Captain America: Sam Wilson #15
Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Angel Unzueta and John Rauch
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
We might all be Americans, but it’s hard to believe in a United States these days. With a divisive presidential campaign having split the country into factions, it’s perhaps appropriate that writer Nick Spencer has analyzed two very different takes on the American Dream with his Captain America series. But in many ways, Captain America: Sam Wilson #15 feels counterintuitive compared to Spencer’s typically political sensibilities - and on the heels of the most hotly debated election in recent memory, it’s almost surprising to see just how conciliatory this issue winds up becoming.
Throughout this tenure as the new Captain America, Sam Wilson has found himself a target in a way that most superheroes outside of Spider-Man and the X-Men can hardly imagine - because this time, he’s been the target of politics and national expectations. It seems that the only thing the country can agree on is that Sam is failing to live up to the standards set by Steve Rogers, with both the ultra-conservative Americommandos and inner city vigilante Rage both lambasting him for their own various reasons. What is they say about everyone having an opinion? But with Marvel’s Civil War II winding down, Spencer takes a break from the political allegory for a second, to deliver an interlude featuring the healing power of America’s greatest pastime: professional wrestling.
Now, for some, this issue might be seen as a little bit of a tangent, as sidekick Joaquin tries to mend fences between Sam and his not-quite-frenemy Rage over a nice bit of UCW action. But the real hero of Captain America: Sam Wilson #15 isn’t Sam or Joaquin, but the return of Dennis “Demolition Man” Durphy, who returns to the wrestling ring following an unremarkable turn as a superhero as well as a bout of homelessness. Having to come face-to-face with some past sins as he has to wrestle with Lemar “Battlestar” Hoskins. In this regard, Spencer actually goes back to basics with an uncomplicated sort of team-up story, but his rationale might make sense after the heated political debates of the past 18 months - sometimes simple is good, and sometimes reminding yourself what “fun” is can help replenish you for the trials ahead.
Angel Unzueta’s artwork, meanwhile, is sturdy and serviceable, reminding me at times of Brandon Petersen or even Kevin Maguire. Unzueta’s characters are fairly expressive - D-Man in particular steals the show in every scene he’s in, whether it’s him smirking like a jerk or freaking out that the guy he snubbed in the ring years ago is ready to take his revenge. While Unzueta’s dialogue-heavy scenes do come across as a bit static and low-energy, once Spencer gets us into the wrestling ring, the energy ramps up a little bit, such as a page of Battlestar wiping the floor with D-Man. That all said, however, Unzueta might be considered an acquired taste here - while his layouts are clean and get the point across, for a story that encapsulates both pro wrestling and an idealistic view of American togetherness, the visuals don’t always reach their full potential.
But that all said, given the surprise results of the presidential election, it now looks more than a little prudent that Spencer didn’t double down on the politics this issue, heralding a progressive victory that wound up never materializing in real life. Instead, Captain America: Sam Wilson #15 feels life a brief respite from what has been an increasingly brutal presidential campaign, and while I personally wish we could have had a more incisive post-election message, the sheer positivity of this script might in itself be a bit of a revolutionary act in today’s heated political landscape. But a temporary breather can only be just that - temporary - and it will be interesting to see how Captain America: Sam Wilson will move forward under a decidedly more conservative presidency.