I took a break from this series. The reason was pretty simple: Leinil Francis Yu left. Despite Ta-Nehisi Coates continuing to drive Cap into relevancy, when Yu left, I wasn’t compelled enough to stick around.
But now we’re on a new arc, “The Legend of Steve.” I’ve been meaning to give this another try, so what do we got? Well…more of the same. Smart storytelling. Rough art.
Cap has been framed and recently escaped from the big slammer. Now free, he’s teamed up with Agent Sharon Carter and White Tiger to get good PR by rescuing immigrants.
Coates has excelled at exploring Steve’s inner thoughts. Coming across as bewildered yet determined, Steve is believable as an “old man in a youngster’s body.” Or as we’d call him now—a Boomer (he’s technically from The Greatest Generation, but you know what I mean). Now that I think about it, not many recent comics even attempt deep POV monologues, so extra brownie points to the script.
Speaking of Boomer Steve, there’s some remarkably nuanced characterization for him. When told that he should protect immigrants against terrorists, his knee-jerk reaction is to make excuses. “…I’ve never condoned terror. But isn’t the law the law? All countries have borders. If we start condoning illegal activity—” He’s cut off and dressed down by both White Tiger and Agent Carter.
Wow. Now that’s bold writing.
Steve embodies the ol’ US of A here, grappling with morality when it clashes against legalism. Because when he actually sees the immigrant women and children being assaulted, he fights for them, thinking: “I didn’t like flouting the law. But the law could never redeem. Redemption could only come from the people. From the tired. The poor. The wretched. The huddled masses. The refuse of teeming shores. Yearning to breathe free.”
A hero that evolves beyond his preconceived WASP notions is, no need to mince words, awesome. Refreshing. And coming from the Captain America? Now that’s patriotic.
On the flip side, the fight itself is fairly bland and forgettable, which is a shame, because Coates has worked previously with artists on this book and Black Panther to get truly cinematic fights.
Also, the art is a big step back. I’ve never seen Jason Masters or Sean Izaakse’s work before, and I won’t be seeking out more. Their figures are stiff. Characters’ faces look like prosthetic masks or lumpy sculptures. The backgrounds are either blotchy or threadbare and unconvincing. It’s almost like their work is all traced. However, the colors bring some vitality, especially when blues clash with red in the big fight scene.
Nick Fury pops up at the end, but he makes nary an impression. The solicit hints at him relentlessly hunting Steve, yet he doesn’t register as a threat.