Captain America #14 Review

by Charles Martin on September 25, 2019

Captain America #14 Review
Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Artist: Niko Walter
Colourist: Matt Milla
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Steve, Echo, and Ava take their current immigrant-saving fight into the home base of the Watchdogs, the baddies du jour. That means we get a brutal, clever combat assault underneath Steve's latest batch of "what is wrong with America?" narration.

Putting on Steve Rogers' voice is always an exercise in artifice. There's nobody left in the industry who can deliver an authentic Greatest Generation take on Steve, and his voice has been crafted by younger writers for a long time. The best of them can breathe real life into the fiction of an idealist who grew up in the Great Depression and then leaped forward in time. Ta-Nehisi Coates has done it in the past and done it very well.

But here, as he lambasts strawmen crafted to represent modern hyper-conservatives, Steve's role as the mouthpiece of a progressive Gen-X-er is just too hard to ignore. I happen to be a progressive Gen-X-er myself, but I'm not so far gone that I can overlook pandering just because it's tailored to my views. 

I can handle Steve Rogers sounding righteous, but when he sounds smug, he doesn't sound like Captain America to me.

This issue does well at the parts of the writing job that fall outside political commentary. The tactical pace is thrilling, the fight features inventive twists and turns, and the prose is lean and direct. Developments in the depths of the Watchdogs' base evolve the baddies' plans and add a few familiar faces to the villain roster. White Tiger and Echo get some impressively brutal spotlight moments in the fight.

Visually, this comic is very good at moving the action along. Posing for the fights is dynamic. The figures are rendered with good anatomy and the visual storytelling flow is clear. This is critical for this title, given how often Steve's woolgathering narration drifts away from the here-and-now. The art has to carry the thread of the action, and this serving does a great job of that.

But this is not going to be anybody's go-to issue for great character art, despite the nicely-detailed costumes and realistic anatomy. The faces are underwhelming, particularly Steve's. It's not just an uneasy sense of strangeness; these characters also suffer from a limited range of emotional expression.

My failure to recognize this comic's protagonist as the proper Steve Rogers is really caused by a one-two punch - the voice is off and the face is unfamiliar. 

Matt Milla's colour work is sound. The colours are muted and low-intensity, which is a tradition for this volume, but they're still working very hard. They add a great deal of texture to the settings and the characters -- though Niko Walter's art already provides plenty of depth with its impressive shading work.

By itself, this issue delivers satisfying action. I'm not sure how essential it is to the ongoing story, though. Most of the plot threads launched in the previous issue fall straight into cruise control. Nick Fury Jr is still trailing Captain America, but his page time is minimal and his interaction with Peggy Carter is frustratingly skipped over.

Captain America #14 shows Steve and his female teammates getting down to business. That business is clobbering paramilitary kidnappers, and business is booming. Although this issue has an excellent self-contained fight scene, a lot of the other trappings are more questionable. Steve's narration takes a rare and unwelcome turn into smugness, and some visual glitches hold the art short of its full potential.

Our Score:


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Charles Martin's picture
I'm going to call Captain America smug? Do I dare? In this issue Steve implies his political opponents' problems arise from not getting laid enough in high school, so yeah, I'm gonna say this voice is off.