Captain Carter has all the makings of an interesting alternate Captain America, built on a straightforward proposition – what if it was Peggy Carter instead of Steve Rogers? I haven’t watched the What if series on Disney Plus because I would need to become Uatu, the Watcher himself, to be able to consume all the content. However, the premise and the character design were enough to get me interested.
There is a lot to unpack in this story, and it has to serve a daunting purpose. The book needs to set up the backstory, set up conflict and deliver on the promise of an action-packed comic book origin story. The book performs adequately on all these fronts. There are hints of exciting world-building and political intrigue, which I am hoping will be delved into further in forthcoming issues. There are some characters that I could see become fan favorites in the future if given a chance to be fleshed out more. I always enjoy the regular supporting cast for a superhero and in the characters of Harley and Lizzie, I can see them being developed to become larger characters.
Without getting into spoiler territory, I think I can spot who could become the prime antagonist, at least for this arc. If I am correct in my guess, then the writer did a good job of setting up the antagonist without telling us explicitly who they are. The art is fluid and glossy and fits the story well. The art especially shines in high-speed sequences where the action just pops off the panel. The coloring is up to standards and what I have internally come to recognize as a Marvel house style.
All that said, I have my share of criticism for the story as well. The story jump starts with an interesting quagmire; which country gets to claim her? However, the frustrating part of the story for me was that any tension build-up gets immediately diffused, often in a ham-fisted way. In this specific scene, for example, there are multiple contender nations claiming Captain Carter, but as the representatives are arguing, Captain Carter quite literally slams her fist on the desk and makes the decision. I’d have preferred a bit more political drama, and I don’t think an international matter would get resolved by just someone raising their voice.
Beyond that, I personally feel this is a missed opportunity to establish Captain Carter as a voice of reason, a resolver of conflict. This would make her distinct from all the fist punching superheroes, display why she is a leader, a captain, and would still at the same time honor the legacy of Captain America. The book tries to cram in a lot, but it all comes at a cost – cost of character and world-building depth. For instance, Captain Carter mentions how much her home country has changed and how the food has gotten better, implicitly due to globalization and multiculturalism.
This was a perfect opportunity to talk about the state of immigration in Britain or show what this looks like to a person waking up from a decades-long sleep. How does Captain Carter view her and her nation’s colonial past in retrospect? How does she view the current state it is in? I understand the target audience for this book might be new readers coming here from the TV show, and they are expecting to see an action-packed superhero origin story. However, a better balance with some more substance could have made this book pack a powerful punch.
From an artistic perspective, my criticism is primarily around two points – some facial expressions look inconsistent and the panel layout is good, but a small tweak here or there could’ve made it superb in my opinion.
From a new reader perspective, the story is a great jumping-on point and I would recommend it to those looking to get into Marvel comics, especially if they are at least vaguely familiar with Captain America. All in all, there is enough in the premise and the plot here to make this a popular character and book. I hope the team builds on the foundations here and takes its time to give me the political superhero thriller I want and believe the team can pull off.