The first Marvel Knights Captain America story written post-9/11 is a poignant one.
In the wake of 9/11, Steve Rogers must reassess his role as Captain America as he forges a path forward for himself and his nation.
It is impossible to separate this collection from the time it was written. The first issue of Marvel Knights Captain America series was published in April of 2002 and opens in the immediate aftermath of the World Trade Center bombings with Cap trying to clear the rubble. Rather than shying away from the real world tragedy, writer John Ney Rieber and artist John Cassaday tackle it head on. Captain America: The New Deal sees Cap and the nation he represents at a crossroads.
Rieber and Cassaday tell a swiftly paced story. Captain America: The New Deal moves with a furious tempo. Rieber uses minimal captions that keep the narrative marching onward. Letterer Wes Abbott deserves a lot of credit here. As brief and impactful as Rieber’s words are, Abbott makes sure they are compact bursts, spurring the reader forward. Cassaday’s artwork remains focused on the characters. When backgrounds are present, they are sparsely detailed, a stylistic choice that keeps the reader’s eye moving across the page. In a story that focuses on the iconography of Captain America as he enters into a new kind of war, it’s an understandable decision. When Captain America is the most detailed piece of an image, the reader can’t help but keep their eye on him.
That being said, the brisk pace of the book may leave some readers dissatisfied. It’s easy to fly through the volume in a single sitting without appreciating the raw emotion Rieber and Cassaday have captured here, especially as time moves further away from 9/11. Colorist Dave Stewart’s use of oranges and golds really adds to that emotional feel, at times representing the rays of Captain America’s ideals, and at other times representing the fires of bombs. It captures the conflict and pain of Rogers’ struggle, and America’s as well.
While the conflict centers around Captain America taking down a terrorist, there is a subplot that develops involving Nick Fury and his different approach to the war. While Steve Rogers is focused on the individuals being harmed and doing the harming, Fury is focused on winning the war by using Captain America as a weapon.
As strong as Captain America: The New Deal is in its buildup, the ending falters a bit. Captain America tells the villainous Master of Alamut that America has changed, “We’ve learned from our mistakes.” This sentiment made sense in the time period in which it was written, before America had fully entrenched itself in the wars with Afghanistan and Iraq, but in 2018 it comes across as misguided optimism on Captain America’s part. That being said, the final page of the collection is a powerful image, as John Cassaday depicts Cap emerging from the ruins of a building in Dresden and Rieber implores the reader to fight on in defense of the Dream.