After three months and 14 issues, the penultimate chapter of Marvel Comics Avengers Standoff event arrived recently in Sam Wilson: Captain America #8. The issue, from writer Nick Spencer and artist Paul Renaud, sees all three characters who’ve held the Captain America mantle (the current Cap Sam Wilson, Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier and the recently de-aged original Cap Steve Rogers) team up to put an end to the villain uprising that’s usurped the S.H.E.I.L.D. prison town known as Pleasant Hill.
As is typical in most Marvel books, the issue begins with a recap page that catches new readers up on the basic plot of the Standoff crossover. From there, the story immediately jumps into the recent de-aging of Steve Rogers by Kobik, the living embodiment of the Cosmic Cube whom Maria Hill had used to engineer the Pleasant Hill project. While Sam and Bucky are initially unsure how Steve will adjust to what’s happened, he quickly shows them that he’s right back to being his old self, physically and mentally. The three decide that their best course of action is to locate Kobik before Baron Zemo and the other escaped villains do. Their decision to do so is fortuitous, as Zemo has assigned a team of villains, led by Kraven The Hunter, to do the same.
The issue splices between the team of villains and heroes as each respectively search for Kobik, as well as following S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Avril Kincaid whose searching for a weapon hidden in the town. The three former Caps are distracted by a tussle with some super villains, in the aftermath of which Steve returns the Captain America shield to Sam, telling Wilson that he still holds the mantle even though Steve is back to normal. The issue concludes with reinforcements arriving to help the three, setting up the storyline’s climax in the upcoming Standoff: Assault on Pleasant Hill Omega.
Sam Wilson: Captain America #8 is probably my favorite of all the Standoff issues I’ve read so far. Of course, it suffers from the usual problems that plague multi-series crossover events, namely that the story has no dramatic structure itself, simply being a piece of the larger story. However, the reintroduction of Steve Rogers in his original form is a major moment in current Marvel continuity that makes Sam Wilson #8 feel much more singularly important as opposed to just being a cog in the Standoff wheel.
Beyond that, the issue itself is also a fun read, mainly due to Spencer. The writer wisely bases the story around the three-way relationship of Rogers, Wilson and Barnes. He sets up an interesting triangle where Steve serves as the wise father figure who makes amends with both the “good” son Sam and the “bad” son Bucky. These codependent relationships, displayed through some very well-written dialogue, really anchor the book.
Artistically Sam Wilson: Captain America #8 is a bit of a mixed bag. Renaud does a very good job with the character designs in posed shots and conversation scenes, a great example of the first appearance of Kraven in the story. The character looks perfectly in-tune with his classic look while still looking specific to the artist’s style. However, the action scenes suffer a bit. The a lot of the detailing on the characters is lost and they become a bit generic looking during any fights.
As usual for event stories, I’d strongly recommend Sam Wilson: Captain America #8 to those who’ve been following and enjoying the Standoff crossover. However, I also think big Captain America fans will enjoy the story for the Steve/Bucky/Sam dynamic even if they’re not familiar with the event.