Sam Wilson as Captain America: Short Lived, Memorable Greatness

Sam Wilson being promoted to Captain America will likely be one of my favorite things to ever happen in comics. With that, I’d like to think I’ve been fair as I reviewed each of the two titles, Sam Wilson: Captain America and All-New Captain America, that highlight Wilson’s experiences through this unexpected journey. I’ve handed out plenty of praise and the occasional raised eyebrow of a cautious onlooker. Finding out that Sam’s time as Captain America will officially come to an end sent me into a rage: First I was shocked, then embarrassed as I heard the “I told you so’s” ring in my mind. In hindsight, I’m glad I waited and didn’t write up the first 1,000 words of pure, unhindered bars I had planned to come at Marvel with for this move. I spent my July 4th weekend re-reading some of my favorite moments of the run and accepted that it was never meant to last for long.

Should/could it have? Hell yeah. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. But I’ve read enough comics and had enough conversations about comics to know there’s an unspoken trend of short-lived greatness in comics that are too far outside of the status quo. I’m still pissed off. I’ve just contained that emotion and turned it into monitored thoughts. By now, all I can do is throw on a stale face for the ages and move on. But not until after I speak my piece on the premature demotion of Sam Wilson.
Captain America Cover

When it was first announced that Sam Wilson would be next in line to take up the shield once Steve Rogers was out of commission, I was one of many caught by surprise. A black man is really America’s hero, is what I constantly found myself muttering. That quickly changed to My Captain America can fly. [Considering making a t-shirt out of that, by the way. Leave your size in the comments.] However, I’ve been around long enough to know that nothing in comics sticks for long besides the deaths of Bucky, Batman’s parents and Uncle Ben Parker.
My Captain America can fly.

Was Sam-Cap a publicity stunt? Short answer, probably. Long answer, it was one of many moving parts of Marvel’s attempt to diversify its lineup with more people of color and fewer straight white dudes named Steve and Tony. Sadly, because of years of a lack of representation and a sudden aha! moment, Marvel’s attempt at true representation boiled down to a knee-jerk reaction that a lot of fans didn’t respond well to. While I personally loved the efforts of introducing Sam Wilson as Captain America, Riri Williams as Tony Stark’s protege, Jane Foster as Thor and expanding Wakanda’s significance, I also acknowledge that a lot of comic book fans hate change the same way that your great-grandparents refused to let women wear pants. [I’m sure they’d deny it now, but they did.] Neither of these hills are worth dying on, yet they’re both covered in bodies draped in #AllLivesMatter t-shirts.

Despite the writing on the wall, I chose to enjoy as much of Sam Wilson carrying the shield as possible. Steve Rogers is long known for being the Boy Scout who’s the living embodiment of picking oneself up by their bootstraps. Sam more closely represented people like me. Not just because he was a Black man, either, although it definitely helps. His experiences reflected the struggle many people often feel living in the United States. I may love my country and what it offers me, in theory, but I’m much too familiar with what it forces me to actually live through to blindly follow a set of hopeful ideals first introduced more than two centuries ago.

Sam Wilson could fly down 79th street of my native Chicago to save a family from a burning building…
Outside of a few cringeworthy moments that screamed “Get off my lawn you rambunctious, millennial punks!,” I think Sam Wilson’s run as Captain America should be far more respected than it is. He became the symbol of everyday people in America, not just middle America — what some choose to inaccurately refer to as fringe America. Sam Wilson could fly down 79th street of my native Chicago to save a family from a burning building but also stop a kidnapping in Evanston. On the other hand, I imagine Steve Rogers never coming south of 35th street or east of the Dan Ryan Expressway. And that means a lot to readers like me.

One of the most disappointing parts of Sam Wilson returning to the fold as Falcon is this: We already have a new Falcon. And he’s great! What the hell are we supposed to do with Joaquin Torres now?!?! My mans has actual falcon wings coming out of his body. He has falcon eyes. Might as well have a beak. There isn’t much else left for him to do in the superhero world. What’s next for him? Is he gonna be Lil’ Falcon? Falcon B? Birdboy? What’s going on here, man?

Captain America Sam Wilson #5 Cover

It’s a story as old as this thing we call society. Once someone gets pushed down, everyone under them gets shuffled around too, often for the worse.

Despite this, the most disappointing thing about Sam Wilson’s demotion – because, no matter how they try to spin it, that’s exactly what it is – is how it’s wrapping up. One of the most consistent struggles Sam faced as Captain America was hate, both from citizens and readers. He regularly mentioned how he took on much more than his fair share and the toll it took on him. But that doesn’t mean he gets to quit and not give it another shot. Last we saw of him with the shield, Sam left it back in his New York apartment because the system literally tried to kill Rage and Steve Rogers made him think he let a senator get killed. If he doesn’t get a chance to redeem himself as Captain America, I’ll risk sounding hyperbolic and say everything up until now has been a waste.

Look, I don’t expect Sam to defeat white supremacy within a couple volumes of a comic book series. I don’t even know what the hell that would look like if I’m being totally honest. But couldn’t he at least put a stop to the Americops? They played such a major role in Sam’s storyline that no one else has any right to end the living extensions of police violence. And there’s no way I’ll ever accept them just being a consistent part of the Marvel Universe going forward. Black people being targeted by police in the streets is enough to give me an ulcer, but in my comics too? Nah, bruh.

If Sam would’ve become Captain America, stepped away while on top, and at least made a lateral move, this would be understandable. But no. As far as we know now, he’s heading back to the old guard. Even though it was brief, Sam Wilson will be my personal favorite Captain America for a long, long time.

SamWilson

Read more about Captain America: Sam Wilson, our comics reviews and our commentary.

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Keith Reid-Cleveland About Keith Reid-Cleveland

3 Readers Commented

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  1. Max Hospadaruk on July 12, 2017

    XXL

  2. Alejandro on July 13, 2017

    he’s no longer cap?! I don’t read the comics so I didn’t know. well I’m still hoping that Sam becomes Cap in the next Avengers movie, I really need that to happen.

    if it does, then hopefully Sam Cap isn’t as short-lived as the comics :(

  3. Chance on July 15, 2017

    Large!

    This run has been the first time I wanted ro read a Captain America comic since Bucky fought Dethlocks in that slick black suit, and it’s definitely thw only run I would pay for. I echo your feelings about this Cap being MY Cap, one I can really feel proud of. But I definitely knew this wouldn’t last.

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