steve’s head in order to justify how he’s become a Hydra true believer, with this issue, Spencer ratchets up the tension nicely by showing what kinds of dastardly schemes Cap has been formulating to protect himself. Spencer himself likened Steve’s dangerous side to Hitchcock at a recent convention appearance, and he’s absolutely correct, as we can’t help but squirm as the Avengers have a party while Steve quietly readies his forces for a head-on assault. But when the introduction of Ulysses scuttles Cap’s plans, Spencer winds up turning the tables - what kind of anxiety must a character like Steve Rogers have, when a master tactician has to outwit a character who can literally see the future?
Without giving too much away, Spencer’s solution is a very smart one, retroactively giving one of Civil War II’s more rote plot points a very sinister twist. In addition to deftly reexamining some key moments in this crossover, it’s Spencer’s willingness to show Steve’s prodigious skills used in destructive ways that makes Captain America: Steve Rogers #5 an interesting read - while the convoluted sliding scale of his morality might cause a bit of a headache (He’s a good guy who wants peace and doesn’t like Hydra’s slide into radicalism, but he’s also a cold-blooded killer who’s willing to kill his friends and the Red Skull rather than just team up to stop the Skull in his tracks), there’s something liberating about seeing Cap’s tactical mind working against the common good rather than for it.
That said, Javier Pina’s artwork isn’t the flashiest here, and while there’s a few dramatic moments while Steve lies in wait in the shadows or Medusa’s hair whipping around Ulysses as she introduces him to the Avengers, the pages feel a lot more like recaps from other series rather than images that stand out and are memorable on their own. Much of this might have to do with Pina’s blocky inking, which seems to weigh down his characters a bit too much, rather than providing the sorts of striking details and expressions that might really hook a reader in. Part of this might have to do with the recap-heavy nature of Spencer’s script, which doesn’t allow for any big action sequences that might show off Pina’s fluidity - but I think for a book that should be as big as Captain America: Steve Rogers, “solid” doesn’t quite cut it after awhile. Colorist Rachelle Rosenberg helps cement the flashback sequences as the most vivid pages in the book, with their red, brown and green color palette, but the art hasn’t quite caught up to the script in terms of interest factor yet.
While the artwork in this book might be dragging a bit, Captain America: Steve Rogers #5 proves to be the most compelling issue of this series yet, now that Spencer has turned this iconic Avenger into a clear and present danger for the entirety of the Marvel Universe. By finally making good on his premise of Cap as a villain in disguise, there are suddenly some real stakes for Steve’s journey - where he’ll ever be capable of redemption, or if we’ll even think he’s worthy of it when the time comes. While critics of Steve’s new status quo will still certainly find plenty to be up in arms about, those who are on the fence will likely find a lot to like about this book.