Best Shots Review: CAPTAIN AMERICA - SAM WILSON #14 Goes to 'Unexpected Places' While Riffing On ROGERS' 'Hail Hydra' Turn

Panel from "Captain America: Sam Wilson #14"
Credit: Paul Renaud
Credit: Paul Renaud (Marvel Comics)

Captain America: Sam Wilson #14
Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Paul Renaud and John Rauch
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Credit: Paul Renaud (Marvel Comics)

What happens when heroes fall? Even worse, what happens when that failure happens in front of the eyes of the nation? Unfortunately for Sam Wilson, he finds out first-hand in Captain America: Sam Wilson #14.

But while Sam Wilson is having one of the worst days of his superheroic career, Nick Spencer makes this issue one of the most tense and thematically rich issues of the series to date, thanks to his melding of the plots of both Captain America titles. Artist Paul Renaud and colorist John Rauch also turn in top-notch work, keeping the mood of the title in tune with Daniel Acuna’s style. Sam Wilson’s stock may be rapidly plummeting, but Captain America: Sam Wilson #14 continues its winning streak of complex and compelling stories.

Credit: Paul Renaud (Marvel Comics)

After a new Flag-Smasher hijacks a Texas Senator’s fundraiser, Sam Wilson and Steve Rogers team up to diffuse the situation. However, things quickly go awry as Steve’s secret agenda as a HYDRA agent has started to affect Sam’s life, as the original Sentinel of Liberty quietly stokes the anger of those who want Sam to relinquish the shield. The overarching thread of "#TakeBackTheShield" has been one of Nick Spencer’s better ideas through this series, but having it come to a violent head here makes for great payoff.

While the Marvel Universe as a whole might see Steve and Sam confronting Flag-Smasher and his plan to strategically bomb critical points of digital info-structure, Steve’s real mission is to set Sam up to fail in a big way. Ending with Sam being responsible for a senator’s death, Spencer’s use of Steve’s subtle villainy and Sam’s increasingly defeated attitude gives the title a real sense of urgency and emotion. Sam is doing the best he can while still battling a negative public opinion, and this spectacular failure gives Captain America: Sam Wilson a new layer of character development along with its topical charge.

Credit: Paul Renaud (Marvel Comics)

While Spencer keep the title narratively on track, artist Paul Renaud and colorist John Rauch keep the visuals going strong. For example, as Sam and Steve take an elevator to face Flag-Smasher, Renaud uses a four panel grid of a repeated angle, but in each panel both the character’s personalities are clearly displayed in their stances and small bits of blocking as they ready themselves for a fight. And once we see a half-page image of Sam and Steve wading into a sea of henchmen, Renaud and Rauch build up the momentum until the story’s bloody conclusion, then switching back into a quiet but intense conclusion.

While Sam Wilson’s days ahead look tough, Captain America: Sam Wilson #14 provides a springboard for this creative team to achieve greater heights. Nick Spencer continues to take Sam’s story to unexpected places while still keeping the same timeliness that has set this series apart from Steve Rogers’ sister title. On the art front, Paul Renaud and John Rauch deliver the same kind of detail and character moments that have made the Daniel Acuna issues so good-looking, while still providing distinct action and color choices. As #TakeBackTheShield has grown from grassroots outrage to a larger-scale conspiracy, Captain America: Sam Wilson #14 shows that there are still plenty of great stories to be told with Sam behind the shield.

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