Lately, things have been going kind of South for Captain America. While life rarely seems to travel in any other direction for him and delights in throwing obstacle after seemingly unconquerable obstacle in his path, lately the obstacles have been just that little bit bigger and harder to get over. Then, in the aftermath of the second super-hero Civil War and the whole conquering-America-as-the-head-of-Hydra-but-it-wasn’t-really-Cap-because-it-was-all-a-cosmic-cube-thing, just when it seemed like Steve was finally going to catch a break, a furtive cabal of some more of his old enemies, who had plotted, planned and bought their way to power, framed him for the murder of General Thaddeus Ross.
And as Captain of Nothing begins, Steve, now a wanted man, has no choice but to turn himself in and hope that justice, for once, will be done. But doing the right thing in a world that’s rotten to the core is asking for trouble, and as he’s gaoled awaiting trial in a facility run by Baron Strucker and built to hold powered individuals, that’s exactly what Steve gets; trouble with a capital T.
This is where it gets deep kids, because the writer of Captain of Nothing,Ta-Nehisi Coates doesn’t believe in half measures. A master of multi-layered plots and sub-arcs, Coates spins a whole load of interconnected stories at the same time, every single one of which would have made a compelling tale in its own right. Cast aside and abandoned by the government who gave him a purpose, while in prison Steve come to realise the truth of who and what he is and on the outside his friends and allies try to find out who really murdered Ross and why as the shadow players who are vying for control of America continue to weave their nefarious web of deceit and corruption.
Oh, and then there’s a whole thing about a super-arcane and cryptic organisation who have been hiding behind the scenes for years finally emerging from the darkness, a stupendously cool gaol break, all sorts of covert operations stuff and a final panel that will make you exclaim “No way” out loud and might just change everything for Steve Rogers. It’s like I said, Ta-Nehisi Coates? He doesn’t do half-measures and when you throw the ridiculously talented Adam Kubert into the mix to provide the visual candy that makes every page of this book pop, you know that it’s going to steam straight into the top ten of the year. Which is just what it does. And then some.
Questioning what patriotism means in the digital age and whether the ideals that America was founded upon can survive the machinations of the political class while using Steve Rogers as an avatar to expound upon and illustrate the very real crises and issues that challenge society, Coates has crafted a super-soldier story for an age that finally managed to kill the dream of Captain America with memes, rumour and half whispered falsehoods. Captain of Nothing is everything that comics can, and should, be at their absolute finest and proves that the medium can, and does, still pack one heck of a literary punch. Oh Captain, my captain… Tim Cundle