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Comic Book / Nick Spencer's Captain America

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The old and the new.
"Let's just be honest here — this country is as divided as it's ever been. Red and blue, black and white, Republican and Democrat, North and South — feels like we are constantly at each other's throats. We don't trust each other. We no longer see ourselves in our neighbor. And this is not some intellectual debate — people are dying. Our streets are burning. Inequality is soaring. It feels like things are about to break wide open. And it used to be — even if we didn't agree on what to do in our communities, we could at least unite in fighting common enemies. Everybody's okay with beating up Hydra. Even that's not so simple anymore. The good guys — S.H.I.E.L.D. and the N.S.A. — are getting caught doing things we never dreamt the bad guys would do, even in our worst nightmares. But the even bigger, scarier problem for me? In all these struggles, all these debates, and all these things tearing us apart — I have a side. That's right. I have opinions. Strongly held beliefs, even. And here's the thing — the more I saw the people I believed I was standing up for being walked on — the more I heard a noise machine spouting intolerance and fear, drowning common sense out — the more I wondered — shouldn't Captain America be more than just a symbol? Steve always tried to stay above the fray, and I respected him for it. He took a stand when he had to, but as far as politics went — he played it close to the vest. But if I really believed I could make a difference — if I really believed I could change some minds, do some good — then wasn't I obligated to try?"
Sam Wilson, Captain America

Prior to Secret Wars (2015), Steve Rogers, the original Captain America, had the Super Soldier Serum drained from his body and he reverted to his original age. Due to this, he handed over his shield and the title of "Captain America" to his best friend and long-term fighting partner Sam Wilson, who became the new Captain America. They fought against Hydra and the Red Skull until Secret Wars and the All-New, All-Different Marvel happened. Then the writer became Nick Spencer (Morning Glories, Superior Foes of Spider-Man, Astonishing Ant-Man), who decided that since the character was Captain America, then it just made sense for the book to have more political themes.

  • Captain America: Sam Wilson, written by Nick Spencer with art by art by Daniel Acuña, is about Sam Wilson trying to do good as Captain America. The problem is that after expressing his political opinion in a press conference, the public has a massive dislike for him, and after he protected a whistle-blowing hacker (called "the Whisperer") from SHIELD, he's not on their good side either. So Sam has set up a public hotline for people to call him and he works with Misty Knight, Dennis "D-Man" Dunphy, and new Falcon Joaquin Torres to do all he can, even in this divided political landscape.

And then, after seven issues, Avengers Standoff happened and Steve Rogers was restored to youth, super soldier serum intact. In the wake of Standoff, Steve and Sam decide that it's okay if there are two Captain Americas, even if Sam finds himself compromising on his ideals somewhat, while Steve moved to his own book Captain America: Steve Rogers.

While Ed Brubaker's run focused on espionage and Rick Remender's run had a weird science-bent, Nick Spencer's run has been heavily focused on political themes, with supervillains espousing opinions that seem to come straight from right-wing, conservative politicians. This was criticized heavily by right-wing, conservative politicians, which actually made the book more popular.


Nick Spencer's Captain America have provided examples of:

