Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you should be aware that something is very wrong with Captain America these days. When the first issue of his new series ended with the epitome of American values and patriotism pushing frequent ally Jack Flag out of an airplane and uttering the phrase “Hail Hydra,” comic fandom went into panic. Now the entire first story arc of this controversial run is available in this new collection.
After an extended period acting as Avengers coordinator following rapid aging brought on by the neutralisation of the Super-Soldier Serum in his body, Steve Rogers has reassumed the mantle of Captain America after being returned to his youthful prime in the events of Avengers: Standoff. However, unbeknownst to his allies – this rejuvenation has come at a heavy cost that has left Cap’s ideals and identity compromised in the worst way possible. His rejuvenation at the hands of Kobik (a girl created from fragments of the Cosmic Cube) gave his arch enemy the Red Skull the opportunity to rewrite his memories so that he now believes he has been a sleeper agent for Hydra for most of his life. But the Red Skull is unaware that there are already cracks forming in his plan.
If you were expecting, once Steve Rogers returned to his role as Captain America, that it would be business as usual, you will be in for a shock. But this is still one of the best written superhero comics to come out this year. Nick Spencer has found most success with Marvel for his action-comedy series The Superior Foes of Spider-Man and Ant-Man. But he’s pretty great when it comes to the serious stuff too. This opening volume on this action-thriller take on Captain America has so many different layers and twist turns that places it right alongside Ed Brubaker’s run on the series. It would be easy to cast Captain America as a straight up villain after his memories are tempered with, but he becomes a surprisingly complex character as he still seems to possess some of the values and heroic nature he is known for. The detailed flashback sequences detailing Steve’s new fake memories of his youth, his mother and history with Hydra enhance this greatly and help give his current actions some context.
Jesus Saiz succeeds on several fronts in terms of the art with the action sequences some of the best you’ll see in superhero comics today and providing some great quiet and suspenseful moments (the Hail Hydra scene has already become quite iconic and the source of many internet memes). He is also great in the colour department with the flashbacks in particular taking on a noir quality that aren’t quite black and white, but is a definite departure from the brighter palette used in the main sequences.
Any Captain America fans should be reading this and fans of action-thriller comics will find plenty to enjoy. Now is the perfect time to check out this highly controversial new take on one of comic books’ greatest icons.
Captain America: Steve Rogers Vol. 1 – Hail Hydra is published by Marvel on 20 December 2016 (£16.99, 152pp, p/b, 9781302901127)