Captain America: Sam Wilson #22
Writer: Nick Spencer
Penciler: Sean Izaakse
Colorist: Nolan Woodward
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramanga
Release Date: 5/31/17
Plot: Sam creates an Underground Railroad amid the tyranny of the Secret Empire.
Story: Sam Wilson is no longer Captain America. At least he doesn’t think he is. In Captain America: Sam Wilson #22, Sam has laid down the shield and escaped to nowhere to conduct some introspective meditation. Nick Spencer has shown an immaculate understanding of the issues surrounding social justice and in effect has revealed his desire to unabashedly speak on it with a lurid, artistic mirror. Here, we get a look at another facet of Sam’s character- vulnerability.
Sam understands that he failed as Captain America and furthermore, after a long solitude in the depths of his own reasoning, has come to the conclusion that he can’t win. The news that Hydra has taken over with Steve Rogers as its supreme leader only serves to further his resolve that he and the other heroes have been beaten. This is somewhat disappointing, yet it is a necessary dose of realism at the same time. He saw the corruption of the justice system when the wrongly locked up Rage. He could see the systematic oppression of people of color first hand with the rise of the Americops. Even as Captain America, and while doing everything right, he still couldn’t make a difference. Deep down he knew this was due to the color of his skin.
He was broken and beaten both physically and in terms of his ideals. In Captain America: Sam Wilson #22, he doesn’t know what to do. This is a staggering parallel to black people in America. We often question, “even when I do everything right, even when I give 200%, it doesn’t make a difference so… What do I do?” This is art imitating an oft unspoken reality. It’s the reason I enjoy this run so much. It’s because it’s uncomfortable. People don’t like to talk about it. But he does, and he nails it. I commend Spencer for his accuracy.
Another collar-tugging parallel he draws is to the state of America. This is woven into his entire set up of Secret Empire, but we can see it clearly here as well. After Sam discovers Hyde’s takeover, we get conversations that remind me very much of ones I’ve witnessed after Trump won the election. Terrifying conversations. On one page in particular I thought Sam was me. To be frank, Hydra Cap reminds me of Trump and Hydra is his idea of America. I don’t even have to elaborate on the parallel between immigration and the Inhumans and mutants being deported.
In response, his overbearing need to help others inspires Sam to play the role of Harriet Tubman and start an Underground Railroad. Again, these implications resonate with the marginalized people of Trump’s America. Just the fact that these issues are discussed so starkly is empowering in itself. It prompts head nods and applause based solely on the pure fact that someone understands. This is very much needed in our readings.
Art: The cover of this issue might be my favorite of the run. Sam’s expression is a mirthless representation of how he feels about the state of America, and the flag he clutches in hand serves to embolden this message. Atop that, the train in the background perfectly encapsulates his motives throughout the issue. His new black suit and crimson wings are militant enough to match his expression.
On the pages, Sean Izaakse shows his skill with storytelling and expression in sequential art. Everyone is easy on the eyes and he has a way with shadows that help tell the story via attitude and inner thought. Meanwhile the colors are gorgeous and vibrant! Woodward doesn’t play with desaturation or grime at all, even though it could work well with this sort of story. Instead he takes the opposite route and makes a statement with colors that epitomize the classic comic look. Wonderful work from this creative team.
Verdict: This was a worthwhile Secret Empire tie-in. It can be argued that it works so well since Spencer is also writing the main Secret Empire story, but that wouldn’t discredit this in any way.
Star Rating: 5 out of 5.