When a character’s been around as long as Captain America, eventually things like retcons and reimaginings stop feeling like a slap in the face and start feeling more and more like necessities. While Cap’s origin of being frozen means he’ll never need transplanting out of World War II, many other facets of his life have been updated with more modern sensibilities. But one thing that’s never been in question is the purity and goodness of his past: Captain America had a spotless record even before he was Captain America. Charles Soule has taken a tremendous risk in introducing a horrific event that could change how the world perceives both Steve Rogers and Captain America. Last issue gave us Cap, now aged, seeking help from Jenn Walters in a wrongful death lawsuit brought on by the descendents of one of Cap’s peers. But he didn’t want to win via technicality or legal trickery, he wanted the case to move forward. And then we got the revelation that the prosecutor was none other than Matt Murdock. This issue gives us the trial and the aftermath of the first day. Soule makes this issue sizzle, in spite of the fact that not a great deal happens on the level that superhero books often do. This is an issue where almost all the action is derived from the dialog and the the courtroom interactions of the characters. We learn more about the accusation and even more about why Murdock would take a case like this one. Every single character in it, even the ones we only catch glimpses of, are filled in and interesting, from the main ones to the side ones, and the dialog is fantastic. Jenn and Steve in particular, with Steve being almost infuriatingly fair-minded, but also impossible to disagree with and Jenn putting on a brave face while bemoaning the direction the trial goes in.
Javier Pulido’s visuals are asked to do something a little different this issue: tell a more straightforward and grounded story than previous issues. I didn’t realize it until the issue was over, but with the exception of Angie’s money’s bizarre artistic request, the storyline is actually very mundane (as much as it ever is in this universe) and I was amazed by how Pulido adapted to it with his linework. Each panel felt like a moment in time, each one flowed from one to the next, and She-Hulk’s stress level actually changed her build in interesting, subtle ways from one panel to the next. The flashback in particular was remarkable in how it built tension using the visuals and the text blocks in tandem. Muntsa Vicente’s colors are, as always, perfectly suited to Pulido’s throwback visuals. There is a lot of subtle coloration, Matt Murdock’s rosy cheeks for instance, but overall they’re very bombastic and simple. And, as often happens, I don’t mean simple as a bad thing as the whole issue has a look that is simple on the surface, but becomes much, much more complex when one peels back just a few layers. Again, I go back to the flashback that isn’t quite black-and-white, but also doesn’t use the style of only coloring certain things. The colors are washed-out and very, very subdued and it brings an ominous vibe the whole thing.
If you’re looking for action in your superhero book, and there’s nothing wrong with that, you should look elsewhere. This is a dialog and character-driven story from cover-to-cover.
The buildup in this case is agonizing, particularly with the last page’s reveal. A big part of that is because no one’s life is actually on the line, so the case truly could go in either direction since it’s not a matter of a character living or dying. I have no idea how this can end or what the resolution will be, but I can’t WAIT to see what it is as there are so many ways to do right by it in so many different directions.