He’s worked on the biggest comic book characters—Wolverine and Superman among them—with his iconic complex art style. But Leinil Francis Yu achieves a whole new level of brilliance on his current run as the artist of the re-launched “Captain America” ongoing series from Marvel Comics.
Yu has found a great partner in the writer on the series. Ta-Nehisi Coates. An award-winning author (the National Book award-winning “Between the World and Me”), Coates made a name for himself in comics by helming the critically-acclaimed “Black Panther” series just as the movie based on the character became a box office blockbuster.
Now Marvel doubled down by putting Coates, who writes very complex and twisty story arcs, on Marvel’s most enduring hero, having been created in 1941 by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Marvel launched the new “Captain America” series April this April with a new #1.
Coates mixes real-world concerns with classic Marvel tropes in the series’ inaugural arc, “Winter in America.” After the sad events of the “Secret Empire” arc—when the current Captain America was revealed to be a Hydra sleeper agent who created rifts between heroes—the real Steve Rogers returns to a disaffected America who doesn’t trust Captain America. Then, he is chased by multiple iterations of the villain Nuke, essentially a crazy version of himself. Meanwhile, someone is manipulating all these events while Cap has to come to terms with his relationship with the somewhat traumatized Sharon Carter.
Coates’ writing finds a worthy collaborator in Yu. After wowing the world with what he could do with the “Secret Invasion” mini-series, Yu wows us again with this turn on the Star-Spangled Avenger. He’s drawn Cap before, but not like this,
He takes his intricate style to new heights and balances full-page shots of Cap with multi-panel cutaways of what’s happening around him, the way way a TV show cuts from a hero shot to reaction shots. Yu’s Cap looks very modern but is still clearly the Cap you know and love. The characters never look ridiculous or posed, and if you want to see just how subtle Yu can get, check out his take on an aged but still determined Sharon Carter. He is just brilliant in this series.
And, of course, Yu’s work only looks right when inked by longtime art partner Gerry Alanguilan. The main covers by the legendary Alex Ross are pretty cool.
There is a cold, calculating and contradictory note sounded on the idea of patriotic heroes in “Winter in America,” with no one more struck by it than Captain America himself.
Yu’s run on “Captain America” ended with December’s “Captain America” # 6—veteran penciller Andy Kubert takes over in January’s # 7—so savor his stalwart work while you can.
“Captain America” is available from comic book stores and on Comixology.com