Book Club: Captain America #1

Long week, no see. I promise I wasn’t ditching forever, but inspiration and motivation are fickle creatures. Nonetheless they love me again, so here I am!

About a month ago now (wow August didn’t even exist apparently), a friend of mine came up to visit. She’s currently a PhD student, her studies dedicated to Arab and Muslim representation in the media with a focus in comics; you can access her works here. She’s deeply passionate about comic books, representation of her people, and I admire her for sticking to her guns. We visited Midtown Comics, in which she treated me to a comic book for enjoyment and review.

Captain America #1 is written by Ta-Nehisi Coates and the second comic book that I have read by him. My debut of him in anything but journalistic articles or essay collections was with the first Black Panther comic. I remember liking it, but I wasn’t sure at the time that this was something I could see Coates doing full time. A side gig, sure. Fulfilling a lifelong passion, absolutely. Always in my head, however, I will know him as a fantastic writer, journalist, essayist.  

Coates is leaving the Atlantic and moving onto other projects, other places in which he can write and express the full extent of his creativity. I’m still sad over the news, but it’s better than him leaving the world of writing forever.

All of that said, I enjoyed this comic!

Let me be clear–I’m not much of a comic book girl. I feel like a lot of people fall into one of two categories: either you’re of the anime/manga camp or the comic book tribe. I have friends who are active members of both parties, but I find myself more invested in anime and manga. I bring that up because both categories require one to have a decent knowledge of how things work, how people approach them. I wasn’t so overwhelmed by the transition as I thought I would be, which was a pleasant surprise. This book picks up after a major plot point involving the superhero; he’s taking the first steps to try to recover his name and America from the evil clutches of Hydra.

From what I know of the movies and some comic book background, it rings very true and very Captain America-like to have this kind of plot–the American hero protecting all that’s good from the evils of off-brand Nazism. I think if I had read the series up until this point, perhaps I would understand what’s at stake more. Not to say that it wasn’t easy to pick up on–which it wasn’t–but the emotional and mental gravity would’ve hit me a bit more.

That said, the emotional weight was definitely there. There was Steve Rogers and then Captain America and somewhere in there a man who was both and probably wanted to be someone entirely new. I won’t spoil it, but that idea is pretty central to this first issue and to the conflict that Coates has to resolve from previous issues. I imagine if you read the comic books, you know what I’m talking about.

That idea was how I knew that Coates was writing this. It became pretty explicit that he was the author towards the end, in which the last few pages are spent in the musings of Rogers– reflective, worried, and yet hopeful at the same time, three things that I think are quintessential to the Black American’s experience. No, Captain America/Steve Rogers is not Black and Cap was fashioned during an era of quintessential American spirit, but both men know what it is to want better for your country and for the people in it. In that sense, Coates did a great job of honing into Capt.’s pensive mind.

I found myself not as interested in the side plots or the side characters, but they’re important. I just don’t have enough background knowledge of the story up until this point to get attached to them.

I guess the question of this review that I want to answer is can I be convinced of Coates’ secret talent of comic writing? Quite honestly, I’m not sure. I’ve only read 2 comics by him. I did enjoy the comic and I can see myself picking up the next issue to see how the story ends, but I think he’s working with a lot here. This isn’t to say that I don’t think he’s qualified to take on the task, but considering that the series went through a few writers until we arrived at this plot point, Coates has a lot to resolve. He’s not at a loss though; just an adjustment period.

I say give it a read. It’ll take all of 15 minutes. At some point, I’ll probably take another trip to Midtown Comics and see if they have the next issue in stock.

Favorite quote: “We have, all of us, forgotten something. Forgotten how hard it is to believe in the dream. To hold onto the dream in the face of chaos. How hard it is to be truly American.”

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