The penultimate entry in the Avengers Standoff event, Captain America: Sam Wilson #8 is a solid issue that provides some important final notes before the impending showdown. It makes sense, as Nick Spencer, who is also writing the main Pleasant Hill books, pens this issue. Spoilers begin after the jump.

Captain America: Sam Wilson #8 succeeds on several levels, serving both as a satisfying step in the Standoff story, and resolving a few dangling narrative threads from the previous issue. With a swift pace that must ensure multiple characters arrive at the proper places for next week’s conclusion, this issue still manages to fit in plenty of Spencer’s characteristic flourishes.

In order to accomplish all that alignment of its characters, however, this issue must pull off some pretty deft plotting. It accomplishes this by splitting the narrative into three pieces and visiting each subplot at least once: there is the narrative branch concerning Agent Kincaid’s attempt to retrieve a hidden weapon from the museum, the branch concerning the machinations and bickering of the restored super villains, and finally, the branch concerning the three Captain Americas. Each is interesting in its own right, and sets up some solid plot points for next week’s conclusion.

Part of what keeps the narrative humming along so well is Spencer’s characteristic voice, which he applies with aplomb in this issue. There’s the wit Spencer likes to give to his heroes, which Bucky provides throughout the Cap scenes. There’s the snarky sniping and perennial in-fighting that characterizes his villain scenes, which are reminiscent of his incredible work on the Superior Foes of Spider-Man, and the appearance of Mach VII, an otherwise obscure character who appeared in that comic as well. And there’s the surreal combination of the dangerous and the laughable in a scene involving Kraven the Hunter that’s too deliciously absurd to even attempt description.

All of this is fine and well, but where this issue really shines is its depiction of the relationship between Steve, Sam, and Bucky. The Avengers Standoff event has spent a fair amount of time considering what it means to be Captain America, and how each of these three brothers what handled that responsibility and been affected by it. With Steve having been de-aged by Kobik at the conclusion of the last Captain America issue, there are both practical and emotional issues to be dealt with.

Thankfully, there is very little beating around the bush, and certain questions seem to be answered outright: Steve confirms that Kobik has returned him to his original form, and emphasizes, “It’s the real thing. I’m back.” In this same vein, he confirms that Sam is still Captain America, and that Steve’s revitalization doesn’t affect that. While I remain somewhat skeptical that these answers will be definitive, it’s nice to see both of the questions naturally raised by Steve’s return be answered straightforwardly.

In addition to these practical concerns, Steve also addresses the state of his friendship with both Sam and Bucky. He apologizes to Sam for allowing an ideological difference to cloud his personal perception, and he apologizes to Bucky for allowing their friendship to drift apart. As I become better versed in Marvel comics, I am learning that these climactic, wisdom-filled speeches are a staple of Steve’s character – but in spite of this, it’s hard not to be swept up by the reunion of these three friends.

Although the conclusion of the book brings us back to the same point we had arrived at by the end of All-New, All-Different Avengers #8, this issue told an essential and engaging tale on its way there. As a result, this story never feels like it’s trying to catch up with itself. Instead, it fills in necessary blanks in advance of next week’s conclusion.

Creators: Nick Spencer, Paul Renaud

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