Comic Book Review: All-New Captain America Volume 1 & Uncanny Avengers 2 Volume 1

All-New Captain America: Hydra Ascendant (2015)
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Stuart Immonen

Uncanny Avengers: Counter-Evolutionary (2015)
Written by Rick Remender (with Gerry Duggan)
Art by Daniel Acuna

Sam Wilson is Captain America. And he has teamed with the new Nomad to take down a resurgence of Hydra. This involves facing down EVERY rogue in Cap’s gallery, from Batroc to Armadillo to Baron Zemo to Baron Blood. Over the course of this all-out assault, Sam learns of a Hydra conspiracy that has infected every superhero team on Earth. The Uncanny Avengers have reformed, adding Sabretooth, The Vision, and Brother Voodoo to their ranks. Their first mission is to travel to the bizarre Counter-Earth. Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver have gone there to uncover their roots after learning the truth about their parentage during the events of AXIS. The team is fractured and is forced to face the near god-like power of the demented High Evolutionary.

The writing was on the wall. Remender was not going to last much longer at Marvel. In this strange transitory period, these two titles were launched as ongoing titles but only made it long enough to end up as mini-series. Secret Wars, helmed by Jonathan Hickman, was the direction Marvel was going and the plot threads Remender has been building in the pages of Cap, and Uncanny Avengers inevitably fell to the wayside.

Sam Wilson’s first significant foray as Cap is glorious, Remender feels very comfortable writing the character in this role, and I found myself very engrossed in the internal monologue that ran through the entire five issues. I am a big fan of Nick Spencer’s Cap run, but damn, am I disappointed we never got to see Remender follow through on these issues.

I also have to point out how phenomenal Stuart Immonen’s art was in this collection. Sam Wilson’s Captain America is all about fluidity and movement, using his wings to propel himself in ways Steve Rogers was never able to do. Immonen masterfully captures that propulsion and the pages have a vibrant dynamism. Immonen and Remender even manage to make a goofy character like Batroc the Leaper into a formidable enemy. Remender can’t help but comment on the silliness of the French kickboxer yet also allows him to be a physically threatening presence in combat.

You can sense the finality in Remender’s All-New Captain America as he pulls out all the stops in issue one, throwing every villain that has ever made an impression in the pages of the character’s books. It’s unclear how much Remender knew at this point about when he would leave because he does a drop a pretty huge bombshell: the idea Hydra has agents inside of every heroic team on Earth. I can see seeds of that being tweaked in the Secret Empire storyline, but it was not the same thing Remender was going for. I believe that at least by the time he was writing the last couple issues, Remender was fully aware that he only had a couple more projects left. This is made clear in the “death” of Nomad that ends up being resolved in Hail Hydra! This character was an important one to the writer, and I suspect he wanted to pull his piece off the game board rather than let another writer “ruin” what he had established.

Over in the pages of Uncanny Avengers, we see another attempt to reboot a Remender series that also succumbs to the impending slate cleaning that was Secret Wars. One of the strangest elements of this single collection is that there is no clear transition between the first volume of Uncanny Avengers and this reboot. I put the blame on the complete mess that was AXIS. I got the sense this was an intended arc, but due to time constraints with the impending Secret Wars, much groundwork was cut. There is an awkward text box at the start of the story that has to catch us up with the situation so that we are dumped into the middle of an ongoing tale.

At some point, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver have been given information that the High Evolutionary has information on their true origins after they learned in the pages of AXIS that Magneto might not be their father. We never know who gave them this information or how they managed to get to Counter-Earth they are there and so the story begins. Once the Avengers arrive to save the day they are immediately separated and face a variety of challenges, some of which feel truly threatening and others as just ways to get them off screen for a while. Captain America is put into the clutches of a plant-based creation of the High Evolutionary and just kind of hangs out there until he’s needed in the third act.

Because this story is rushed when compared Remender’s previous arcs in Uncanny Avengers (see his Apocalypse Twins epic) so many new characters and plots seem way too broad. There’s an evil scientist who captures Rogue and extracts Wonder Man from her, and this is left unresolved. The Vision meets a fellow synthezoid and manufactures many “children” with her whom he quickly abandons when the story concludes. The only element of the collection I enjoyed was seeing Sabretooth, turned semi-good guy by the events of AXIS, as a member of the Avengers being heroic and surprising himself.

When these two volumes conclude you can feel that Remender isn’t going to get a chance to come back post-Secret Wars and continue these stories. He’ll get two more chances to make his mark on the Marvel Universe though. In our next and final installment, we’ll look at his mini-series Hail Hydra and his one-shot graphic novel Rage of Ultron.

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