Looking at a hero's a tragic origin story is hardly an original element and it's something we've witnessed with countless other characters time and time again, but Rick Remender's handling Wilson's tale very well and it does just enough to humanize this character a little more for us. He successfully finds a way to loop us into a flashback we witnessed in the last issue and gives us a whole new -- and not to mention fairly powerful -- look at it. It may not get the tears flowing, but, assuming you have a heart, you can't help but be somewhat impacted by it, especially because of the little twist it incorporates. Sam Wilson may wield the shield and has taken the name Captain America, but it's not a title that's easy to live up to and the constant insight into his head -- the doubt, concern, fear --really helps me connect to him. It's so often that heroes seem fearless in the face of danger or have little to no problem taking on surreal and impossible odds. Even though Sam Wilson's seen so much as a hero, becoming Captain America is a whole new ordeal and with it comes whole new challenges; it's something that anyone -- even the most arrogant heroes-- would have moments of hesitation about at some point. They'll do their best to overcome the odds and live up to the costume they're wearing, but can they ever be the man Steve Rogers is? Can they inspire others like he did? It's raising the bar very high and Remender's dialogue -- both from Sam's thoughts and the disrespect he receives from the villains -- does a nice job reminding us of this without ever making it feel forced.
This issue has some great pacing and it never really gives you any lengthy moments to catch your breath. Even when characters are just chatting about the plot or where they are, the solid script makes sure it's all engaging and it isn't long before you're hit by something big or exciting. What began as a pretty formulaic story now delivers two stunning twists, and those are sandwiched between all of the fast-paced action and bringing in a big cameo -- one that's sure to excite some fans.
Totally honest here, I was pessimistic about how Captain America vs. Crossbones would play out. Yes, Brock Rumlow's received a bit of a popularity boost after Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but the guy has been treated like a jobber on more than one occasion in the modern era. That's kind of tough to swallow since, even though he's just a human, he's been able to give Steve Rogers all kinds of trouble over the years. He's a tough and ruthless foe, so to potentially prop up the new Cap by possibly having him wreck this bad guy -- especially after having so much trouble with Batroc -- was a big concern I had going into this one. Thankfully, Remender smacked aside my worries and the match was every bit as intense as I hoped it would be. Crossbones' lethal nature and personality is put front and center and it feels like a fitting test for Sam. Here's hoping they get a rematch at some point.
One thing I really like about this issue is how Remender handles a scene that is blatant exposition. He has a character acknowledge just how ridiculous it is that he's babbling on and on about his plan and follows-up with a proper justification of why he just gave away so much critical information. Having the villain go on and on as the hero is incapacitated is an unoriginal way of having the reader learn about the bigger picture, but what happens immediately after that makes up for it and then... well, let's just say there's something that's sure to drop your jaw.
Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger and Marte Gracia's pages are a consistent treat. Whether it's the way the city's illuminated by vivid purple lights or the heavy shading on a frightening bad guy's face as he gets closer and closer to putting a knife in the hero, these panels live up to all of the potential in Remender's script and there really isn't anything negative to say about them (well, aside from one minor error which is listed below). These characters are just full of energy. Whether it's battling each other or an injured hero looking into the eyes of a villain, they're just full of personality. Thankfully, just as much work goes into creating these environments, too. The decision to occasionally remove the setting from the background and replace it with bold tones is a common yet still totally effective way to really sell some of these moments and it capitalizes on just how much they can pull you into the scene with a single image.
On one hand, I think the final scene is great for Zemo. It blatantly addresses a way too common trope and delivers one hell of a jaw-dropping moment. If you didn't already fear this villain or think he's a legitimate threat, this is sure to make him stand out for you. However -- and this is taking the cliffhanger at face value, so there's a chance something else will happen -- I can't help but feel like Ian deserved more. Yes, the point of this was to illustrate the fact that this may be a comic, but that doesn't mean the good guys always win or have a heroic end. Sometimes life is unfair and sometimes things don't play out how they should. I understand what he's going for there, but after developing the character, I can't help but feel like we should have at least seen his final fight and how brave he was before being taken out. That would have given me a stronger emotional impact. I imagine the same would hold true for new readers who jumped on with ALL-NEW CAPTAIN AMERICA #1 and haven't read the previous work. The guy did humiliate the Avengers, after all, so I imagine he would give this group hell before being defeated. That's something I would have loved to see. Maybe it'll be revealed in an upcoming issue?
Minor criticism: I appreciate the situation Remender put Wilson in during his fight with Crossbones, but couldn't Sam have gone for a non-lethal shot? It seems like nothing was stopping him from putting a bullet in Brock's gut or side, and seeing as he knows the character's tough as nails, he wouldn't be too concerned about it. Even if there isn't an opening on the kevlar, that just means it would give Sam the confidence to hit the guy with multiple rounds and stunning him like that would be more than enough to get himself out of that immediate situation. Maybe he would have done this if the other character didn't show up in time?
Minor art mistake: after Crossbones clearly leaves the room with all of the other villains (the dude jumps out the window and goes into the street), the next panel shows he's still in the room and standing next to Zemo.
Personal gripe (doesn't impact the score): You can tell how much the Marvel Cinematic Universe is impacting the comics in stories like this one. That obviously makes it appeal to a wider audience and more people reading comics is always a good thing, but the decision to connect to the movies is a little distracting.
ALL-NEW CAPTAIN AMERICA #2 may be talking a familiar narrative, but it's handling it extremely well and still manages to surprise you. The creative team continues to make sure there's plenty of spectacle and huge stakes as they takes steps to make HYDRA a bigger threat while making this a character-driven experience, too. This is all about just how challenging it must be for Sam Wilson to take on an enormous responsibility and it's being presented in an incredibly entertaining way. You're really missing out on a good story if you're skipping this just because it isn't Steve Rogers in the costume. Seriously, you do know he'll eventually be back and this is a good way to give another character some much-needed depth, right?