Settle down, Beavis: 'Captain Hydra' will be a temporary condition

By Andrew A. Smith

Tribune Content Agency

 

A twist ending to Marvel’s Captain America re-launch has driven a number of fans into a frenzy, some even issuing death threats to the writer. To these folks I offer four words I don’t often say: “It’s just a comic book.”

You may have heard about the controversy, which made national news. It began in Captain America: Steve Rogers #1, which shipped May 25. That title is starting over, because Steve Rogers hasn’t been Captain America for the last couple of years in the  Marvel Universe. A villain named Iron Nail negated the Super-Soldier Serum in Cap’s body in 2014, reverting him to his natural age. (Very, very old.) Sam Wilson (formerly the Falcon), has been the Star-Spangled Avenger ever since, starring in Captain America: Sam Wilson and a variety of Avengers titles.

Anyway, in a recent story too long to tell, an omnipotent Cosmic Cube – what was called a “tesseract” in the movies – was used to restore Steve Rogers to the pink of health, and to the red, white and blue of clothes. So, naturally, the newly restored Cap was instantly awarded his own title, the aforementioned Captain America: Steve Rogers. Written by the talented Nick Spencer and drawn by the dazzling Jesus Saiz, it is a truly excellent display of the comic book craft.

There’s only one hitch: Throughout the issue we see heretofore unseen flashbacks to Steve’s mother Sarah Rogers in the 1930s, where she is apparently recruited by Hydra. And in the present, Cap tosses one of his allies out of a plane, turns to a hostage and says two damning words: “Hail Hydra.”

Yikes! Has Captain America been a sleeper agent for Hydra all along? Oh, the humanity!

Needless to say, the anti-Nazi Captain America being a sleeper agent for what amounts to a neo-Nazi organization upset quite a few people. Some took it a bit far, though, as a compilation of tweets by the website bleedingcool.com demonstrated. “Congratulations on destroying 75 years worth of characterization,” wrote @okitasougu. “Kill.your.self,” typed @neymarsbey. And my personal favorite, by @lapinoir: “@nickspencer die rat die rat die rat die rat die rat die rat die rat die rat die rat die rat die rat.”

Writer Spencer, taking it all in stride, tweeted back “I can’t respond to 9000 tweets per second, but if I could, I would say I admire your passion.”

And … scene. That is the perfect response. In other words: “Settle down, Beavis. It’s just a comic book.”

The purpose of any comic book story is to arouse interest and excitement, and to encourage the reader to buy the next issue. I think Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 has succeeded in that regard.

Moreover, Captain America couldn’t have been a sleeper agent since the 1930s. If so, he certainly would have shown his true colors on any number of previous occasions, where doing so would have given Hydra control of the world. So Spencer isn’t guilty of “destroying 75 years worth of characterization.”

No, this is something new. And you know what else is new? The Cosmic Cube that re-made Steve Rogers just a few issues ago. And does anyone doubt that “re-made” included a new history, one where Cap’s mother was a Hydra agent?And does anyone doubt the Cosmic Cube, a device which might as well be stamped “Deus ex Machina,” can’t un-do what it has done?

So the Reset Button is within reach. All Spencer has to do is get from point A to point B, which is what those in the biz call “a story.”

That may or may not be Spencer’s plan; some other fix may be in the works. But you don’t have to have the writing prowess of Stan Lee to guess that “Captain Hydra” is going to be a temporary condition.

And, you know, it’s not the worst that could happen. I mean, it’s not like they killed off Captain America or anything.

Because they’ve already done that. Back in 2007, at the end of the comic book version of “Civil War,” Captain America had surrendered and was in custody. Crossbones (who is obviously not dead in the comics) took a sniper shot at the Living Legend, but it was a brainwashed Sharon Carter who delivered the furtive, final shot. And Steve “Captain America” Rogers was as dead as a 75-year-old doornail.

Of course, he got better.

Which is not the only terrible thing writers have done to Captain America. When you’ve been around as long as the Living Legend of World War II, writers have to stretch to find new ways to make his life miserable (and therefore interesting).

There was that time he was turned into a werewolf, back in 1992. No kidding, a villain named Nightshade injected him with a … let’s call it a Capwolf formula, and Rogers got all furry and fang-y. So did a bunch of other people, come to think of it. And several X-Men were hanging around, for some reason.

Anyway, they all got better.

