In Captain America: Sam Wilson #12, Sam finds himself in the middle of an police riot, and another shield-wielding patriot is asked to knock the former Falcon off his perch.
Sam Wilson served as the Falcon for many years, but when Steve Rogers was incapacitated by the removal of his super-soldier serum, he passed the mantel of Captain America on to his partner. Captain America: Sam Wilson follows Sam’s tenure as a Captain America who isn’t afraid to take a stand on partisan issues — a situation that’s gotten even more controversial for him since Steve returned to health and action as well. Nick Spencer helms the stories of both Sam Wilson and Steve Rogers stories concurrently as the old friends agree that two Caps are better than one.
Previously, in ‘Captain America: Sam Wilson’…
Sam’s time as Captain America has not been easy, and he’s received a huge amount of public criticism for going against the values that certain people — right wing ones, mostly — seem to believe that Captain America should uphold. Since the events of Pleasant Hill, where Steve Rogers was returned to fighting form, the cries of “Not My Captain America” have increased as, despite Steve’s public support, there’s a call for Sam to “give back the shield.”
Some of Sam’s “crimes” so far include facing off against white supremacist border patrols while rescuing undocumented immigrants, accosting the Serpent Society, who are apparently doing great business and supporting the economy, and rescuing the hacker Rick Jones, who revealed Maria Hill’s unethical work with the cosmic cube Kobik, from S.H.I.E.L.D. custody. Oh, and he also attended a gay pride parade, and also, he’s black.
After delivering the eulogy for James Rhodes, War Machine, killed in action on an ambush mission with Carol Danvers, Sam also recently very publicly sided with Tony Stark in terms of the Civil War II conflict — recognizing the nature of the Inhuman Ulysses’s predictions as another form of profiling, an issue that Sam has dealt with for his entire life but is currently newly challenged by due to the introduction of the Americops.
Sam and his team — Misty Knight, Dennis Dunphy, and the new genetic-hybrid Falcon Joaquin Torres – are using the Captain America hotline to track reports of unlawful targeting from citizens in affected neighborhoods, trying to build a case against this brutal, faceless private police force implemented by some right-wing businessmen and politicians. When a live news feed shows a violent altercation in Brooklyn beginning between the Americops and a group of locals led by errant young superhero Rage, Sam – very reluctant to put himself in the middle of a media circus — flies over to attempt to deescalate the situation.
Meanwhile, John Walker, known as U.S. Agent, a patriot with a very different set of values, is busy taking out terrorist cells in the Middle East — with a little too much blood-thirstiness for comfort — when he gets an important phone call from the United States Senate…
Your assistance is neither requested or needed.
The overzealous Americops are increasingly backed by politicians who’re already spouting that to be against them is to be against American values, and Rage’s violent stand has forced Sam to go from quietly building a case against them to playing peacemaker. As Sam dives in, he reminisces over an encounter with the police many years ago – one where he was apprehended and a villain ran free, thanks to the officers believing the white bank robber’s claim that Sam was the criminal. This serves to demonstrate that his old belief that things would change for the better one day has not played out as he had once hoped.
As Sam offers himself as a mediator on the scene, he’s robotically told that he is interfering with a lawful arrest. When his arm, extended in a placid gesture, is grabbed forcefully by an Americop, Sam ponders his options and tomorrow’s headlines — start a fight, let himself be beaten — and wonders if there’s any way to deescalate from here. However, Rage takes the decision away by punching out the cop, leading the forces to attack.
As this bit of police violence is underway, businessman Paul Keane welcomes John Walker, U.S. Agent, back to American soil. At the request of Keane and senator Tom Herald — with a healthy bit of funding headed towards Walker’s Middle East-stationed troops — Walker has come home to hear these two Texans out about a new mission. They attempt to sell Walker on their current position, starting with the launch of the Americops.
They soon on to the public disapproval of Sam’s actions — urged on by talk-radio host Harry Hauser, who’s also present — before getting to the reason they called Walker home. They want him to take back the shield and order Sam to stand down as Captain America. They show Walker all that Sam has done — his altercations with the Serpent Society, Maria Hill, the attacks at the border, freeing Rick Jones — and pin it all, of course, as un-American.
U.S. Agent was originally created as a direct foil for Captain America, symbolizing patriotism gone wrong, but they did end up as allies eventually. Despite being the political opposite of everything we know Sam stands for – and supporting some ideals that even Steve would probably speak out against, like building the infamous Wall, this iteration of Walker is still pretty skeptical of what these powerful men are asking, and does not believe it’s his fight to have.
His new biggest fans insist that Walker is the only one who can do what needs to be done — he once served as Cap gave back the shield himself, after all, and it isn’t like they want to arrest Sam — they’ll even graciously allow him to go back to being Falcon. He just can’t be Captain America — that’s too far. Hmmm, why is it too far, guys? Oh wait, I know this one, it’s because you’re racist.
Walker tries to say no and insists that Steve should be the one to bring Sam in, if it’s for the good of Captain America, but the threesome believe that Steve Rogers has to public be above this — like they’re deluded that he would do it if he could or something. They also try to sell the point that Sam’s come out hard against Captain Marvel – her tactics about ambushing potential threats seem to be something they all support.
Back on the streets in Brooklyn, Sam’s really in the thick of it. As Joaquin flies Rage out of there to protect him and stop him making more trouble, Sam’s trapped in an energy net as the Americops beat him with batons. He manages to protect himself with the help of a few thousand of his psychic bird friends, and is able to bust out of his detainment. The news relays this altercation back to Walker and his new would-be employees — reports claim that the Americops officers have sustained severe injuries, which, what? I’m still not sure if we are meant to assume these things are even human — they literally look and talk like droids, even if their look is an homage to the original Americop vigilante, Bart Gallows.
However, it seems like the implication of Sam attacking officers of the law — well, the privately hired security force given a bizarre amount of jurisdiction, is enough to sway Walker to the cause that wants him so badly. As Sam escapes, Walker arrives on the scene and disarms him, attempting to confiscate the shield!
In issue #13 of Captain America: Sam Wilson, #givebacktheshield becomes #takebacktheshield as Captain America and U.S. Agent go toe to toe.
There’s not much to speculate about here — the lines are very clearly drawn, and I very much doubt this story is going to end with Sam being bullied out of office. He’ll succeed, in the end, and bring this corrupt private policing to an end. I’d like to think that maybe John Walker will return to his status as an ally of Captain America when he learns more about the situation — it would be a great opportunity to show that people of different political leanings can still agree on basic human rights and defend them.
But the most interesting thing about this run is the external factor that reflect the internal situation — within the Marvel universe, Sam Wilson is a deeply partisan Captain America, and in the real world, this is such a deeply partisan book. It’s delivering a message pretty loud and clear: that the enemy of safety and sanity is, above all, is the fear and intolerance of the conservative masses, and how they’re turning the world into something more terrifying than those they perceive as threats ever could.
Captain America: Sam Wilson #13 will be released on Wednesday, September 28.