Warning: Contains SPOILERS for Captain America: Sam Wilson #17.
Throughout his tenure as Captain America and The Falcon beforehand, Sam Wilson has faced more than his fair share of challenges. Recently, the Star-Spangled Avenger took a little time off of super-heroics to rest and relax, while Misty Knight borrowed his shield and took his comic book for a spin (and a little bit of her own special brand of justice). Now, rested and relaxed, Sam is back in action – well, sort of.
Sam Wilson is far from an egomaniac, and as a result, has been more than willing to share the limelight in his self-titled vehicle. While writer Nick Spencer puts most of the focus on the former Falcon, he’s not averse to giving Sam’s vibrant ensemble cast of characters a chance to shine, including Ms. Knight, one-time New Warrior and all-around pain in Sam's neck, Rage, and of course, his own legacy hero, Joaquin Torres. Unfortunately for the newest Falcon, his time in the public eye gets a negative spin in Captain America: Sam Wilson #17.
Facing Attacks From The Right
After returning to duty, Sam catches up on the news of the day. Everyone’s favorite blowhard pundit Harry Hauser (Mr. #TakeBackTheShield himself) has a special guest on this week, Ariella Conner, and a contemporary topic: immigration. During their little chat about international superheroes compromising national security and regulating Marvel Cosmic, she mentions the legal status of a certain new Falcon – which naturally steams the heck out of Mr. Torres.
His story is true of many young women and men who arrive in America at a very young age not really remembering more than the long journey and the hardships of adapting to a new life (and the exploitation that can come with it). In addition, Torres spent his teen years leaving water and supplies for others risking their safety in making the arduous journey. Joaquin discovers that Ms. Conner will be speaking later at Empire State University (Go Spidey-U!) and recruits Rage, who reluctantly agrees to help him after being reminded Falcon nabbed him free wrestling tickets.
They head down to campus to give the bigoted talking head an earful - to find the speaking engagement is already overrun with protesters. They manage to crash the stage and confront Conner on her xenophobic outlook, but their verbal back and forth is interrupted by another, more-aggressive intrusion.
...And The Left
Exactly who this new threat is remains unclear, but they seem to be three fed-up Empire State students. What they are, though, is an unexpected method of satirizing all contingents present at once. Writer Spencer may be known for his progressive stance, but he’s always up for some caricatures. Much in the same way Rage forced Sam and the Falcon to examine their own beliefs – and how far they're willing to go for them – and Ms. Conner knows all the right buttons to push in her followers and opponents, the Bombshells represent the extreme edge of even Rage's perspective.
Not content to sit around and whine on the internet, these lasses (and lad) seek violent ends to the backwards thinking they feel is holding back the country. Their modus operandi takes a not-so-subtle treatment of progressive, tolerance-encouraging terms... but also includes killing, which grates on their heroic counterparts. When they attempt to ice Conner with a grenade, Falcon is forced to come to her rescue (and gets nothing but grief for it). After a brief but ethically active battle, Joaquin and Rage manage to defeat the brutal tactics of their "logical extremes," only to watch their do-gooding spun by the news media yet again.
The War Rages On
Sam drops by to lend a hand just as the hullabaloo wraps up. Congratulating Joaquin on a situation well-handled, Cap also has a brief chat with Rage about how life for minorities in America has slowly changed for the better over the years (and how far there still is to go). Ending on an almost hopeful note, Rage heads off into the evening, only to stumble upon a super-poowered robbery in progress. He holds his own against the super-powered crooks - until the Americops bust in and knock him out, taking him into custody.
As anyone who follows the series will know, Rage and the jingoistic vigilant force aren’t making any friendship bracelets for one another. The circumstances surrounding the pawn shop break-in and his arrest may simply be an unfortunate coincidence but smells more like a setup, leaving the former New Warrior in a very bad place. It looks like Cap and Falcon are headed for another showdown with the Americops – and Misty better keep Daredevil on retainer.
Whether or not you’re a fan of Nick Spencer’s political stance, his run on Captain America: Sam Wilson has certainly explored the deep and troubling schism which the latest election cycle only seemed to exacerbate. His examination of sociopolitical issues, coupled with unique and exciting superhero adventures, has given Sam Wilson’s turn with the shield a poignant and contemporary feel – aided vastly by Paul Renaud's vivid, emotive artwork.
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The real key to this book, beyond its insightful vision, is watching Sam Wilson heft the weight of the shield. Just when he seems on the verge of cracking, much like the many Captain Americas who came before him, he always manages to hoist up his end, even as it seems like every news outlet and social media channel turns his exploits into negative ratings. While the future is forever uncertain, Sam will keep fighting the good fight. Hopefully, he can dig his frenemy Rage out of the Americop’s clutches and spin all the negative sentiments into pure woven gold (which, in this world, is no small feat).
Captain America: Sam Wilson #17 is currently available in stores and online.