Captain America: Sam Wilson #13 Review
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Daniel Acuña
Review by Vivek Kembaiyan
“You take a stand, eventually someone’s gonna come tell you to sit back down.”
When Steve Rogers, the original Captain America, loses his powers and goes into retirement, he picks Sam Wilson to continue his legacy. From the time he’s given the shield, Sam makes it clear that he intends to be Captain America on his own terms. While Steve worked directly for the government law enforcement agency S.H.I.E.L.D, Sam chooses not to. Instead, he sets up a help hotline and assists people who can’t always depend on the justice system.
The series continues to be political throughout. In the first arc, Sam battled a wall-street super-villain profiting from experiments on undocumented immigrants. When a whistle-blower exposes a secret S.H.I.E.L.D program to re-write reality without oversight, Sam helps him escape. And in the current story, Sam attempts to dissipate tensions between a new private police force (the “Americops”) and the communities that fall victim to their overbearing tactics.
Sam deals with steady criticism that mirrors his own self-doubt: is he up to the task of being Captain America? When Steve’s powers return, an inflammatory radio host launches a campaign to “take back the shield” from Sam, implying that it doesn’t belong to him. With help from a conservative Senator and the CEO of the company profiting from the Americops program, they recruit their own hero, a former Captain America named John Walker, to forcefully take the shield from Sam. All of this carries a deeper layer of meaning when race is factored in: Sam is the first African-American Captain America.
In this issue, Sam Wilson dukes it out with the more powerful John Walker. Artist Daniel Acuña beautifully shows us the gritty, hand-to-hand beat-down across different parts of New York City, with a dark color palette that matches the tone of the story well. Interspersed among the battle are panels showing the high stakes: Sam is fighting to continue his approach to justice, and for everyone who looks up to him for it.
As a public figure, Sam catches criticism from all sides. Issue #13 features a memorable talking-to from Rage, a young black vigilante who is frustrated by Sam. “I saw you pick up the shield, and I said, maybe, finally, we’re gonna see some real change,” Rage says as he explains his disappointment. It’s hard not to read into the scene a parallel critique of President Obama as well.
The story wraps up with Sam coming up with a controversial new way to keep the Americops accountable, and the surprise reveal of an unexpected supporter of the “take back the shield” campaign. Both of these elements leave the reader hungry to see where the story goes next. Captain America: Sam Wilson packs a lot into it’s 20-pages to test Sam’s character and leadership while advancing the story’s compelling plot.
Verdict: Buy. If you’re looking for a superhero book that pulls no punches tackling some of the most important political issues of the day, this is what you want. Writer Nick Spencer and artist Daniel Acuña continue their excellent run as Sam literally fights to continue being Captain America.