  • Action Girl: Misty Knight.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Misty again, in Sam Wilson #16. D-Man got one in the previous issue. Issue #17 basically shares the limelight between Falcon and Rage.
  • Affirmative Action Legacy: Not just Sam as Cap, but also Joaquin Torres as the new Falcon.
  • Angry Black Man: Despite his moniker being Rage and the fact that he is black and has loads of things he is angry about, societally speaking, Elvin Haladay is actually fairly reserved and stoic in his more matured older teen years, if no less passionate about fighting against injustice and being a hero.
  • Arc Villain: For the first arc, it's Viper and Serpent Solutions. For Standoff, it's Zemo and Maria Hill.
  • Back from the Dead: Dennis Dunphy, who was killed in the previous run due to mind-control. At first, it's not revealed how he came back, but eventually in Secret Wars Too, it was revealed a kid was trying to summon a demon and instead got D-Man.
  • Bedmate Reveal: In Captain America: Sam Wilson #9, it's revealed that Sam slept with Misty Knight.
  • Big Bad: Viper, of Serpent Solutions, in the first arc. The Americops, in the later arcs.
  • Blonde Republican Sex Kitten: Rage and Falcon go to protest a lecture being given by one of these, and end up having to save her from left-wing radicals.
    Falcon: Can you believe what that psycho witch is saying about me?! And the fact that she's hot just makes it way worse.
  • Body Horror: Karl Malus, who was eaten and then, well, ejected from Carnage. His body is part-symbiote now and it doesn't look pretty.
  • Broken Pedestal: Falcon's perspective of Sam deteriorates from being a Wide-Eyed Idealist, awe-struck Hero-Worshipper to feeling disillusion at Sam's aloof attitude and being critical at Sam's, in Falcon's eyes, overly cautious and fearful choices. This culminates when Sam renounces being Captain American and Falcon, off-panel, breaks ties with Sam. The two don't properly reconcile until part-ways into the first arc of Sam's, as The Falcon again, 2017 series.
  • Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like/Ungrateful Bastard: Ariella Conner, an author and political activist, slanders Falcon's name and questions his right to be in the US, right before he rescues her from a missile in a diving save. Her immediate reaction is to tell him to get off of her, never mind that she was was about to be hit point-blank by a missile. With no thank-yous to speak of, she is later shown to be telling a fallacious version of what had transpired. Though Sam cools him down, Joaquin is understandably incensed by the whole affair.
    Falcon: (angered) I just saved your life! You better be thankful I took some white super hero's job or you'd be, like, vaporized right now!
  • Character Development: Within a single issue, we can easily see how much Elvin Haladay, better known as the hero Rage, has matured compared to his previous self, despite having been in Comic-Book Limbo for years. One of his last appearances showed that he'd taken a step back from heroing to focus on his school-life and to better educate himself. Now, though he's shown just as passionate and courageous as before, we see that his signature rage is much more tempered than it ever was and that he is considerably more reasonable and mature than before, if no less willing to fight against injustice, like from the hands of the Americops. At first, Sam doesn't really trust Elvin, given his moniker and history and that he did end up in a fight against said Americops, which got caught on live television at a very politically sensitive time in the Marvel Universe, but by the end of issue #17, he's on much better terms with Rage, and even encourages Rage to keep "pushing" him and Calling the Old Man Out, as needed and within reason of course.
    • Falcon goes through this, too. He starts off as a proactive and surprisingly autonomous 17 year-old who delivers supplies to escaping Mexican immigrants attempting to flee their country through the harsh deserts near the Arizona border. As we learn more about Joaquin, we learn that he is very socially conscious, even beyond helping the immigrants, and he looks up to Sam Wilson as Captain America. Even though he gets permanently transformed into a human-falcon hybrid form, when Cap saves him and he later saves Cap back, he becomes nothing short of ecstatic at becoming the new Falcon and at the prospect of being Sam's sidekick/protege, even if the latter wasn't nearly as enthused. He takes his heroing seriously and eagerly. Over time, however, he begins to notice Sam's relative distance and detachment to their relationship as mentor/mentee, the current political goings-on weighing heavily on Sam not helping one bit in this regard, and starts to become disillusioned with Sam. This is fueled by Sam's increasing habit of making choices that Joaquin becomes very critical towards, and further still when said criticisms are ignored, downplayed, or directly dismissed. Then Sam gives up the Shield altogether and the two part ways off-screen on bad terms. Over the course of the run, Joaquin goes from a well-meaning and stoutly moralled, awe-struck Hero-Worshipper to a more matured figure who realizes his hero isn't as without flaws as he thought him to be, as he begins to carry out his heroing on his own.
  • Cleavage Window: Misty Knight not only has a cleavage window, but also a midriff window. It's completely impractical.
  • Comics Merger: Steve's and Sam's books combine at #25.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Viper, the CEO of "Serpent Solutions." He's a CEO and a supervillain.
  • The Cracker/Playful Hacker: "The Whisperer," who hacked into SHIELD and publicly revealed that they were doing experiments with a Cosmic Cube in order to alter reality. Since Sam helped him escape, he's been helping Sam. In Standoff, it was revealed that he was actually Rick Jones and then he was forced to work for SHIELD and Steve Rogers.
  • Dark Action Girl: Diamondback.
  • Downer Ending: Issue 19 has Rage on trial for a crime he didn't commit. Despite Sam's best efforts, including capturing the real culprit, Speed Demon, Rage is found guilty. Even worse, his conviction ends up inspiring others to rise up to take it to the man.
  • Fanboy: D-Man is still a huge fan of the original Captain America and wonders if he remembers him.
    • Issue #15 reveals that Joaquin is huge wrestling fan, in all of its forms. His opinion of D-Man skyrockets when he realizes that he's a famous, retired former wrestler.
    • On another note, Joaquin starts out a huge fanboy for Sam as Captain America. He Jumped at the Call when given the chance to become the new Falcon under Sam's Captain America. Deconstructed in this case, however, as Sam's overall aloofness towards their relationship coupled with his increasingly critical choices in Joaquin's eye causes Joaquin to become disillusioned in how he sees Sam.
  • Jumped at the Call: Joaquin with becoming the new Falcon. He goes from a teen who eagerly helped Mexican immigrants with their crossing the border by delivering supplies to becoming a hybrid human-falcon with the powers of flight, super strength, improved eye-sight, a connection to Red Wing (and Sam by proxy) and an impressive Healing Factor (due to the unique strain of vampirism Red Wing was infected with beforehand that grants both the benefits of a vampire without any of the drawbacks, but leaving Joaquin's transformation permanent as a result). It really comes at no surprise when Joaquin jumps at the chance to be Sam's new protege and sidekick once he's had his first outing post-transformation.
