As one of the premier characters in the Captain America franchise, it’s a shame Sharon Carter doesn’t get more recognition than she does. Part of this is because of the MCU’s decision to take several elements unique to Sharon and gifting them to Peggy Carter, a character who had little depth before the films were released. As a character who never quite gets the dues she deserves, Captain America: Sharon Carter is a well-earned trade, proving once and for all what makes Agent 13 such a force to be reckoned with.
The trade collects issues throughout Sharon’s long publication history, including Tales of Suspense from the Lee and Kirby era through the Brubaker era.
30 Minutes to Live
The trade starts off with Tales of Suspense #75 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, best known for being Sharon Carter’s first appearance. The story is pretty standard fare for classic Marvel, complete with Stan Lee’s unmistakable narration boxes. Also collecting issue #76, the story is about a secret group trying to get their hands on the “Inferno 42” chemical. Agent 13 gets to it first, causing Steve to have a moment of reflection as he wonders why this woman is so familiar to him. Cap and Batroc the Leaper square off, giving Sharon some time to switch the Inferno 42 cylinder with a fake, securing her success but gravely endangering her in the process. If nothing else, this story arc paved the way for proving Sharon’s intense dedication to her work, a trait that would follow her character throughout the years.
The Blitzkrieg of Batroc!
Another issue from the Lee/Kirby era, Tales of Suspense #85 follows a rematch between Captain America and Batroc the Leaper. After Sharon is kidnapped, Steve runs to her rescue, falling knee-deep in a Hydra scheme. This issue seems admittedly odd in a collection of Sharon stories, as her role is hardly important, though it does have some interesting moments for her character. One such moment includes Sharon declaring she’d rather die than be Hydra, outlining her brazen dedication to her moral compass. During the controversial Secret Empire storyline, Sharon would repeat this sentiment quite often, standing defiantly against Hydra Captain America.
Sentinel of Liberty
While lesser-known because it’s a one-off issue, Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty is one of the best issues for Sharon’s character and for the Steve/Sharon relationship as a whole. The story is isochronic, taking place during the Captain America Vol. 3 timeline with Sharon Carter serving as S.H.I.E.L.D. Director after her return from “the dead.” With Sharon serving as Director, Steve reflects on an important moment between the two, which occurred between Captain America #102 and Captain America #103. Mark Waid and Ron Garney prove they effortlessly understand the dynamic between Steve and Sharon and why these two characters complement each other so well.
By far the most important part of the issue is when Steve and Sharon reflect on each other’s roles, with Sharon saying they’re both soldiers, but she knows she might have to kill someone in the field. She says that Steve, on the other hand, is a beacon of hope, someone who can’t kill because he represents the best of humanity.
When the time comes and Steve must decide whether or not to kill a target, Sharon takes the role of the assailant so he won’t have to compromise his inherent goodness, reflecting on their conversation earlier. Steve remarks that he’s sure how he feels about her as the two share a kiss. In the current time, Steve visits the now-SHIELD Director Carter, looking fondly at her. It’s clear there’s still a fair bit of chemistry between the two, which is something that was pivotal towards Waid (and later Dan Jurgens’) Captain America run.
Ed Brubaker’s run on Captain America volume 5 isn’t just one of the best Captain America runs, it’s one of the best explorations of Sharon Carter’s character ever put to pen. While Steve Epting usually drew the series, these few issues are by Mike Perkins, who provides a style that’s similar enough to Epting’s that it’s not jarring, but unique in its own right. The trade collects issues #16 and #17, which feature Steve and Sharon tracking down Bucky Barnes, who has just regained his memories after his stint as the Winter Soldier. These issues do a good job of proving Sharon’s prowess in the field in addition to how well she can keep up with Captain America. Brubaker is excellent at providing the witty banter between Steve and Sharon that was so important to Waid’s take on the characters, providing constant fun. These issues are also significant because they include how Steve and Sharon finally got back together after their years apart.
Girls’ Night On
Next up is Kelly Sue DeConnick and Brad Walker’s Age of Heroes #3. In terms of a story that’s pivotal to Sharon’s character, this one doesn’t really fit the bill, but it does include enough fun moments to justify a read. The story features Victoria Hand, Sharon Carter, and Maria Hill taking on Crusher Creel, who has broken into Avengers Tower. Walker’s art isn’t terribly impressive but DeConnick’s dialogue truly shines and the friendly banter between the women is wholly endearing. Sharon is usually wrapped up in Captain America plots, so there is value in getting to see her bond with characters outside of the Cap-sphere, particularly with other women.
All the Pretty Monsters
Rounding out the issue is Kelly Sue DeConnick and Greg Tocchini’s Captain America and the Secret Avengers #1, which takes place during the Brubaker era of Secret Avengers. The story tracks Sharon and Natasha Romanoff hunting for a rogue assassin. It’s a good character study for Natasha, forcing her to reflect on her past and how she interacts with young women who are put in similar positions as she once was. It’s also a great issue for Sharon and Natasha’s friendship as DeConnick proves once again that she thrives when it comes to portraying fun, friendly banter between female characters. There’s plenty of standout moments between the two, making this one of the most fun, lighthearted reads in the trade.
As a whole, the trade serves as a great introduction and overall look at Sharon Carter’s character and her influence on the Captain America mythos over the years. Writing-wise, each issue is incredibly strong, providing introspective or lighthearted looks into her character. It’s admittedly a bit puzzling that certain issues weren’t included, such as the ones chronicling Sharon’s return from “death” or when she turns down a reconciliation with Steve to become Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. However, most issues feel self-explanatory for why they were included and feel like natural fits. This trade is well worth the price and is a must-have for fans of Sharon Carter or for people who have ever wanted to know what makes her so special.