Captain America has slowly been building momentum as Ta-Nehisi Coates is building a bigger story around the fallout from Secret Empire. Even though Secret Empire is a story that both Marvel and readers want to forget ever happened it is something that can and should have lasting ramifications on Captain America. There is no avoiding that story for Captain America since he was the center of the entire event. So far Coates has identified this to shape a new world around Captain America. Now the question is if the world will continue to be constructed or crumble around the Avengers leader? Let’s find out with Captain America #5.
Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Artist: Leinil Francis Yu
Inker: Gerry Alanguilan and Leinil Francis Yu
Colorist: Sunny Gho
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Sometime in the past at a graveyard Alexa Lukin and Selene Gallio talk about the Power Elite the former wants to assemble in order to fill the power vacuum currently in America for anyone to takeover. Alexa states with recent events they just need a few useful idiots like Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross to control.
As she says this several men finish digging up Aleksander Lukin’s grave and loading his coffin in the back of a truck.
In the present Captain America is able to block Taskmaster’s sword strike with his shield. Taskmaster decides to run away. When Captain America runs after him he runs through a laser that activates a flashbang grenade. With Captain America’s vision impaired Taskmaster starts beating him up. As he does this Taskmaster mocks Captain America for not being the Supreme Commander that took over the world with how easily he is being beat.
Captain America suddenly hears Sharon Carter scream in pain. He then realizes to defeat Taskmaster quickly he’ll have to fight completely unpredictably. Captain America does just that by using dirty tactics to maneuver himself behind Taskmaster. When he gets behind him Captain America is able to force Taskmaster to pass out with a sleeperhold.
Elsewhere Alexa is informed by one of her grunts that Captain America has taken down Taskmaster. Captain America suddenly shows up and throws one of the guards across the room.
Captain America spots Selene in the room and quickly goes after her since he knows her past with the X-Men. As Captain America and Selene fight Alexa is able to create a portal. Selene is able to knock Captain America into a cage. This gives Alexa and Selene a chance to leave the facility through Alexa’s portal.
With them gone Captain America sets Sharon free. They hug and Sharon says she is okay now.
Some time later in Brooklyn Steve Rogers meets up with Bucky Barnes. Steve asks Bucky how things are going in the world. Bucky shows Steve the reports going around that paint Steve as a traitor who is secretly working with Wakanda in special operations. This has caused the government and public to question Steve’s allegiances.
Steve states he was just cleaning up General Ross’ mess. Bucky says that there are no official records of what Steve is talking about.
Bucky asks Steve how Sharon is doing. Steve says she barely remembers anything and the doctors mentioned that Sharon looked like she just returned from Club Med. They then talk about Selene and Alexa and wonder what they are playing towards.
Elsewhere Alexa and Selene portal into an unknown facility. There Alexa dumps something she had in her bag into a tub. The room fills with light when she does that. Once the light dies down a reborn Aleksander Lukin exits it.
Back in Brooklyn Steve says he is going to talk to General Ross. Bucky tells Steve he feels like with all that is going on this is bigger than what General Ross is doing.
Back in the unknown facility Aleksander goes into a restroom. When he looks at himself in the mirror he sees the reflection of the Red Skull. End of issue.
The Good: Captain America #5 is a comic book that works because of the ending. The story with Captain America trying to save Sharon Carter from Selene Gallio and Alexa Lukin is solid. That solid story is elevated because of how Ta-Nehisi Coates ends Captain America #5. Its an ending that completely sells the reader on the future of the series.
Starting from the flashback to happens in the present everything about Captain America #5 is about moving the series forward. The entire purpose of this first story arc was to start assembling the building blocks for the rest of Coates run. With the results of this issue Coates succeeds as he the pacing was all tightly woven to bring back one of Captain America’s greatest villains.
What is even more impressive about all the building Coates does is that he is basing it off what Ed Brubaker previously did on Captain America. If you are going to pick a Captain America era to build from Brubaker’s run is the perfect place to start. Brubaker laid the foundation of how Captain America his supporting cast and villains should be portrayed.
While the ending involving the revival of Red Skull and Aleksander Lukin does undo one of the major events in Brubaker’s run it is not done without purpose. Coates makes sure that Red Skull and Aleksander aren’t brought back without forgetting what happened before. Instead he uses the fact that Sharon Carter killed Aleksander to move the story of his resurrection forward.
The resurrection was made more personal by the involvement of Alexa Lukin in this revival. Through her we got an instant personal stake on why Aleksander would be brought back and how it all involved Sharon. And while Alexa clearly loves that she was successful in bringing back Aleksander everything now moves to what is next in her plot to take over the world.
We already have seen that some of that involves controlling major government officials like Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross. The use of General Ross in this way is smart as it does play into recent continuity as the character has been all over the map from hero to villain. Using that continuity opens the door for Coates to use other Marvel supporting characters that have questionable history as the bigger story develops.
All of this set-up works well with how we see Captain America in a state of not knowing the direction of his own future in the world. Working off the events of Secret Empire have changed Steve Rogers current state of mind. He is once again in a familiar “man out of time” position but this time it is all about his status. Can he return to being seen as the inspiration leader he once was to the world? Or are the events of Captain Hydra to great for Steve to overcome?
These questions and more provide an interesting starting point for Coates. We already are seeing a slight shift in Steve’s mind set from how his fight with Taskmaster went down. He was much more frazzled than the controlled fighter he normally is. It does speak to Taskmaster’s ability but also spoke to how Steve will need to be even more flexible with how things are now. He can’t just be the same old Captain America.
That fact puts Bucky Barnes in a great spot to be the one that helps Steve out the most in navigating through the current world. As we see with their final scene in Captain America #5, Bucky has a good vision as to what is going on in the shadows. While he doesn’t know exactly what is going on Bucky can at least can be there to constantly remind Steve to be aware of his surroundings and every action by people like General Ross.
With all this going on it’ll be interesting to see where Coates goes with Sharon Carter’s character. With the return of Aleksander and how Alexa hates her Sharon should play a big role in this story. Given that whatever process Alexa put her through made Sharon forget these events there is an added mystery element as to what she now remembers and doesn’t remember. The way Steve and Bucky talked about her current status it wouldn’t be surprising if we see Sharon working from on her own angle to discover what is going on.
While Selene Gallio does play the role of muscle again it was good to see how Coates is working her into the inner circle Alexa Lukin is creating. At least as present, Selene is shown to be an equal in this operation with how she questioned Alexa’s plan. Its a small thing that in the end helps elevate Selene’s character, especially in the eyes of those who aren’t aware of her history. This also works in positioning her as a long term villain for Captain America while still open to be used in the X-Men comics if needed.
Captain America #5 was also the best looking issue of this new volume turned in by Leinil Francis Yu. Throughout this issue Yu was able to keep the issue moving forward with a crisp pace. The fight between Captain America and Taskmaster was well choreographed. It showed the different fighting styles both characters had. At the same time Yu was able to elevate the questions of where Coates greater story will go with how every character in this issue looked at the end of Captain America #5.
The Bad: The only small problem I had with Captain America #5 was the constant use of thought boxes for Captain America. There were times that I wished Coates would’ve just let Yu’s artwork speak to how Captain America was approaching the fight. Silence in certain panels would’ve elevated the action on screen, especially when Captain America does figure out the solution to how to defeat Taskmaster.
Overall: Captain America #5 is a tightly written issue that places sturdy building blocks for the future of this series. By bringing back a classic Captain America villain Ta-Nehisi Coates sets things up to get even more interesting as he can now build future stories around what he set into place here. If you are a Captain America fan you’ll want to be reading this series. It looks like it could be something special.