Hey gang! Hopefully you’re all surviving between bouts of extreme weather – nothing says “fun times” like alternating between 40 degree days and cold, windy winter weather. Hooray for climate change! With all that fun stuff going on, it made sense to delve into a comic that would appeal to the idealist in me. When I think “idealist”, naturally ol’ mate Captain America comes to mind. This time around, I’ve picked up a Cap story written by one of the most lauded writers to pen the OG Avenger’s solo title: Captain America, volume one: Winter in America, written by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Black Panther) and drawn by Leinil Francis Yu (Secret Invasion).
For more than 70 years, Captain America has been a symbol of freedom, justice and the American way. He was a living symbol of the Republic, leading the charge of the US armed forces in WW2, and guiding the Avengers in the modern day. That all changed, however, when the nefarious forces of Hydra took over the United States – with Steve Rogers at their head. His life distorted by a sentient Cosmic Cube, Steve Rogers became the paragon of Hydra and successfully lead a coup that changed the fabric of America. With the world thrown out of balance, the remaining Avengers were able to bring a pre-Hydra version of Rogers back into reality, and this new Cap was able to cast down his evil doppelganger and restore the rule of law. With the United States recovering from Hydra rule, Steve must adjust to defending a country that believes he betrayed everything he holds sacred, and work with a government that no longer trusts him.
Ta-Nehisi Coates’ take on Cap comes after a hefty story arc. Nick Spencer’s Secret Empire arc was fairly divisive at its beginning – sections of the internet descended into apoplexy when Steve was revealed to be a Hydra agent – but I believe it eventually established itself as a storyline to remember. Winter in America picks up in the immediate aftermath of the Hydra occupation, with Steve wrestling with the knowledge that an aspect of him was responsible for definitively tearing the USA apart. Coates’ Cap is uneasy, doubtful and conflicted, and his constant, introspective internal monologue while trying to regain some semblance of normality is one of the highlights of the book.
Ultimately, Winter in America has a lot going for it. However, it’s not without fault. I found myself struggling to gel with or understand the book’s villain until the very end, and even once her identity was fully revealed I struggled to grasp her significance and follow her motivations. Perhaps that’s due to my relative inexperience with Captain America titles, but I don’t think that aspect of the book was as well handled as Coates’ take on post-Hydra America. It’s possible that the political similarities to modern-day America made it easier to write about (Coates has worked as a journalist in the past), but the overarching villain but a bit of a sour note on what is otherwise a tense, introspective look at a divided country.
All things considered, Coates’ take on Cap was always going to be of interest after his lauded take on Black Panther. While I didn’t fully embrace some aspects of the book, its tense, politically-charged world was exactly what I signed up for, and if that sounds like your jam, I heartily recommend it.
Written by Alastair McGibbon