Spinning out of the pages of the pivotal Captain America #332 comes the nearly two-year epic saga of The Captain. Steve Rogers is no longer Captain America, leaving the nation scrambling for a new hero asking the question, “Who deserves the mantle?” Sound familiar?
The issues reprinted in this collection form the basis for the Falcon and the Winter Soldier series that aired earlier this year. The saga of searching for Steve’s replacement and John Walker’s taking of the mantle finds its roots here. Readers familiar with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will find a lot to like as they see how the story originally unfolded with the bits the series decided to adapt and the others it left behind. With so much buzz around this story, there has never been a better time for this collection to come back into print.
The collection reprints issues #333-350 of the Captain America ongoing, plus Iron Man #228. This entire arc spins out of Steve’s resignation in issue #332, which unfortunately is not reprinted here despite being referenced in every following issue. Despite this plot gap, the collection barrels forward as it bounces between the new Cap and Steve’s ragtag team of Falcon, Nomad, and Demolition Man. It’s a team book to its core that balances many moving pieces for a multilayered saga filled with serpents, world-ending threats, and moral quandaries. Gruenwald’s scripting here is tight and surprisingly doesn’t read too dated. He balances each issue to be generally self-contained while also moving the overarching plot forward.
The character work here is also fantastic. Each character possess their own unique voice and driving motivations. John Walker is the strongest of the series as we see him strive to live up to Steve Rogers’ legend, only to be doomed from the start. On the opposing side, we have Steve struggling to find his place in the world. Across these 17 issues we see him wrestle with his new status as well as defining for himself what it means to be a hero. This arc juxtaposes Walker and Rogers to illustrate what it truly means to be Captain America. This quality of storytelling is consistent throughout the entire collection and reading these tales feels like being in the grasp of a master storyteller.
Gruenwald also balances out event tie-ins really well. With this saga going on for so long, other Marvel events inevitably crossed over into it. These tie-ins range from Fall of the Mutants, Iron Man’s Armor Wars, and even the fallout of Inferno. These tie-ins are woven organically into the overarching story and surprisingly do not read out of place. Armor Wars gets a special spotlight through Iron Man and The Captain’s confrontation in Iron Man #228. Steve and Tony’s clash of ideals is a mainstay of their relationship, and seeing them duking it out at one of Steve’s most vulnerable times reads in character for the both of them.
This collection also highlights one of the best artists to work on the title, Kieron Dwyer. Dwyer absolutely kills it once he takes over art duties in issue #338. That’s not to say the opening few issues drawn by Tom Morgan look bad by any means, but once Dwyer steps in he takes the series to another level. His style is energetic and engaging. His action set pieces are wonderfully choreographed and capture the high-flying heroics that define Captain America.
He also portrays menace in the most terrifying way. As Walker’s murderous rampage ramps up, Dwyer frequently casts his face in shadow only illuminated by his snarling smile or savage stare. This works to heighten the unhinged nature of the character and add more tension to some genuinely disturbing scenes. This reaches its peak during the final confrontation between Steve and Walker in issue #350.
The Captain is an ambitious and action-packed adventure. It’s got everything a comic fan could want: engaging characters, a fast-paced plot that takes itself seriously, and the classic clash between good and evil. I cannot recommend this collection enough. For brand new readers it’s a bit disappointing to not have the initial issue #332 collected here, but there’s enough context for the following stories to make sense. Everything here fires on all cylinders, from the storytelling to the art and makes for a truly epic collection of tales.
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