Sam Wilson is my Captain America. I latched onto the character incredibly hard when his solo started after Secret Wars, and I’ve been sorely disappointed in how he’s disappeared from the comics since a fairly mediocre short Falcon run after Secret Empire. This collection was the perfect way to get my Sam Wilson fix – It’s got all his solo appearances before I started reading his comics. The contents would be well worth the investment. Or so I thought. This trade paperback collects five separate SamCap stories, beginning from his first appearance as Captain America and ending with his first arc after Secret Wars.
Captain America #25
This issue, written by Rick Remender and drawn by Stuart Immonen and Carlos Pacheco, is the story where Sam gets the mantle and the shield. It starts as the culmination of what seems like a fairly long-running story from the beginning of this run, but the synopsis at the beginning of the issue tells enough of the story for it to not be disorienting. Beyond that, though, there isn’t very much to chew on. There’s a short monologue from Steve about how great of a person Sam is, some loose ends are tied up, and then there’s the announcement that Sam will be Cap. While his promotion is a foregone conclusion now, it seems like even back then it wasn’t a surprise — the revelation wasn’t treated with any respect, even Sam himself says “You all knew it was me, right?”
Immonen and Pacheco are great artists, but they don’t really add anything here. The story’s fairly dull and centered around a reveal that even the characters weren’t really surprised by. Not the most auspicious of starts.
All-New Captain America: Fear Him
If that issue wasn’t auspicious, this miniseries made it seem like the character might be cursed. Written by Dennis ‘Hopeless’ Hallum with art by Szymon Kudranski, this story is a physical recollection of the All-New Captain America: Fear Him Infinite Comics, which means it’s not paced as well as it was in its native format. Kudranski’s art also doesn’t help — there’s an ugly quality to the whole thing that’s just really not appealing to the eyes. The villain of the story is a classic villain, one who wears a mask, is obsessed with fear, and has a gas that makes people afraid. Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about the Scarecrow. Wait, no, not that Scarecrow! The Marvel one! It’s a neat callback to use this villain, but there’s nothing compelling about this at all. The new Nomad is honestly really annoying — there’s nothing making me care about him in the slightest.
All-New Captain America
This story was an improvement over the last one, but a lot of that has to do with Stuart Immonen’s artwork. He’s seriously fantastic on every page, and makes everything really engaging and exciting. It’s also that I really like Baron Zemo as a Cap villain – he’s got a killer design and Remender’s voice for him is solid, even if it’s not my favorite. The story is kind of weird, though — it involves Hydra trying to sterilize the entire human population of Earth except for Hydra agents, as a form of eugenics. It ties into the ongoing Inhumans push Marvel was going through at the time, and as a whole was just really bizarre. It’s mostly inconsequential, but it does have a decent voice for Sam and is far better than the issues that came before. At the same time, I’d still struggle to call it good.
This is an arc of three special issues — Amazing Spider-Man Special, Inhuman Special, and All-New Captain America Special. They’re all written by Jeff Loveness, with art by Luca Pizzari, Ryan Lee, and Alec Morgan respectively. I mentioned the Inhumans push just above, but this is a bit over the top. The basic story is that Spider-Man and Captain America team up with Medusa and the new Inhumans to defend New Attilan from a threat of their own making. Loveness’s voices for Spider-Man and Sam are decent, but the story as a whole isn’t really great and the art is just okay. It’s a pretty fun time but I wish it was better.
Captain America: Sam Wilson
Now this final portion of the volume is where the book and character start to shine. This volume ends on the first trade’s worth of Nick Spencer’s run on Captain America: Sam Wilson. I love this run a lot — it felt really important to me as it was coming out, and Spencer’s voice for Sam and the rest of the universe really worked for me. That remains the case here. While the political commentary has honestly become overrun by how farcical the current real-life political world is, it’s still really compelling to read. It’s got some great revamps of Mark Gruenwald’s run as well, between the Sons of the Serpent, the Captain America Hotline, the new and improved Serpent Society, D-Man, and especially Cap-Wolf.
There’s a lot to love in this volume, and even if you don’t enjoy where he takes it in the future with Steve, for my money this is an incredibly strong six issues. Daniel Acuña and Paul Renaud are the artists for these six issues, and they’re both absolutely incredible, bringing a style to the book that makes it fantastic. The collection is honestly almost worth it for these six issues alone, although at that point you might be better off getting the individual trade.
As a whole, this volume is a lot of bad or mediocre with one fantastic portion. It’s not really worth it unless you’re really committed to having all of Sam Wilson’s solo appearances as Captain America, or if you don’t have Nick Spencer’s run but want to collect it more cheaply. While the art is mostly good (with some duds), the writing for the majority of the collection is just not up to par, and skippable if you’re not really invested.