New Comics: Steve Rogers

At the conclusion of the recent Pleasant Hill event we learned that there was room in the Marvel Universe for three Captain Americas. The most recently anointed Cap, Sam Wilson (formerly known as The Falcon), still carries the shield (and the wings) and has been doing his damnedest to uphold the legacy. The Winter Soldier, Bucky Barnes, who had taken on the role subsequent to the first Civil War, is leading the new Thunderbolts. And Steve Rogers, youthful vigor restored by a sentient Cosmic Cube, has a new shield with a classic design, and a share of the responsibility that comes along with wielding it.

We’ve also learned that there’s room on the comic book shelf for multiple Captain America books. Week 34 of All New All Different Marvel debuts Captain America: Steve Rogers, in which Nick Spencer and Jesus Saiz tackle everything from the Pleasant Hill fallout to the underground swell of Red Skull’s Hydra resurgence. With this first issue, Spencer, who has also been writing the hell out of Captain America: Sam Wilson, may be establishing himself as the Captain America scribe for the 21st century. Sam isn’t the only one living up to a legacy.

An opening action sequence involving a suicide bomber on a train channels classic Joe Simon and Stan Lee bravado, while the goofball villainy of Baron Zemo’s latest recruits is a tip of the cap to Jack Kirby’s later work on Cap’s solo book. The social commentary of Mark Gruenwald and Steve Englehart resonates in Red Skull’s all-too-real rendition of Take Back America, and the final few pages offer up a jaw-dropping plot twist a la Ed Brubaker. No, I’m not spoiling it for you. I do as I’m told.

Steve, young again. Sharon, old again. Dude cant catch a break.
Steve, young again. Sharon, old again. Dude can’t catch a break.

Spencer and Saiz also open the doors into an exploration of Steve’s origins. His real origins, as in the tenacious little kid growing up in a rough Brooklyn neighborhood, learning heroism from a strong-willed mother working multiple jobs and standing up to an abusive husband. And just who is this mysterious Elisa Sinclair and how does she factor in to this devilish plot twist that has every other blog and Twitter feed aflame with spoilers? (Nope. Doing what I’m told. Read the book.)

Jack Flag and Free Spirit! Remember them? No? Okay, then. Feign excitement.

No, the major plot twist is not the re-introduction of Free Spirit and Jack Flag (another nod to Gruenwald!), although that’s pretty cool too. And it’s not the fact that Steve’s girlfriend Sharon Carter seems to age before our very eyes and with each flip of the page. This series is going to be fun and, moreover, given the head of steam Spencer has generated with Wilson and Pleasant Hill, an essential companion piece to Marvel’s major summer comic book/movie event.

If this could be effectively called the second wave of Marvel’s All New All Different relaunch, Captain America: Steve Rogers would sit alongside Black Panther as the best of new season. And if we had waited until now to rank the new titles in the ANAD Marvel U, rather than the six-month cutoff point, I don’t doubt that this book would slot in the Top 10 alongside Spencer’s other Captain America.

But given the fact that we just heard earlier today about Marvel’s fall “publishing initiative,” we may be dropping that obnoxious “All New All Different” moniker sooner that expected. But, seriously, “Marvel NOW!”? Again? What about the Marvel NOW! initiative that spilled out of the Avengers vs. X-Men event in 2012? Do we start calling that Marvel THEN!?

I’ll keep toeing the company line… Making mine Marvel and all that… Take my money, call it whatever you want… Hail Hydra…

Other Marvel Highlights
Steve Rogers isn’t the only new series debuting this week. David F. Walker, who also writes the excellent Power Man & Iron Fist, gives us Nighthawk, the second solo Squadron Supreme book. Alternate universe Kyle Richmond, determined to save the world by any means necessary in his team book, is likewise determined to cleanse Chicago of crime and corruption via a smaller, two-person operation. This book rivals The Punisher for violence and edginess, but it’s the art that will likely end up making it stand apart. Ramon Villalobos made his best Frank Quitely impersonation on the E Is for Extinction mini-series, and he brings that same visceral detail to the pages of Nighthawk. Highly recommended.

DC Highlights
This was also a big week for DC. They launched their own reboot with DC Universe: Rebirth #1, an 80-page one-shot that follows the events of Superman #52 and Justice League #50. It was definitely a week for final-page plot twists, and this book features a doozy. Read it first, if you haven’t done so, and then go check out Ghostmann’s take on this exciting new era for the DC Universe in his Rebirth review. The Idle Time focus group was groaning a bit about more comic book homework so soon after reading a metric ton of new Marvel books, but this introductory issue already has the Telegram chatrooms buzzing. Let’s have ourselves a four-color summer, team.

May 18 | New Release Highlights | June 1