Nick Spencer’s other “Captain America” title may be the one grabbing all of the headlines, but it’ll be a while until it gets its first collected edition. What? You were expecting something snappier as I transition into talking about Sam Wilson’s adventures as Cap? Well, that’s kind of a problem with this volume even though Spencer has a lot of good ideas about what the title character should be fighting against in this day and age. That’s because while Sam has been doing all of the things expected of him in this role -- joining the Avengers, fighting supervillains, standing in parades -- he also sees this as his chance to affect real social change. Spencer obliges him by setting Sam up against one of Marvel’s reliably racist supervillain groups, the Sons of the Serpent. This time around they’ve diversified into villainous schemes both low, kidnapping people trying to cross the border into America and experimenting on them, and high, offering their Trump-esque public-relations services to big companies.
You’ve got a hero who is all ready to fight the good fight and some bad guys who are cannily of-the-moment in their villainy. Toss in some art from the always great Daniel Acuna (and some nice but not quite as great work from Paul Renaud and Joe Bennett in the back half), as well as the return of CapWolf and I should’ve found this to be a must-read. As it is, this volume is just okay. There’s no doubt that Spencer’s heart is clearly in the right place as he’s writing this. It’s just that all of these elements play out in a fairly predictable fashion. Of course Sam’s efforts to do the right thing would misfire in the public eye, save for the handful of people who show up to tell him how much they appreciate what he’s doing -- that’s how this kind of plot always plays out. While the Serpent Solutions stuff is clever, their kind of villainy is also familiar and notable only for the amusement to be had by seeing their blandly corporate talking points being espoused by people in snake costumes. The only welcome surprise to this volume is seeing how well Misty Knight works with Sam both as support and as a straight woman to his actions. It’s not that this new direction Spencer has picked out for Sam is a bad one, there’s just nothing in it to be had beyond meeting your basic expectations for the kind of story it’s telling.