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).

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Maybe but now we have Gwenpool too so, again, too much of a good thing!

Wandering Sensei: Moderator Man said:

I guess one good thing that came out of it is Spider-Gwen, whose book I don't read, but I still think she's an interesting and cool-looking character.

Philip Portelli said:

When you have multiple Spider-People running around, it's hard to care about all or any of them!

I am, in fact, reading Gwenpool too, I forgot it earlier. It's pretty entertaining with almost no connection to the continuity-based MU, so an ideal Marvel comic.

So I'm reading Hellcat, Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel and Gwenpool. I detect a theme, but I can't help it. It's more Marvel comics than I've read in many years, and they're all enjoyable.

-- MSA

Rob Staeger (Grodd Mod) said:

We have members on this board who've given up modern comics for good. And they look back at the decades of stuff they DID enjoy and love the hell out of it, and write long, admiring posts in praise of it.

In regard to what today's creators have done with the characters of our youth, I am reminded of what James M. Cain said. He was asked how he felt about what Hollywood had done to his books. He pointed to a bookshelf and said his books were right there.

I wish there was a "like" or "love" button for individual posts.

Richard Willis said:

Rob Staeger (Grodd Mod) said:

We have members on this board who've given up modern comics for good. And they look back at the decades of stuff they DID enjoy and love the hell out of it, and write long, admiring posts in praise of it.

In regard to what today's creators have done with the characters of our youth, I am reminded of what James M. Cain said. He was asked how he felt about what Hollywood had done to his books. He pointed to a bookshelf and said his books were right there.

Loving the discussion.  Not much to add, but love reading what others are saying. 

A younger friend got me reading Strangers in Paradise, some years back. I really disliked when it got into over-the-top conspiracy, but I kept reading. The final story arcs, however, had such absurd retcons that I couldn't keep interested. Never mind. I hung onto the earlier issues, and imagine the saga ends with the arc that gave David Qin's backstory. Those issues end by circling back to his first appearance. Great ending.

What other issues?

First, you can never have too many Gwen Stacys. Never. Agreed?

Also, no "like" button unless Ning adds one. You'll have to tell people you like their posts the old-fashioned way.*

* by attempting to build a mnemonic circuit with stone knives and bear skins.

My computer says one member likes this. I'm guessing that's because I'm using a google account. It also says this thread has 569 views.

You can like the thread (or the initial post) but you can't like subsequent posts in the thread.

Yes, I am the one who liked the thread!

I take it that you mean to type "1979" as the year of the Dr. Faustus story?

Thank you, Sensei, for liking the thread. I get so lonely sometimes.

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