After last week’s Marvel Retro Rundown revisited the pivotal Captain America series Truth: Red, White, & Black, this week’s takes a look at the beginning of the current run on the character. In 2018, writer and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates and artist Leinil Francis Yu picked up the reins of the ongoing Captain America series for a story set in the aftermath of the controversial Secret Empire storyline. Just two years after the run’s debut it already feels like a prescient look at what’s in store for the United States regardless of how this coming November’s election turns out.
Check out our review of Captain America, Vol 1: Winter in America, ahead in this week’s installment of The Marvel Rundown!
Captain America, Vol. 1: Winter in America
Originally published in Captain America (2018) #1-6
Written by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Pencilled by Leinil Francis Yu
Inked by Gerry Alanguilan
Colored by Sunny Gho
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover and Original Covers by Alex Ross
Reviewed by Hussein Wasiti
Ta-Nehisi Coates is one of the prominent Black writers of our generation, so when Marvel announced four years ago that he’d be writing the main Black Panther series, I was ecstatic to read it. At that time I wasn’t even reading comics, but still I ventured to my local store to pick up a copy. Two years later, the announcement of Coates writing Captain America shook me even further. Sure, it’s one thing for Coates to write Black Panther; it’s been done before by Black creators such as Christopher Priest and Reginald Hudlin. A Black writer tackling Captain America, however, greatly interested me. The first volume of his and Leinil Francis Yu’s run, “Winter in America,” is a great treatise on the character of Steve Rogers that also painted a pretty stark warning for America that I don’t think any of us understood when this series first started back in July 2018.
To preface the rest of this, I’d like to say that I’m not American. I’m Canadian, and thus look at these issues from an outsider’s perspective, which I don’t think is totally invalid. I’m just a friendly neighbour expressing concern for my friends down south.
“Winter in America” begins by painting a picture of a post-Hydra America. Its people are divided, with “Hydra nostalgics” and ordinary citizens getting into skirmishes that usually end in chaotic violence thanks to robotic super soldiers known as Nukes. Despite Hydra having been defeated and the people of America liberated from its oppressive regime, the Nazi organisation still has a foothold in the country and their beliefs haven’t vanished. There are people that have benefited from Hydra’s presence; middle America, dubbed “flyover country” by a man Cap speaks to midway through the arc, has prospered as their blue collar jobs have been preserved and secured. They had free healthcare, and Hydra killed all their drug dealers. In an America like this, a divided America… what exactly can Captain America accomplish?
In his The Atlantic article where he announced his tenure on Captain America, Coates described Cap as “not so much tied to America as it is, but to an America of the imagined past.” Cap is a reminder of the best of America, but this series finds him a pariah to both sides of the battle. Those who suffered under Hydra can’t look at him because Hydra took over his body to dominate the country, and those nostalgics hate him because he took away what made their lives better.
I view this arc, especially its brilliant opening chapter, almost like a warning to the country as to what may befall them when Donald Trump leaves office, be it either next year or in another four. His vanishing from the Oval Office isn’t the be all end all. His supporters will still be here, and it’s very probable that both liberals and conservatives won’t be happy with his replacement for differing reasons. Whatever happens, Coates is cautioning us for our post-Trump era.
At one point Cap says, “What speech is there for this mother who’s lost her two daughters? What words can explain how our government allowed this? How the killers bear the flag of that government? The same flag as me?” I don’t know about you, but that’s a very chilling and prescient line. What does America need to heal, and does Captain America have any role in this healing process?
Pretty weighty stuff, huh? Looking past all of this political talk, how does this story fare as a comic book, as a piece of entertainment? Herein lies the irony. Coates is a fantastic writer and the prose in this comic sings, but he’s writing this to the tune of a rollicking international spy story and the two halves never quite gel into a cohesive whole for me. There’s a disconnect between the visuals and the narration. The arc starts with some fantastic, grounded Captain America poetry, but the arc ends with Cap’s arch-nemesis arisen from the dead in typical comic book fashion.
I think it’s very readable and readers will get plenty out of it. Yu is a pretty good artist and if you’re interested to see his Captain America kick some android ass, then what are you waiting for? I just wish Coates was paired with a more expressive artist, one who could have brought out the subtlety in the writing to truly set this comic in stone.
Next week, another look at a classic tale from Marvel’s past!