Ta-Nehisi Coates’ final issues of Captain America are now collected for the first time this week. This is an end that’s heavily focused on Red Skull fighting Captain America not with fists, but with ideas. He’s trying to win a war in a new way that feels particularly modern and reflective of our times. Like our era of fake news, Red Skull is not only trying to win over Americans to his side, but prove to Captain America there is no war to fight anymore as it’s already lost.
Captain America By Ta-Nehisi Coates Vol. 5: All Die Young Part Two collects Captain America #26-30 and is a strong final story by Coates that uses modern ideas to leverage the Captain America story.
This book opens with a flashback montage to Peggy’s first funeral and other important interactions in recent years. Coates’ run on this series has largely been about Captain America’s supporting cast and you get that from the very start. Winter Soldier, General Ross, Falcon, and more all factor into this book and serve to show how Captain America inspired these heroes as much as he inspires the dream.
That supporting cast is used even in the end, though that’s a bit of a surprise. Their exploits all lead to a Red Skull and Cap faceoff with the symbolic nature of what each represents on display. This final chapter is largely about Red Skull attempting to kill the very idea of Captain America as an inspiration — among other things — while actively trying to recruit an army with proclamations like “I offer you the sword of manhood.”
Though this book has plenty of action, it’s more like a political commentary on our times. Whether it’s how Steve opens the book narrating to add context or a key scene with him listening to conservative radio lambast him, there’s a lot of food for thought here. Captain America must face the fact that he may have lost a significant portion of America in part as Red Skull says because he fights against their “found ideals.” Because so much of what is said is so prescient of our times, it makes the read all the more impactful.
Art by Leonard Kirk and color by Matt Milla do well to ground the story with a realistic look while keeping the heavy dialogue intriguing. Many of the panels are pushed into close-ups or tight two-shots to bring our focus on the seriousness of the speaker and by extension their words. Although there are a few full-page splashes and superpowers on display, this is not that kind of superhero comic. Kirk and Milla manage to draw your attention to the intensity of these characters well and that’s all that matters.
Captain America Vol. 5: All Die Young Part Two ends Coates’ run in a fitting way as he turns the focus onto a war of ideas. Captain America and his supporting cast use their fists — this is a superhero comic, after all — but the big finish resolves the conflict in a way many of us probably hope to see in real life against those who are prejudiced, harbingers of lies, and worse. It’s an inspirational story in that it reveals truths about familiar monsters in society today and how ideas can win.
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