(This story contains spoilers for events happening in the first issue of “Steve Rogers: Captain America.”)
Two words heard frequently in Captain America’s 75-year comic-book history. We’ve just never heard those words coming from Captain America himself, until now.
The comic-book reading world is buzzing because it looks as though the ultimate symbol of American heroism is a double agent working for the bad guys. The last page of the first issue of writer Nick Spencer and artist Jesus Saiz’s “Steve Rogers: Captain America” shows Cap pledging allegiance to evil.
But let’s not get our American flags too tied up in a bunch. Things are just getting started in this strange Captain America tale, and no storyline can ever be defined by one issue alone.
Captain America and controversy are forever intertwined. We don’t even have to go too far back to list the many instances where it appeared Captain America was changed forever.
Remember when Captain America was killed and his former teen sidekick Bucky took over for him? Bucky was a gun-wielding Captain America that went lethal if necessary. Until Steve Rogers came back from the dead and took over the mantle again.
Recently, Steve was drained of his super-soldier serum that kept him young and strong, turning him into the old man time intended him to be. So he passed the Captain America suit and shield to another former sidekick — Sam Wilson, the Falcon — giving us a black Captain America for the first time since Marvel’s “Truth” mini-series. Steve’s youth and strength have since returned to him, but Sam Wilson is still “the” Captain America with the classic shield and Steve Rogers is now “another” Captain America.
Spencer, who’s been handling writing duties on both the Sam Wilson and Steve Rogers Captain America titles, has brought other intriguing changes as well. He’s managed to bring in 21st century political undertones without being overbearing or preachy, and without overtaking the superhero comic-book reading experience.
For instance, Sam Wilson has to deal with certain parts of the country where people feel he isn’t “their” Captain America, implying that the reason is the color of his skin. In Steve Rogers’s first issue since returning from old age, Spencer has the Red Skull plead hypnotically to a crowd, complaining of refugees who are “marching across the continent, bringing their fanatical beliefs and their crime with them. They attack our women and bomb our cities.” Sound familiar?
There’s a whole lot more going on here than Captain America possibly being a bad guy. If you’ve been reading comics long enough, you know it is way too early to come to that conclusion. Spencer has established a Hydra connection via Steve Rogers’s mother and his little-explored childhood. It turns out his mother may or may not have been successfully recruited by Hydra when Steve was younger. That’s enough to take the words “Hail Hydra” seriously until we get more info on this storyline.
Marvel has made bold decisions before. Black Captain America. Biracial Spider-Man. Female Thor. Marvel could have the guts to stick to that storyline and make Cap evil. But I’ll believe it when I see it. Every time it seems Captain America might never being the same again, he gets back to “normal” somehow. I wouldn’t be surprised if this whole Hydra thing is resolved before the next Avengers movie.
In the meantime, Cap’s “Hail Hydra” should bring readers back for the second issue and beyond, which is what Marvel is really hoping for.