Captain America Soars Again: Reviewing ‘Captain America: Symbol of Truth Vol 1’

Change and Captain America are something that goes hand in hand at Marvel Comics, especially since Steve Rogers was thawed out of the ice and had his entire world turned upside down almost sixty years ago. While two figures holding the title of Captain America at the same time, namely Steve and Sam, is nothing new at Marvel it’s technically the first time that Steve and Sam willingly and happily are doing it since the last time involved a whole Cosmic Cube Hydra/Nazi version of Steve.

For a moment let’s turn the clock back to 2014 when Steve Rogers lost his super-soldier formula and got instantly turned into an old man who could no longer carry the shield as he had done for so many years. At that moment there was a giant excitement for many like me when Sam Wilson was rightfully tapped to take over as Captain America, a black man wearing the symbol and standing as the champion for this conflicted nation. Not only was he Captain America but he was the leader of the Avengers and took the top-tier hero spot that he had always deserved.

Unfortunately, that first go-around left a lot to be desired as Sam’s solo book was written by a white man who tried to tackle the sorts of stories that should come from a black Captain America, but it wasn’t working. At the same time, it wasn’t long before Steve was deaged, had his own book, and was revealed to be Hydra/a Nazi. By the end of Secret Empire, the event where Hydra Steve tried to take over the world, Sam gave up the shield to the true Steve and went back to being Falcon. After that, he got one limited series, lost his role as Avengers leader, and got brushed into character limbo with a few minor cameos until recently.

Through the first six issues, it seems pretty safe to say that Tochi Onyebuchi, R.B. Silva, Zé Carlos, Julian Shaw, IG Guara, Jesus Aburtov, and Joe Caramagna have something special and something that will very much be the sort of Sam Wilson book that we’ve been needing for so many years.

There are most definitely politics, especially racial politics, that play a part in this series (Onyebuchi is a former civil rights lawyer after all) but there is no “Is Sam actually Cap” to battle here like before. There is no doubt he is Captain America, right alongside Steve who is also Captain America and has his own book. We get right down to business as soon as the series opens with an action-packed train sequence that is just utterly fantastic. Sam and Joaquin Torres, the current Falcon, are a perfect team/duo, and having Misty Knight playing a part in the book is always a plus.

Those characters are just the tip of the iceberg that Onyebuchi writes so well, taking great stabs at Deadpool, Doctor Doom, Black Panther, Shuri, and more in just these handful of issues. Deadpool out of all of them is a character whose line between good/just enough and far too much is way too thin and far too easy to be on the wrong side. Onyebuchi spends his time writing the character on the correct side of the line, where Wade makes jokes/quips but he’s also a serious professional that isn’t just spouting off fourth-wall-breaking stuff every five seconds for the hell of it. A deadly mercenary that also hangs out with heroes regularly and can make solid jokes about the situation without being annoying.

Separating Sam and Joaquin is a good call too, as we get to see them tackle different aspects of the case, they are on but also get more time to appreciate who they are in their respective roles. Both are very capable in their own ways, Joaquin is much more of a seasoned hero thanks to years with the Champions and others in the years since he first met Sam, and have different paths to take. Granted, those paths were ones that were foreseen by White Wolf as he guided each of them to the places that he wanted them, as Crossbones revealed.

Also, I appreciate the slow burn we’re getting here of the villainous plans of White Wolf and Crossbones, giving us little pieces here or there to keep the mystery intact. Sometimes slow burns can be agonizing in monthly comics but when they are done right, and here it’s done well, they can be very intriguing and even fun. Onyebuchi makes the slow burn approach to plot work because so much of the time is spent on really great character and world-building alongside elements of the main plot.

Putting this book in the hands of Silva and Aburtov was a perfect call because it’s a truly energetic and gorgeous book within their hands. Silva’s work is so slick and smooth, the action scenes are dynamic to the point of feeling like they could all just burst off the page at any moment. Making action work is one aspect of these books but in many ways nailing the emotional/character moments is an even more important aspect. Even with superheroes wearing masks we can feel the emotion and the moments between characters as those feelings are clear on the pages.

Silva and Carlos are very different in how they handle their art, but their styles are the type that flows together without taking one out of the moment/story. These are the types of artist pairings that work best because their work can still complement each other rather than being jarringly different in some way. Just like Silva, Carlos presents really smooth and dynamic action scenes but also nails the emotional character-moment-focused pages that are also smooth, energetic, and gorgeous.

As with Silva and Carlos, there are clear differences between Silva and Shaw’s work where the change stands out but it’s a pretty smooth transition. There is a sort of sharpness to Silva’s work that brings in a lot of detail and makes for some iconic shots and smooth action pieces. Shaw on the other hand has a bit of a smoother style that has much of the same detail work going on but is much softer in many respects. There are quieter moments by the time Shaw taps in so there aren’t any action sequences to really compare between the two, but Shaw hits all the great emotional beats in the pages he worked on.

Guara is very different yet very similar in some respects. There is a weight and depth still but there is a rough quality to Guara’s work with sharper edges and senses which fits the roughness of this particular issue. Background characters or elements are more out of focus or not fully rendered, which gives the foreground elements more focus, they are the elements that are important to our current moment/story. There are a number of pages where we’re just getting character close-ups and dialogue, and no background at all and it works. It centers things on them, cutting out the rest of the world, and keeps us intent on their emotional state and their words.

Color-wise there is a fantastic mix of bright popping sorts of colors and heavier shadows/darker tones to be found on the pages, mixing them between panels even, creating such a visual feast. Superheroes are fantastic but their bright costumes would stand out greatly as out of the ordinary even within their own universe, and I love that Aburtov’s choices of color make that very clear in many scenes. Such as when Sam meets with the senator, his star-spangled costume contrasts with the more ‘normal’ coloring of the senator’s office which is exactly how it should be.

Whichever sequence one points to, Aburtov makes them look bright and colorful while also bringing in all the more neutral and realistic sort of world element colors. Both bits of coloring share so much in common, yet there are minor differences that he brings to each page to fit the style of the particular artist. In the Wakanda/Sam pages they have a bit of lightness and toned-down nature while still being bright/slick, and in the Joaquin pages, they are a bit more saturated and heavier in some ways.

There are so many reasons that Caramagna is a letterer that gets so much work and appears in so many comic books. A deft skill at making dialogue flow through the pages, even when there is a lot to deliver, but in a way that doesn’t crowd or overwhelm in any way. Adding all the right little flairs or elements to allow a character’s personality and energy really to be felt and heard when reading their words. Also giving us all the really delicious colorful popping SFX that are one of the best things in comic books because they are so fun and allow us to ‘hear’ things from this world.

Honestly, the stuff that gets me giddy is the simple thing of having characters shout names, either their own or someone else’s, and those codenames being rendered in big logos in the middle of a dialogue bubble. That’s the kind of comic book stuff that I love to see, it’s just so damn fun and I want all of that sort of stuff. Comic books have heavy things going on, like political discussions here or other elements, but at the end of the day, they are also just fun.

Captain America: Symbol of Truth Vol 1: Homeland is now available from Marvel Comics.

Change and Captain America are something that goes hand in hand at Marvel Comics, especially since Steve Rogers was thawedCOMICONRead More

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