Captain America #15 Review

by Charles Martin on October 16, 2019

Captain America #15 Review
Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Artist: Jason Masters
Colourist: Matt Milla
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics

After an understated spat with Sharon, Steve attempts to strike out on his own by investigating a cop's murder in New York. But connections to the Power Elite bring the Daughters in behind him, and a surprise antagonist promises a big change-up in the future.

This issue finally starts exploring the full possibilities of the "Legend of Steve" arc, indulging in some tonal and stylistic experimentation. Steve's narration remains the core of the title, but now the action around it shifts toward a hard-boiled story of dirty cops and double-crossing.

The shift in content style is matched by the move to a new artist, Jason Masters. His chunky inking works well to influence the mood of the book. This is especially clear in the important conversations, when Steve's monologue drops off and the words and pictures team up to tell the same story. There, Mr. Masters' bold shapes and nuanced body language help to enhance the feelings coming through the dialogue.

Matt Milla's colours do excellent work as well, maintaining the title's muted palette and providing welcome visual consistency. He also collaborates closely with Mr. Masters, using strong colour contrasts to bolster the difference between foreground and background in places where the lines might not do the job by themselves.

But the spin of the artist carousel is not entirely a good thing. Ta-Nehisi Coates still trusts his artist to carry heavy storytelling water while he swings the narration off into more abstract realms. And in this issue, particularly its action scenes, the divergence becomes problematic. Fights happen -- and that general statement is about all that the reader can glean while also paying attention to Steve's captions. Unpacking more subtle developments in the action scenes requires one to wade into the carnage like a forensic examiner. Which leads to losing Steve's train of thought and some potentially-frustrating re-reading.

Some of the experiments going on in Ta-Nehisi Coates' script are more successful than others. The gangland "dirty cop" story shows tons of promise, and the antagonist revealed by the end of the issue is going to have a major impact on the next chapters.

Steve and Sharon do not make themselves as welcome as the cop story when they start unpacking their relationship baggage. It's launched with some stiff comic relief that feeds Toni Ho's foot into her mouth, and the couple's first conversation is cut short by a call from Steve's ex, Bernie. Sharon plays the sitcom-esque premise regrettably straight.

The subsequent conversation with Bernie re-rails the comic by putting Mr. Coates back into his comfort zone: sharp, conspiratorial discussion of a looming threat. The dialogue skillfully bullseyes the question of what Steve's role should be -- in the cop story, in the comic, in America in 2019 -- pulling it from its usual position as subtext onto center stage.

That return to core Cap concerns carries the comic strongly through its third act, and it helps redeem Steve and Sharon's brief second conversation on the way to the big antagonist reveal at the end.

Captain America #15 takes full advantage of Steve Rogers' nomadic status quo to experiment with different tones, different art, and different kinds of stories. Some of the forays fall flat, but on balance, the issue has a lively sense of improvisation. And the introduction of a fresh antagonist promises to bolster the next few issues with some strong conflict.

Our Score:


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Continuity props to Mr. Coates for acknowledging that Steve Rogers was an NYPD beat cop for a surprisingly long time in the early 70s.