Captain America’s been in an odd position these past few months. The “Winter in America” arc hasn’t been the smoothest Cap story. It certainly has some intriguing elements, such as Cap’s self-doubt and concern for his country. However, I haven’t been able to really figure out what’s been wrong with this arc so far. With CAPTAIN AMERICA #4, I think I’ve got it somewhat figured out.

Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates isn’t a bad writer. He’s written a plethora of fantastic, eye-opening novels. His transition to comics has been successful, to a degree. He fills his work with politically-driven themes and stories, which works for some readers, but not all. It also works well for Cap, especially in today’s climate. The problem isn’t the story; it’s the pace of the story.

Leinil Francis Yu’s art helps this story, big time. I’ve always found even a lackluster story can profit from Yu’s pages. However, these past few issues haven’t been his most glamorous. There’s been a dip in his quality; it’s not horrible, but I know he can do better.

Trust No One

CAPTAIN AMERICA #4 actually features some solid plot progression. It opens with Cap infiltrating a secret base in Alberia. This base belongs to the Power Elite, and they’re holding Sharon Carter there. Cap’s mission is plain and simple: get her out, and take down the bad guys.

However, though the course of action may seem simple, these things are often easier said than done. Cap finds the place littered with security. On top of that, Steve has to deal with a startling revelation. Apparently, Thunderbolt Ross has been playing Steve and everyone else for fools from the get-go. Of course, this just adds to the doubt Cap already held for his country. All-in-all, things just keep getting worse for Cap.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #4 page 5. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Sharon isn’t fairing that well, either. The mysterious lady in white who first appeared in CAPTAIN AMERICA #1 has taken to interrogating her. But now, we finally have a name for this new character. This pretty lady is Alexa Lukin.

If that name doesn’t immediately ring a bell, don’t worry. It probably won’t.

Think back to Ed Brubaker’s run on Captain America. Remember the guy who pretended to be Red Skull? The Russian guy, Aleksander Lukin. Alexa is his daughter. Talk about someone seeping out of the woodwork after a long, long time.

Try as Cap may to get to Sharon, Taskmaster makes a surprise appearance to halt him. The two are pitted in a fairly enjoyable confrontation. Selene’s reintroduction helps to raise the tension even further. Literally everything is mounted against the heroes. Here’s hoping they make it out alive.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #4 Helps Us Understand What’s Wrong with the Series

On the surface, the “Winter in America” arc is a well-timed and mostly well-written arc. Like I mentioned before, the story isn’t the problem. Nor is the art. The problem is how this story is paced, and how there is absolutely zero correlation between what’s happening in the narration and what’s happening on the page.

If you read these issues back-to-back, the arc might run more smoothly than reading them one by one, month after month. CAPTAIN AMERICA #4 has some solid build-up, but there isn’t nearly enough to keep me interested. If I have to wait a full month for the next issue of a series, then the previous issue needs to leave me wanting that next one. I’ve only felt that way once with this series, and that was after #1.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #4 page 19. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

None of these single issues have enough substance. Like I said, CAPTAIN AMERICA #4 features a decent amount of progression. However, too much space is used to give us Cap’s inner thoughts, without enough external movement. I feel like this entire issue was just Steve moving down a single hallway. That’s not good.

As for my second point, there’s a serious disconnect between the panels and the narration. I usually expect panels to have some correlation to what the characters are thinking or saying. There’s practically none of that in CAPTAIN AMERICA #4. As Cap’s fighting random guards, he’s moping about Ross. But there’s zero connection between those two things.

Coates needs to fill these issues with more substance if he wants this series to survive. The story needs to move. It’s too stagnant as it is. Steve’s internal conflict is good, but it can’t be the sole highlight. We need an actual story, too.

Does the Art Save CAPTAIN AMERICA #4?

Yu’s pages are the closest thing to a saving grace that CAPTAIN AMERICA #4 is going to get. They’re mostly on par with the work you’d expect from Yu. There’s a flowing cadence from panel to panel that naturally moves the story along. Even if they’re mostly disconnected from the narration, they still translate the story well enough.

The scenes with Sharon and Alexa are simple enough, featuring some well-molded character designs. CAPTAIN AMERICA #4 definitely shines in its action sequences. Like I said, from panel to panel, everything flows naturally.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #4 page 14. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Yet, there are times I wonder if it’s too detailed. For example, check the page above. I love seeing the intricacies of combat, but seriously, couldn’t Cap have just tossed that guy at the other two? I appreciate a good leg toss as much as the next guy but come on. You’ve got a limited amount of time to get the story across. This is part of the problem with how the story gets out. Too many panels are wasted on maneuvers like this.

I guess it’s a give and take situation we find ourselves in. As fun as the action sequences are, they can take up too much space, thus detracting from the story. I’m sure some people will enjoy that, while others won’t.

One thing, for sure, that I’m sold on is Yu’s depiction of Taskmaster. He looks dope! That whole fight is great, as a matter of fact. That’s where I can appreciate a detailed, panel-by-panel fight sequence.

Yeah, so, overall, CAPTAIN AMERICA #4 looks good. Mostly. It’s not perfect, but it works.

Coates, Please, Save This Series

I don’t like to gripe repeatedly about a series, especially not Captain America. But, CAPTAIN AMERICA #4 was unfortunately the issue that really opened my eyes to the problems with this series. Sorry, #4. It really could’ve been any issue, but sadly, it was you.

Again, the story is fine. The spy and intrigue elements are intriguing, for sure. This whole arc of betrayal has me interested. I just need it to move the fuck along! It’s taking way too long to get to these pressure points in the story. Coates needs to speed things up, or this might be the shortest-lived Cap series we’ve seen in a while.

On the upside, Leinil Francis Yu’s pages continue to impress, for the most part. His pages are still the most redeeming part of the series, but as I’ve said before, there’s only so much the art can do to keep a sinking series afloat.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #4 still found a way to hold my interest, but just barely. The next issue really needs to deliver, or I just might give up on this one entirely.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #4 by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, and Sunny Gho
CAPTAIN AMERICA #4 is a good effort to push the story forward, but Ta-Nehisi Coates needs to spend less time in Steve's head and more time in the world. The story needs to move.
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