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All-New Captain America: “Hydra Ascendant” (Marvel Comics, 2014; #1-6)

Look, in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s…Captain America!

Near the end of his run on Captain America, Rick Remender de-powered and aged Steve Rogers, resulting in the original Sentinel of Liberty passing the torch (or shield, as the case may be) to his long-time friend and crime-fighting partner, Sam Wilson. But before passing on the mantle of Captain America Writer, Remender spent six issues establishing Wilson as Cap.

Like the preceding run with Steve Rogers, All-New Captain America is about family and the price of being a hero. Personal history grounds Sam Wilson: it contextualizes his desire to be a hero in his father’s sacrifice of his own life while standing up for others. Wilson’s desire to have a family of his own and pass on the values he learned from his parents comes up at odds with his responsibility as a hero. Even Hydra’s scheme in this arc—conquer the world by sterilizing everyone who isn’t Hydra and letting time do the rest—comes back to the importance of family.

Remender is actually one of the writers who got me into reading comics; I had gotten a free copy of his first issue of Uncanny X-Force from Comixology, and I immediately wanted more. I have read the entirety of his Captain America run now, and I enjoyed this volume as well what came before it. It has the weirdness and balance between humor and pathos that tends to characterize Remender's Marvel work. I did finish this trade, though, with the sense that he started his run with bigger plans in mind. The main arc of the story is complete, but there are details—especially surrounding Misty Knight’s intel and larger role in the book—that never go anywhere. I don’t know if Remender had further plans before he decided to focus on creator-owned work or was setting the stage for events that are still playing out in Nick Spencer’s pair of Captain America titles. I could see some of the threads that begin here coalescing into the Secret Empire event Marvel is currently teasing.

Where the previous volume of Captain America had often relied on heavily stylized art to convey its sci-fi trappings (especially in its first arc), the All-New flavor goes with a more representational style. Immonen's line-work is intricate and dynamic; fight sequences flow with careful choreography. I often found myself stopping to admire its details—a two-page spread of Wilson soaring through the air, various landscapes, flocks of birds…even the Armadillo’s design. The book’s palette is muted, with the occasional more vibrant hues reserved for bright lights or big explosions. Flashbacks use an unsaturated red-and-gray color scheme similar to what Spencer’s Captain America: Steve Rogers art later adopted.

So should you check All-New Captain America out? It’s an excellent primer on Sam Wilson as Captain America and weight he takes on with that mantle. Taken on its own, it may seem incomplete in some ways—it does reference plot developments from Remender’s previous Captain America title, and the jury is still out on whether its loose ends will tie up.  But if you're digging into Captain America and want a full picture of what is going on, I think this is necessary reading.

Collected in

  • All-New Captain America, Vol. 1: Hydra Ascendant (#1-6)


Writer: Rick Remender | Penciler: Stuart Immonen | Inker: Wade Von Grawbadger | Colorists: Marte Gracia with Eduardo Navarro (1) & Dono Sanchez Almara | Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna | Assistant Editors: Jake Thomas, Alanna Smith | Editor: Tom Brevoort

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