Tim Sale and Jeph Loeb’s nostalgia-driven “Captain America: White” sticks to its strengths in issue #2. While issue #1’s time-hopping could make for some unfocused pages, this issue is firmly situated in its WWII setting, and that lets the creative team expand and enjoy. Steve’s melancholy narration works alongside the warm, optimistic view of humanity at the heart of the book, and the bold retro artwork gives everything a strong sense of setting. While the series still doesn’t feel particularly relevant or essential, readers looking for a celebration of the almost embarrassingly sincere values that make Captain America such a sticking character can’t do much better than “Captain America: White.”
Sale and Loeb are working with some of the corniest themes out there — hope, friendship, perseverance — and they don’t try to hide it. Cap unironically offers advice like “We have to find hope in the most unexpected places” and “We get attached to these things… when it’s the people we lost that we should stay attached to.” Lines like this could easily feel hackneyed or maudlin in a more self-conscious book, but Loeb and Sale manage to pull off this sentimentality precisely because they’re so unapologetic about it. Admittedly, there’s some couching — Fury certainly provides a gruff counter to Steve’s optimism — but events always play out to prove Cap right. It also works so well because of the melancholy in Steve’s narration. Since these are Steve’s memories, the reader isn’t necessarily being asked to take them at face value. He’s only being asked to believe Steve’s sincerity — an easier and more compelling sell.
Sale and colorist Dave Stewart’s artwork is also openly nostalgic, with brimming chest muscles, an expressive supporting cast and old-fashioned costumes. However, it’s more evocative of the era than imitative. The use of heavy, simple inking and earthy watercolors calls to mind old recruitment posters and public art. Stewart’s coloring in particular helps the book to feel vintage without reading as a gimmick or parody.
That said, the dramatic transition in coloring and linework that occurs during the fog scene didn’t quite read for me. It does succeed in signaling a mood change, but things looked so different it almost made me think the sequence was a flashback, particularly since it’s preceded by an introspection-inviting line on the previous page. It took me a moment to adjust, and I wish it had been smoother.
On a less comprehensive but no less crucial note, “Captain America: White” features one of the best cameos I’ve seen in a Marvel title in a while. Sale’s extravagant figure work, combined with pitch-perfect lettering from Richard Starkings, had me giggling out loud. Sales and Loeb nailed the pacing and framing of that one.
Altogether, “Captain America: White” #2 is warm and effective. The creative team’s affection for the title character and his supporting cast is clear on every page and, for all its emotional simplicity, it’s crafted intricately. This is an excellent read.