  • Last Episode, New Character: Not really the last issue, but close enough in spirit. Right before Secret Empire began in earnest, which is when Sam's story as it was to that point ended, we are introduced to the boy who would later go on to become the new Patriot. He's the one who snaps Sam out of his self-loathing and encourages him to take up the Shield as Captain American again, and in the new 2017 Falcon series, he becomes Sam's new sidekick/protege.
  • Legacy Character:
    • Sam as Captain America and Joaquin as the Falcon.
    • The Americops... sort of. They don't really have much in common with the original, and pretty much just ripped-off his name and look after he died.
  • LEGO Genetics: In "Captain America: Sam Wilson", while investigating the whereabouts of kidnapped illegal immigrants that have been happening at the US/Mexican border, Sam ends up captured, too, and spliced with Wolf genes. And thus marks the return of Wolf-Cap, something Misty Knight doesn't allow Sam to forget for a single moment. Despite all of the hilarious inconvenience that ensues because of it, the effects are projected to wear off soon enough, though not outside the span of at least 3 issues.
  • Mad Scientist: Karl Malus
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: In-universe rumors abound as to how the supposedly dead Viper came back to life. We never get anything concrete on it, but it's implied to have been some sinister dealings.
  • Mecha-Mooks: While it was vague for a while, it was eventually confirmed in an issue The Crew that the Americops are androids.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: In the previous run, Redwing was turned into a vampire. And in this run, he is outfitted with a cybernetic suit. So he's a vampire cyborg falcon.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Redwing, who has better public poll numbers than Sam does.
    • Mad Scientist Karl Malus's other victims aren't always so lucky in the Petting Zoo department. Joaquin Torres, the now new Falcon, actually seems to come out the better for than most, as far as can be told, and despite the bigger eyes, slightly taloned hands and feet, and flight-capable wings on his arms, he looks more human than even Wolf-Cap does. However, because he was spliced with genes from Sam's pet, Redwing, and because of Redwing's unique physiology as an avian vampirism carrier (i.e., many of the perks without most of the side-effects), unlike Sam and other potential splice victims, Joaquin's newly granted Healing Factor actually renders him unable to be cured of his "Falcon" state.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: The Sons of the Serpent are racist supervillains who patrol the border between US and Mexico and look for people to kidnap and kill, all while espousing racist rhetoric. And yet, somehow, Fox News didn't think that they were supposed to be villains.
    • The arc running concurrently alongside Civil War II features the Americops, a definite take on the rise of cop brutality and shootings of minorities as well as the dangers of militarized police forces. The Americops arbitrary targeting of young black youths manages to bring out Rage from the depths of Comic-Book Limbo, as he stands against their injustice.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Diamondback. Sam comes to her to find out information, but it turns out that she's already involved with Viper and the Serpent Solutions...because her fiance, the Constrictor, got cancer and died and she was still stuck trying to pay the rent and bills alone, with her only job as a stripper. She joined Serpent Solutions for money and money only and even then, she couldn't bring herself to kill Sam.
  • Recurring Character: Rage, who's all but a Sixth Ranger to Sam's team by the mid-teens' issues. It's notable that Falcon has gone out of his way twice now to include Rage in the current goings-on of the issues since they met, in spite of their meeting having been when Falcon flew Rage away from the Americop battle with Rage between his knees. Sam also notes and thanks Rage for looking after the fledgling hero Falcon, pointing out that they two of them are actually practically the same age (because Elvin got his powers when he was still pretty young and they aged him up physically).
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Following Rage being beaten in jail, Sam has a major crisis in faith and decides to quit being Captain America. Secret Empire shows him returning to being the Falcon.
  • Smug Snake: Viper is an almost literal smug snake, as he is a snake-themed supervillain in charge of an entire company of snake-themed supervillains, Serpent Solutions.
  • Suddenly Sexuality: D-Man is revealed to have a boyfriend after no real previous hints that he was gay.
  • Take That, Audience!:
    • Nick Spencer doesn't shy away from taking shot at the people that complain about Sam Wilson being Captain America, to the point that the first volume is called "Not My Captain America".
    • In fact, this is the entire point of the storyline "#TakeBackTheShield", as government officials are so sick of how Sam Wilson is not being their Cap that they call in USAgent to get him to get back the shield and hand it back to Steve.
    • He also gives it to some of the book's fandom as well with the Bombshells, a group of liberal college extremists who are based on "SJW" stereotypes, right down to using terms like "safe space", "patriarchy" and "problematic." Note that Falcon actually agrees with some of their views, just not the part where they think that gives them the right to murder Republicans.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Keane Industries tries to convince USAgent to deal with the "rogue" Sam Wilson. John is hesitant about the whole thing (essentially saying that, yeah, part of him wants to get involved, but it's really none of his damn business, it's between Sam and Steve) up until he is shown context-less footage of Sam fighting the Americops. The two throw down, and afterward John goes back to being hesitant, but then Steve himself gives him the go-ahead to take back the shield, presumably as a means of causing more strife in the superhuman community to distract from his dealings with Hydra.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Joaquin post-splice tends to spend most of the time he isn't armored up sans a shirt. Almost certainly because wearing one would be too inconvenient to put on and take off with the huge wings attached to his arms, and he doesn't have any tailor made for him that would be easier to wear, like his armor which likely folds around him.
    • In issue #15, while in an outing to watch wrestling, Joaquin is shown to have been given a brown duster. He complains about it looking dated, though, especially with the shoulders, with Sam telling him it's custom made like how some of the X-Men's civilian outfits tend to be.


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