Captain America #1
Written by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Art by Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, and Sunny Gho
Lettering by Joe Caramagna Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10
Ta-Nehisi Coates was once given a near-impossible task: helm a new series for an African superhero with a spotty past with solo titles on the eve of his film debut. He turned that near-impossible task into a critically acclaimed and sprawling ongoing that is still running to this day. He was then given another. Reboot the Captain America series after a, shall we say, divisive run, including a summer event that cast Steve Rogers as a fascist despot. After reading Captain America #1, I now think that Coates as a Mister Miracle-like aptitude for turning the “impossible” into some damn fine comic books.
Far more focused and pointed than his Black Panther debut and graced with a cinematic style by penciller Leinil Francis Yu, inker Gerry Alanguilan, and colorist Sunny Gho, this debut issue is a perfect palate cleanser for those turned away by Steve’s jackbooted heel turn. But better still, Coates completely commits to fully addressing that run and its repercussions for Steve’s reputation and the world at large. Weaving narrative threads of our current tumultuous political climate, gun violence, and the question of “What does it mean to be an American in 2018?”, Coates gives us a Captain America that is stirringly of the moment.
But while this debut has all the political implications and undertones that Coates’ Panther did, he has really leveled up when it comes to writing a solid single issue story. Working in tandem with the stellar art team, who a few times recall some of the best moments of their Avengers run with Jonathan Hickman, Coates dials way, way back on the portentous narration and amps up the action, building this first issue around a crackling and emotional powerhouse of an action sequence.
This scene could arguably be his whole mission statement for the incoming run. A rogue gang of cyborgs, twisted copies of a classic Cap villain, attack a protest between Hydra “nostalgics” - one of a few genuinely cool turns of phrase from Coates - and Antifa-coded protestors. Though Coates’ narration and dialogue is still threaded through the setting, he seems to have finally gotten a real handle on where and how to cut the scene. I mean, it also doesn’t hurt that he has three of the best artists when it comes to emotive action drawing, inking, and coloring the sequence but it is always great to see a writer visibly improving, especially on such a high-profile #1 as this.
But I suppose the real question this issue really needs to answer is, “Is Steve Rogers in good hands?”, and I am happy to report, he really is. Coates, along with Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, and Sunny Gho, have stripped away all the baggage from the previous run and then neatly went about going through it.
They lay it all out both in front of the audience and Steve himself and make it one of the main cruxes of the title’s narrative. They even double down on this, really taking Marvel’s “world outside your window” approach to comic books and neatly layering that on top of a pretty great Captain America story. The closest comparison I could make would be to the Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting, and Frank D’Armata era of Cap. That run deftly tapped into the political climate of the time, a time of paranoia, homegrown terror and deception. Coates, Yu, Alanguilan, and Gho have just tapped into that same well and found a veritable font of story and character.
And so, our Steve Rogers, the Star-Spangled Avenger, is finally back where he belongs - smashing fascists and headlining action-heavy political thrillers. Helmed by a steadily-improving writer who has no problems delving into the political ramifications of superheroes and their world and an art team who understands Cap and his dynamic movements, Captain America #1 is a triumph for one of Marvel’s A-listers who was in dire need of image rehab. Cap may be unsanctioned (again), but the dream is still alive and in good hands, despite the impossible.