Boy howdy does this issue have some serious work to do. Nick Spencer's run and the terrible fascism-flavoured crossover that it spawned left a terrible taste in a lot of people's mouths. Secret Empire was, according to some industry pundits, the second worst selling event in recent memory. It put a lot of people off the character, some of them off of Marvel entirely, and series that were launched as spin-offs debuted at below the sales level where series usually get cancelled.
The event didn't do what it was meant to do in financial terms, pissed off a lot of the hardcore fanbase that Marvel relies on for sales and word of mouth advertising (the only sort the comicbook industry can afford nowadays).
So now we have Mark Waid and Chris Samnee, both creators whose work I've adored in the past, coming along to try and save Steve Rogers from recent bad creative decisions by taking him on a soul searching road trip across the country whose best self-image he's meant to represent.
So how does it go?
The answer is “okay” with a side order of “oddly business as usual”. The story is absolutely a reaction to Secret Empire and Hydra!Cap but its also not that far afield from the sort of standard issue character primer sort of story you'd usually get at the beginning of a run like this. There's one mention of the events of Secret Empire that sets up the excuse for why people still trust Steve (Hydra!Cap was an impostor pretending to be Steve but we know better, don't we?) and that's your lot.
Except it isn't. The plot of this issue is that Cap is revisiting a town in Nebraska he visited shortly after being pulled from the ice. Back then he fought a small and pretty crap bunch of neo-fascists called Rampart and now he's returned because he's heard they're back and planning to do bad things at the site of their original humiliation and they're more organised and better equipped than they were when he last saw them.
Oh, its getting all political up in those comicbooks, isn't it?
My reaction is this: good. This is exactly the sort of story that should be written with Captain America in an era where fascism is getting horribly fashionable again. He beat them in the Second World War, he beat them when they were crap a decade ago and he'll beat them now. Nice message, I like it. Add to that some heartwarming scenes of people rushing to help others in the aftermath of the attack and we're back to this being a series about the best aspects of people, the aspirational side of the character and the ideals he's meant to represent.
Captain America punches Nazis so nice people can continue to be nice to each other. It might seem a bit basic but a) that's exactly the sort of soft reboot the series needed after banking up so damn much bad publicity in the last couple of years and b) a sentiment that surprisingly needs a lot of explanation in a world where Wolfenstein is considered a risky, politically charged and grossly insensitive computer game for having you kill Nazis.
Nazis. Fuck 'em. Glad to see Captain America's on my side in this again.