Ta-Nehisi Coates has done incredible work both in comics and in his political prose writing. Having revamped Black Panther to great success, he has also turned his sights to Captain America. Thus far, Coates’ run has dealt with Steve questioning his role, both in the Marvel Universe post Secret Empire and in a meta-textual sense in a world post November 2016. This current arc, “The Legend of Steve” has Steve put down the role of Captain America after being framed for the actions of his evil Hydra counterpart and working alongside Sharon Carter and the Daughters of Liberty. Captain America #15 continues this story, with Steve and the Daughters now hunting down a Cop killer with connections to those conspiring against them.
Coates employs a variety of techniques in his building of this issue. Throughout his entire run, Coates has used Steve’s inner monologue as the connecting thread through this arc. Steve’s voice is deeply unsure of himself in this current political landscape. He’s been put into a position where he is very much out of his element, and he must rely on Sharon and the Daughters for help. In the context of this issue, Steve draws on his own experience as a police officer while searching for the killers of Angel Larimore. This internal voice establishes the tone throughout the arc and following Steve’s quest for purpose is the central pillar of this run.
Coates also uses the 9-panel grid for several key emotional scenes. Steve and Sharon’s relationship is strained when Steve questions Sharon about her running the Daughters of Liberty. Sharon has been given a great degree of agency in this run, placing her at the head of this secret group of Marvel heroines and placing Steve in a position where he is dependent on their help. In these panels Steve and Sharon are isolated from another, the tension between them is felt across the page. Coates uses the same technique once more in a conversation between Steve and his lawyer/former lover Bernie. Together they share a moment discussing the current state of the world, where in the Marvel universe Wilson Fisk (a.k.a. Kingpin) is Mayor of New York. Once more the grid imposes its tension and leaves the page heavy with atmosphere of anxiety.
Jason Masters and Mat Milla are on art for this issue, and together they channel the tone of Coates’ script into a visual style. Masters’ pencils work for the story, but its his heavier inks that truly make them shine, emphasizing shadows and dark corners. Milla uses a subdued color palette with moments of brightness in key panels. He keeps the story grounded yet gripping. Together, they craft an atmosphere of uncertainty not unlike Steve’s internal narration, the final product being a heavy, tense, and thought-provoking story.
While Coates’ Captain America run has been an engaging challenge to Steve Rogers in the current political era, it’s a story that progresses at a slower pace. This strategy can work and has to great success on Black Panther, however, some issues of Captain America feel light on content, this one included. While the investigation of Angel Larimore’s murder and Steve’s personal drama is interesting, there is not much to this issue besides those things. This issue is enjoyable, but it isn’t one that moves the story forward much on its own. Despite the lack of content, the issue ends on a reveal that will surprise fans who have been following Cap since his early adventures. Ultimately, Captain America #15 is well written, but decompressed.
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