There was that time that Cap quit being Cap in 1974, because he discovered that a “high government official” (everyone thinks it was Richard Nixon) was the head of the evil Secret Empire. Disillusioned, he became “Nomad, the Man Without a Country.” And there was that time in 1987 that the government ordered Cap to follow orders or quit, so he quit, and became a character named “The Captain.”

Don’t worry, he got the shield back both times.

What about “Streets of Poison” (1990), where a meth lab blew up in Cap’s face, and he spent several issues running around New York hallucinating and beating up on whoever was handy? And there was that time Cap was exiled to “Dimension Z” for 10 years, where he spent a decade leading a revolution against Arnim Zola’s mutates while raising an adopted son. That was no picnic.

But, hey, he got better.

And, you know, Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 isn’t even the first time Cap has been a Nazi. The Red Skull brainwashed Cap back in 1965, in a story by Stan Lee and Cap co-creator Jack Kirby, which featured the Star-Spangled Avenger giving a snappy Nazi salute. Dr. Faustus turned Cap into a shield-slinging Fascist in 1997, but fortunately Daredevil was around to snap him out of it.

And speaking of Stan Lee, Newsarama.com reported what he had to say about Captain Hydra at the 2016 MegaCon:

“It's a hell of a clever idea. I don't know that I would ever have thought of it for him to be a double agent, but it's going to make you curious, it's going to make you want to read the books, they'll probably do a movie based on it. So I can't fault it; it's a good idea. I think it's crazy, but it's a good idea.”

And, needless to say, a temporary one. So strap on your shields and enjoy the ride, fellow readers, without sending death threats to the writer. At least Cap’s not a werewolf this time.

 

Reach Captain Comics by email (capncomics@aol.com), the Internet (captaincomics.ning.com), Facebook (Captain Comics Round Table) or Twitter (@CaptainComics).

Views: 2181

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Briefly, I concur!

At least see what happens next!

Over-the-top outrage seems to be the default setting today. Reference the new Ghostbusters movie. It's embarrassing to be linked with these people in some way. As someone on my Facebook feed said as this all unscrolled message after message, "Have you never read a comic book before?"

When they killed him last time, some media had the audacity to seek out Joe Simon and ask for his opinion, and he was upset and shocked that they'd do it. I felt embarrassed for everybody that time.

BTW, which four words in "It's just a comic book" are you counting?

-- MSA

I count contractions and "comic book" as one word each. My column, my rules.

Actually, I originally had "Just settle down, Beavis" in that spot, and later decided to move that line to another spot. Didn't change my word count!

Agree with all of the above. At the same time, I've gotta give props to Nick Spencer for constructing the story in such a way that he was able to elicit a knee-jerk reaction of dismay from me before I mulled it over a bit.  And I don't even consider myself a big Captain America guy.

Is this a new Cosmic Cube? Last I heard it had turned into a weird alien female called Kubik or something.

 Calls to calm down might be working.  In the latest cw Tony kidnapped and tortured a guy, breaking many laws in the process and I really didn't care.  The danger for marvel is that I really don't care that much for the characters anymore, there's been too many of these shock/stunts.  While this bit with Cap bothered me this time, it won't bother me the next time just as Tony's actions in cw1 bothered me a lot yet this time I expect them.  Murder, kidnapping, torture...  at this point this is just stuff I expect the marvel heroes to do/get away with and even if I had the money I wouldn't buy the comics anymore.  I guess I've gone from being a really interested fan who would have bought every title to see what was going on and taken on a chance on enjoying a good ending to a mildly curious one who'll only glance at net reviews and give a quick comment and won't really care how it ends.  Sort of like following the Stanley Cup Finals without the Bruins in them. 

The danger for marvel is that I really don't care that much for the characters anymore, there's been too many of these shock/stunts.

That may be Marvel (and DC's) biggest problem. Their intricate and arcane continuities really preclude many new readers from jumping on board. So they're mostly writing stories for long-time fans--who remember previous deaths, clones, betrayals, resignations, etc. Granted, that makes it even more surprising that people would have this knee-jerk reaction. But, as I noted, unthinking outrage seems to be our immediate reaction to everything.

The PTB said a true artist's intent is to generate a reaction from the readership, and this story indicates they've achieved that goal and shows how much the readership cares and blah, blah, blah.

"Getting a reaction" from readers is cheap and easy. Getting them excited and making them want the next issue right now and keep reading is the tough part. I'm not sure this reaches that goal. I'm also not sure how many people outraged by this outrageouos outrage was reading Cap before this.

