Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates pushes forward with the “Winter in America” arc in CAPTAIN AMERICA #3. This issue certainly makes progress, in terms of storytelling and character development, but still remains just out of reach of being gratifyingly compelling.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #3 continues to pit Steve Rogers against himself. He still questions the world he’s woken up in, and why things have started to go so wrong. Joining him for the ride this time around are Black Panther and Okoye. There’s some fun chemistry between Cap and Panther, and they get to enjoy a brief slugfest with a handful of Nukes, but otherwise, the story here is fairly straightforward.

Artist Leinil Francis Yu continues his great work on the series, with the noticeable improvement of characters’ eyes being more consistently drawn. Makes me wonder if he actually read my previous review and took what I said into account, or if enough reviews went out saying the same thing, so Yu really had to address the issue. Either way, we get more outstanding work from him all around.

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Discovering the Power Elite in CAPTAIN AMERICA #3

CAPTAIN AMERICA #3 adds more to the stakes and starts to actually delve into who the villains are. The issue starts with Cap visiting a small town somewhere in the States. As he understands, the town was on the brink of collapse. Recently, though, the town was brought back to life thanks to Hydra. Though the people didn’t entirely agree with their methods, the fact still remains that Hydra helped them succeed.

When Hydra was defeated, a new group known publicly as Power Enterprises stepped in to fill the void. Thanks to his connections with Black Panther, Steve eyeballs this new group as the ones behind the Nuke attacks. He then quickly meets up with T’Challa and Okoye, who have found the location of the local hideout for Power Enterprises. This particular branch is operated by Zeke Stane, an old enemy of Iron Man’s who recently quarreled with the Black Panther.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #3
CAPTAIN AMERICA #3 page 8. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Cap, Panther, and Okoye beam into the facility and battle their way through a brutal horde of Nuke soldiers. Though the fight does get hairy at times, Steve and T’Challa are able to hold off the Nukes and Stane long enough for Okoye to shut the soldiers down. Only, by the end, they come to realize that Sharon Carter is in grave danger.

While all of this is going on, Steve continues his internal debate of identity and where he belongs. He questions what a “real America” is and the price the Nuke soldiers have paid. There’s a well-established sense of brotherhood between Cap and the Nukes, one which has permeated throughout most of the “Winter in America” arc.

Still Fairly Stagnant

As great as it is to see Steve so internally divided, and as intriguing as the mystery of the Power Elite may seem, CAPTAIN AMERICA #3 continues what has been a surprisingly stale story. CAPTAIN AMERICA #1 was an overwhelmingly powerful introduction to this new era of Cap. And, yet, here we are, three issues in, and it already feels like the story is lagging.

I don’t know if I’m missing something, or if it’s possibly just too early to make a call like this, but Ta-Nehisi Coates’ initial arc hasn’t gripped me as quickly as I expected it would. I think it, in part, has something to do with the overall disconnect between the inward and outward struggles of the main character. It feels like Coates is trying to write more than one story. Which is fine, except his competing ideas aren’t tied together well enough.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #3
CAPTAIN AMERICA #3 page 16. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Let me explain. The initial sequence of CAPTAIN AMERICA #3 is very powerful. Cap is talking with a citizen of the small town, who explains all the great things Hydra did for them. This, of course, leads Cap to dip into his self-doubt, as well as general doubt about what he’s fighting for. That material is really great because it artfully captures Steve’s internal quarrel.

But, it’s interrupted by Steve going off to team up with Black Panther to deal with Zeke Stane (who I feel like is such an odd villain choice). Coates would like you to believe there’s a connection here, but there isn’t really. The story feels conflicted in and of itself. I’d much prefer a more grounded story of Steve dealing with his ideals than him fending off the irritably contrived Power Elite.

The Art is Picking Up, Though

On the upside, though, Leinil Francis Yu continues to deliver his brand of top-notch art. CAPTAIN AMERICA #3 is probably his strongest issue thus far. There’s a significant amount of improvement over the previous issue. Though there are a few hiccups, it’s still a great issue to look at, all around.

There’s something insanely satisfying about seeing Captain America going (sort of) undercover. He’s such an iconic figure, so you’d think more people would ably recognize him. Yet, all he has to do is throw on a hoodie and a sports cap, and he’s suddenly invisible to the public eye. Whether it’s just lazy writing (which I’m not so sure about) or he’s just that good at going incognito, seeing Steve work in his civilian clothes is oddly enjoyable to see.

Any regular follower of Yu will know he most elegantly excels at delivering explosive action sequences. It’s often that his splash pages and two-page spreads are jaw-droppingly epic. CAPTAIN AMERICA #3 features yet another stellar splash page, as have his previous two Cap issues.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #3
CAPTAIN AMERICA #3 page 14. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

A minor gripe I had in CAPTAIN AMERICA #2 was that Cap basically never had actual eyes. That point has been mostly remedied in CAPTAIN AMERICA #3, much to my appreciation. Now if only Steve could just wear any expression other than brooding the whole time, we’d totally be in business.

All in all, though, this is certainly another success for artist Leinil Francis Yu. Here’s hoping things keep improving.

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The Story Really Needs to Get Moving

As interesting an addition as CAPTAIN AMERICA #3 is to Coates’ initial Cap arc, it’s turning into a slow crawl of a tale. The internal conflict of the “Winter in America” arc doesn’t feel appropriately tied to the external conflict. This disconnect is dragging this arc down, and I don’t want to see that. I’m sure nobody does.

Coates needs to either work towards a stronger focus on Cap’s internal struggle alone or find a more reasonable way to connect that internal struggle with what’s happening outside of Cap’s mind. Cap’s guilt from seeing these manipulated Nuke soldiers isn’t enough to make me care just yet.

Leinil Francis Yu’s art, however, should manage to hold your attention. It’s energetic and exciting, which is very needed, given the subject matter. This is the quality of art you should normally expect from Yu. Here’s hoping things stay up to par, or even get better.

Whatever comes next for the “Winter in America” arc, I sincerely hope Coates starts ramping this story up. It’s too early for this kind of book to stagnate. There needs to be a push or something to reenergize this story. Here’s hoping Coates can deliver that push.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #3 by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, and Sunny Gho
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
CAPTAIN AMERICA #3 is an entertaining read, to an extent. Frankly, the story is already lagging a bit. It's a little too early for that, and fantastic art can only carry a story so far.
83 %
A Stale Story

2 Comments

  1. Aileen Beam

    September 9, 2018 at 6:35 pm

    Oh, and I’m probably not quite as critical as I could be, because every single issue that comes out, I’m still screaming, “IT’S NOT SPENCER! THANK OG AND THE HOLY GOOGLE IT’S NOT SPENCER!”

    Reply

  2. Aileen Beam

    September 9, 2018 at 6:34 pm

    I was thrilled with the opening. I have to admit, I agree this issue wasn’t as powerful as the first two, and honestly, I was a little surprised to see what happened to Sharon, since she was her usual ‘let me try to manipulate you into doing what I want, Steve’ self in Volume 2. (If Steve’s going to go cougar, I wish he’d go back to Bernie. Just saying.)

    My guess is, part of the lack of immediacy where the Nukes are concerned is that they seemed to kind of come out of nowhere. I’m familiar with the story and it is a heartbreaking one — even Ults!Steve’s conflict with Nuke was tragic, in its way — but without the reminder, we’re going off whatever we remember from a years-old storyline.

    My guess is, Stane’s inclusion is because there’s tech involved. Any tech enemy of Stark’s will be one of BPs, I guess.

    Reply

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