Marvel has been in a bit of hot water recently. The comic giant has enjoyed enormous success with the expansion of the cinematic universe and a series of some truly interesting stories, but they’ve also invited a fair share of controversy by taking on new perspectives on old characters. Near the front of the pack, second only to the controversial decision to have a female version of Thor, was the transition of Sam Wilson from the Falcon to the new Captain America.
Like many other fans, I was upset by the move. I thought Steve Rogers was Captain America, and that was that, and no matter how much I loved Sam Wilson, I didn’t want the good ole Cap to change. But as I was reading the opening pages of All-New Captain America #1 I couldn’t help wavering in my convictions.
The story is written by Rick Remender, who in addition to work on Captain America has done extensive work on various X-Men titles and Venom. The story picks up after the Dimension Z storyarch, in which Steve is sapped of his super soldier serum, causing him to age rapidly. He passes the shield on to Falcon, with Cap’s adoptive son Ian teaming up with Wilson as Nomad. That’s all explained in the first pages of the new issue, which is one of its biggest strengths: you don’t have to know a ton about Cap’s comic history in order to keep up. It explains it for you at the beginning, so as long as you know that Cap is the good guy and Hydra’s the bad guy, you’re pretty much set, although it wouldn’t hurt to know a few of the other characters.
This story, opening up with a brief look at Wilson’s virtuous, religious parents and his childhood in Harlem, jumps right into the action with a mission attacking an underground Hydra base. The weakness of the issue is that there’s never a scene change (except for the jump from Wilson’s childhood to the present), which makes it feel smaller and contained. But the art is top-notch, and the story highlights something that’s often overlooked whenever comic nerds launch into discussions about changing beloved characters. Sam Wilson isn’t so much a replacement of Steve Rogers as he is a combination of Falcon and Captain America.
This new Cap uses the shield, but he also retains his wings, creating a very cool combination of fighting styles that will undoubtedly make for some very cool fight scenes, as it indeed does in this first issue. Visually, it looks as though Captain America is incorporating the American Eagle into his persona (yes, I know, an eagle and a falcon are not the same thing, but it still looks cool to think of it that way).
More importantly, Rogers hasn’t been left behind. He still communicates with Wilson during his missions. The seriousness of Rogers and the energy and youthfulness of Wilson are both held true in this story, and it makes for an interesting dynamic when the youthful arrogance of Nomad is brought into play. This is the first story I’ve read with Rogers’ adopted son, and I can already tell that the personality differences are going to create an interesting dynamic for the series. My hope is that Steve still has an active part in the plot development, because the three of those characters interacting will make for some very interesting dialogue and character development.
The complaint I do have for the issue, however, is that I was hoping it would set up a larger threat that would take us on an adventurous storyarch. There are cool fight scenes and a familiar villain with Hydra at the helm, but it feels more like a quick-shot fight scene than the beginning of a compelling story. The ending fight scene with Batroc is a really cool fight sequence, but it feels like a lot of action without much plot.
Still, it’s a solid issue, and the poise with which Sam takes up the shield, as well as the neat combination of characters, is enough to keep me reading, at least for the time being.