"Comic book" is one word? Much as I hate to agree with MS Word, that's just crazy talk.

-- MSA

Another possible reason that Spencer's big reveal was such an effective sucker punch is that readers had been waiting for the return of the "real" Cap for a while and when he finally returned they didn't even get to enjoy it for an entire issue before the rug was pulled out from under them again. I think the subliminal frustration with that may have contributed to some of the more overly emotional responses.

Nick Spencer said in an interview on the Word Balloon podcast that he took delight in the fact that everyone was talking about his issue of Captain America instead of DC Rebirth, which came out during the same week. He said this was because he was "fired from DC", which I didn't realize happened.

I think the timing is a big part of it, yeah. (Although I say that still not having read the story in question. Where's that second printing, anyhow?)

Detective 445 said:

Another possible reason that Spencer's big reveal was such an effective sucker punch is that readers had been waiting for the return of the "real" Cap for a while and when he finally returned they didn't even get to enjoy it for an entire issue before the rug was pulled out from under them again. I think the subliminal frustration with that may have contributed to some of the more overly emotional responses.

 I heard the same thing about civil war 2, marvel loves conflict and controversy.  It gets them sales and mentions in the press like the Washington Post.  It gets authors like Spencer and Bendis the attention that they seem to crave, but at the same time I can't believe it's unlimited.  Death has become a joke in comics due to constant coming back from the dead, to me the marvel heroes fighting each other is no longer shocking or even surprising.  I often wonder why they keep super villains around.  I mentioned Tony and what he's done and that's not a surprise anymore.  Ok, this time Cap as evil shocked me and got my attention, next time Cap's evil I won't be surprised and the time after that I might not even notice.  There are very few lines that marvel hasn't had the heroes cross and what happens when they cross all of them?  I expect at some point in the future we'll find out that SHIELD has been running an international drug running or human trafficking or even a child slaver ring and my response will be a shrug.  After all, it's marvel, what's there to be shocked about?  It's like Howard Stern, after a while you run out of the ability to be shocked or outraged about what he says, you just tune him out.

Wandering Sensei: Moderator Man said:

Nick Spencer said in an interview on the Word Balloon podcast that he took delight in the fact that everyone was talking about his issue of Captain America instead of DC Rebirth, which came out during the same week. He said this was because he was "fired from DC", which I didn't realize happened.

Mark, why are you so sure that Cap is "evil"? What if it's a ruse or a fake Cap or an alternate reality?

If it turns out (as I'm sure it will) that Cap is still good, will that make you happy, sad or mad?
 
Mark S. Ogilvie said:

 I heard the same thing about civil war 2, marvel loves conflict and controversy.  It gets them sales and mentions in the press like the Washington Post.  It gets authors like Spencer and Bendis the attention that they seem to crave, but at the same time I can't believe it's unlimited.  Death has become a joke in comics due to constant coming back from the dead, to me the marvel heroes fighting each other is no longer shocking or even surprising.  I often wonder why they keep super villains around.  I mentioned Tony and what he's done and that's not a surprise anymore.  Ok, this time Cap as evil shocked me and got my attention, next time Cap's evil I won't be surprised and the time after that I might not even notice.  There are very few lines that marvel hasn't had the heroes cross and what happens when they cross all of them?  I expect at some point in the future we'll find out that SHIELD has been running an international drug running or human trafficking or even a child slaver ring and my response will be a shrug.  After all, it's marvel, what's there to be shocked about?  It's like Howard Stern, after a while you run out of the ability to be shocked or outraged about what he says, you just tune him out.

Wandering Sensei: Moderator Man said:

Nick Spencer said in an interview on the Word Balloon podcast that he took delight in the fact that everyone was talking about his issue of Captain America instead of DC Rebirth, which came out during the same week. He said this was because he was "fired from DC", which I didn't realize happened.

Reply to Discussion

RSS

Welcome!

No flame wars. No trolls. But a lot of really smart people.The Captain Comics Round Table tries to be the friendliest and most accurate comics website on the Internet.

SOME ESSENTIALS:

RULES OF THE ROUND TABLE

MODERATORS

SMILIES FOLDER

TIPS ON USING THE BOARD

FOLLOW US:

OUR COLUMNISTS:

Groups

© 2021   Captain Comics, board content ©2013 Andrew Smith   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service