I just finished the third episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and I’ve had a question bouncing around in my head since the first episode. It never once occurred to me reading about these characters in comic books but it rises when you place them within the nature and structure of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The piece will have light plot spoilers for the first three episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Solider so if you’ve not seen any of it and you don’t want anything spoiled, feel free to click away now. I enjoyed your visit! If you don’t mind light spoilers, then by all means read on. You do you :D. With that being said, this piece will consider the question of the emotional and moral weight of trying to carry Captain America’s shield once Steve Rogers himself is gone.
In the wake of Secret Empire’s conclusion, Nick Spencer stepped away from Captain America, the title he shepherded for Marvel from October 2015 through September 2017. During this time he handled the majority of Sam Wilson’s iconic turn as Cap as well as the (infamously controversial) Hydra corruption of Steve Rogers, resulting in Steve becoming a fanatical white supremacist. Amidst the most soul-crushing, hopeless storyline I’ve ever read in a comic, Spencer orchestrated the resurrection of hope in a way so authentically powerful, I felt as though I’d been reborn along with Steve Rogers. Now, in the Marvel Legacy era, Rodney Barnes has taken over writing the brand-new Falcon series while Mark Waid has taken over Captain America. For me, the results have been mixed. Continue reading
Nick Spencer’s Secret Empire came to a close on August 30th with Secret Empire #10. As I read the final chapter, I knew I’d write something about it. I’ve written about Secret Empire a few times and I’m pretty open about my love and respect for Sam Wilson: Captain America. But I didn’t want to write something right away. Secret Empire’s finale deserved more than my knee-jerk reaction. I wanted to take time to really think about it before I tried to write anything. It was an elegant story, equal parts epic superhero crossover and haunting allegory of our times. But it didn’t stop there, daring to speak to one of our most intimate and eternal human struggles. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Thank you Nick Spencer for such a thoughtful, moving, important, and inspiring story. And thank you Marvel for backing such courageous storytelling. Continue reading
Last week Nick Spencer delivered one of Secret Empire’s most important pieces yet in Captain America #25. I knew when I read it, I’d be writing about it. But I hadn’t expected to do so this quickly. However, as I watched the news unfold on Saturday, I couldn’t get this issue out of my mind. The comic, dropping “Sam Wilson” from the title with this issue, is simply Captain America once more. The narrative juxtaposes the approach of two very different Captain Americas. The allegory is clear. Who do we choose? Who are we? It’s a question calling each reader to deep contemplation on a personal and national level, a question I ask myself daily. Continue reading
When it comes to Nick Spencer’s work we’re all currently focused on Secret Empire. With good reason too! The story’s proved as brilliant as it is important. But in the wake of the June 16th verdict acquitting Office Jeronimo Yanez of the murder of Philando Castile, I think we need to return to Spencer’s final arc in Sam Wilson: Captain America before Secret Empire began. In Sam Wilson: Captain America #17-21, Cap finds himself facing America’s oldest systemic sin – institutionalized racism. The story is uncomfortable to read but when we look at the news with open eyes it makes us uncomfortable too. The idea that we’ve somehow beaten racism in this country or that it’s not a major problem anymore or that we need to “get over it and move on” is an effect of this sin. In having Captain America confront it, Nick Spencer proves once again why he’s one of my favorite comic writers. Who better than Captain America to wrestle with this country’s systemic sins and raise important questions about our future? Continue reading
Since taking over the writing duties for Sam Wilson: Captain America in October of 2015, Nick Spencer has had a bit of a polarizing run. There was already dissent (as there always is…sigh) over the fact that Sam Wilson had taken up Steve Rogers’ shield (with Steve’s blessing) as Captain America since he’d lost his Super Soldier Serum. Far from shying away from the controversy though Spencer has embraced it. In addition to the usual super villain set, Sam’s confronted polarizing political issues including immigration, racism, corporate greed, using fear to sell a political message, and police brutality. This naturally begs the question – should a character like Captain America embrace a political message at all? Continue reading
On July 6th, Marvel announced that after the conclusion of Civil War II a young woman named Riri Williams will take over for Tony Stark as Iron Man. Fandom reacted as it always does. There was intrigue. There was optimism. There was excitement. Annnd there were the usual (tired) cries of it being a p.c.-driven agenda or proof that Marvel is out of ideas, echoed in the familiar refrain of, “I don’t mind a female/minority/etc. superhero…but why can’t they have their own identity??” But I’d like to argue if you think Spider-Man is simply Peter Parker, you’ve missed the entire point. Spider-Man represents so much more than Peter Parker. Spider-Man is a symbol, an ideal. The more people we see picking up that mantle, the more people we see embodying that symbol, the better. This is as true for Spider-Man as it is for Iron Man or any comic book superhero. Continue reading