Ta-Nehisi Coates is one of the most important voices in America today. It’s a big reason why his Captain America feels more present and focused on politics than ever before. The second trade paperback is out this week and it features a Steve Rogers who has been framed five different ways by an American government that has made him doubt his country.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Superstar artist Adam Kubert joins Ta-Nehisi Coates for the next dramatic development in the life of Marvel’s Super-Soldier! Captain America – wanted for murder! And the victim is a familiar face in the Marvel Universe! How? Why? You’ll have to read to fi nd out!
Why does this matter?
Collecting issues #7 through #12 this book features a Captain America sent to prison with Baron Strucker as the warden. That’s no good, but what does Steve Rogers care when the America he believes in is crumbling from the inside? Check out my review of volume one to gain an understanding of what this series is all about!
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This story arc has a structured feel to it that makes each issue collected here feel part of a bigger story while telling a singular story in itself. It does this thematically as Cap submits himself to the government only to realize America has lost its way. It also does this visually. Each issue opens with conventional pages and a few pages in a full-page splash of a location is shown that bleeds into the background of a layout on the second page. It’s an interesting way to draw your attention to the location and its repetition gets you invested in the purpose of the chapter.
Cap is not alone in this narrative with Sharron Carter on his side. She’s pulling strings outside of prison and it’s interesting to see how Coates basically builds a new army for Cap to eventually lead. It’s an uplifting look at a man who has lost his symbol but hasn’t lost his heart. It’s hard not to get behind this message when we live in a world where politicians can never be trusted.
The art by Adam Kubert is great looking and as classic as ever. The layout design is quite strong in this book mixing things up while also maintaining structure (mentioned above). Action is where it’s at in this book but there are also numerous shots of many characters on the page that look sharp. There are some chances taken with angles too like a birds-eye view of all the fighting in a prison fight in the cafeteria. He’s backed up by color artist Frank Martin and Matt Milla who keep the tone serious and muted. This is not a happy story and the texture and color represent that well.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
There is a B-plot involving Stevil (evil Steve Rogers) that isn’t given enough focus. It’s clear the character is changed dramatically but it’s reduced to a small panel at the end of a chapter. There’s also a sub-plot with Crossbones that reads like pointless filler. The plot simply dies anyway.
Is it good?
I wasn’t sure what to expect with this second volume which changes gears dramatically but lands all its themes and visuals well. The theme of a dying nation rejecting a hero who fought his entire life for it is an empowering one well worth a look.