Captain America: Sam Wilson #7

Between Cap's 75th anniversary, the ongoing "Standoff" event and an effort to spend some time on its title character, "Captain America: Sam Wilson" #7 had a whole lot to squeeze into a single issue. Luckily, it's a massive one. This supersized story feels a bit long at times, but writer Nick Spencer includes some great tributes to the shield and what it means to those who carry it. Angela Unzueta and Matt Yackey keep Sam's scenes looking smart and classic, and -- in Steve's portion of the issue -- Daniel Acuña reminds us why it's always so exciting to see him on a book. "Captain America: Sam Wilson" #7 is a solid read for fans of Captain America in any form.

The issue is split between Sam and Steve as they both work their way through the wreckage of Pleasant Hill, though Steve's portion is significantly larger. Instead of pushing "Standoff," Spencer devotes most of the issue to a reflection by the two heroes. The result alternates between emotionally rewarding and slow-moving. The emotional work almost always lands, but in some scenes, it feels as if the characters are merely wandering.

There are also some moments that feel too passing, particularly considering the page count. For example, Bucky and Sam's relationship gets a nice arc, moving from "we don't [fight as a unit]...something's off here" to "me and Bucky make a good team again." Yet it doesn't get that much time to play out. This seemed like the sort of plot element that deserved more time in this super-sized "Captain America" issue than Maria Hill's motivations, but I understand some trimming was inevitable in a story with this many elements.

Spencer's structure for Sam's portion of the story is a little wonky, and Angela Unzueta and Matt Yackey carry more than their fair share of the storytelling. Their work is remarkably clear and nicely detailed. The classic, superheroic colors they use also provide a great testament to Sam's place in the pantheon of Captain Americas, and they provide a poignant contrast to Acuña's more nostalgic palette in Steve's sections. Acuña's watercolor-like panels have verve and grace, with more simply sketched expressions and atmospheric panels. Some of the images are so eye-catching that they wouldn't be out of place on a cover.

Joss Whedon and John Cassaday's "Presentation" is a surprisingly funny, poignant story about symbols. Whedon lets Cassaday's art do most of the talking with wartime panels that focus in strongly on the characters' faces. Their reactions are set against a snowy landscape colored in almost dreamlike blue-white by Laura Martin. The contrast between the crassness of the ad men proposing a new weapon for Cap -- "the Amerigun" -- and the stillness and violence of the battle scenes is quite effective.

Tim Sale's almost-wordless "Catch Me If You Can" shows off Steve's sentimental side as Steve infiltrates a slick, Escher-like Hydra facility in order to retrieve something from his past. Colorist Dave Stewart creates such a strong contrast between the present and the flashback panels that I almost thought another artist drew the past scenes.

Greg Rucka and Mike Perkins' "Pas De Deux" brings Natasha in for a night at the ballet. It's a fun conceit, comparing the art of ballet to that of combat, and it plays out relatively well. However, I did wish the inking and the coloring had lightened up a bit and let the dancers breathe. Perkins and Frank D'Armata draw out the lethal strength behind a jete or pirouette, but I wanted to see just a touch more of the grace.

All told, "Captain America: Sam Wilson" #7 is a solid tribute to a well-loved character in all his incarnations.

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