Sam Wilson trades one loss for another in "All-New Captain America" #5. Rick Remender and Stuart Immonen neatly loop together their plot threads from the previous issues and Sam's triumph is satisfying, fast-paced and utterly him. While the issue's big reveal doesn't exactly manage to surprise, it is at least exciting. As this run goes on, Marvel's new Captain America continues to provide he's damn good at his job.
Though I appreciate the approach in principle, I still don't enjoy Remender's moment-to-moment narration of Sam's thoughts. The frequent fragments -- "No possible way -- Steve's voice..." -- are distracting, and they don't always add anything that the visuals don't already convey. Less is more with an approach that is meant to increase immediacy and tension, but Remender doesn't edit himself down. For example, when Sam uses his powers to control a swarm of birds, there are two captions about his thought process: first, "Focus on them" and, immediately after, "Make them understand." I know that alternate scripting is generally in bad taste but just one of these phrases would have gotten the point across just as strongly and more succinctly. Remender's approach can work if he pares down and trusts the reader, but he isn't quite doing that yet.
That said, there's a lot to like in the issue. It's a classic superhero comic with all the sneak attacks, surprise appearances and improbable escapes that a reader could want. Villains and heroes leap in and out of the panels, and punching and stabbing provide most of the solutions. It's true that the story relies too heavily on coincidence and "A-ha!" theatrics. Sam struggles but the solution rarely comes as a result of his endurance or toughness. Instead, a possibly-dead or currently-forgotten character will appear to remove the problem. As a result, there's sometimes a disconnect between the intensity of Sam's internal monologue and the cartoonishness of the plot points. It's old-school absurd -- luckily, forgivably so.
Immonen and Wade von Grawbadger handle the pace and panache of the story well. They're particularly effective on the splash pages, such as the entrance of the Leaper, where their stronger inks and more detailed definition give the pages energy. There isn't much innovation or visual playfulness here, but it's all done very solidly and very much in the Captain American style. It's no easy task to convey Sam's state of mind when the reader can't always see his eyes, but this creative team still manages to convey his exhaustion and accomplishment.
Marte Gracia's colors are darker than I expected, with shadowing that really leans into the black inks. It matches the passion and anxiety of Sam's narration, so I can see why the issue is colored that way, but I'd have loved a touch more brightness. As with the narrative disconnect mentioned above, sometimes the moment isn't as serious as the colors might suggest.
Despite my reservations, issue #5 has me sad that "All-New Captain America" will end after the "Secret Wars" event. Remender writes Sam as a tough protagonist who's a pleasure to cheer for, and I hope we'll get to see more of him in the near future.