Thoughts on the “Captain America: Steve Rogers #1” Controversy

Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 Cover

Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 Cover“Captain America: Steve Rogers #1”
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Jesus Saiz

Solicitation: He’s back! The original Sentinel of Liberty returns, with a new shield, a new team, and a new mission! And he’s not the only one who’s back! Like the saying goes– cut off one LIMB, two more will take its place! HAIL HYDRA!

Tradepaperback: Captain America: Steve Rogers v1
Comixology Link
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There is a new Captain America book on the shelves right now, and it has been making waves all around Internet-land these past few days as its final page revelation has brought out a lot of controversy, to say the least.  If you have somehow found your way here and not yet been spoiled by the major reveal at the end of the issue, then you should turn back now as I will be looking pretty closely at this and spoilers are necessary to discuss it properly.

Here, have some blank space to give you a few moments to think about this.

 

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Alright, here we go, and consider yourself warned that spoilers are coming.  Right now.

So the big reveal of the issue is that Steve Rogers is, and apparently always has been, a deep-cover Hydra agent.  Except, well, we don’t actually know if that is true.  His actions certainly seem to suggest they are, but we are clearly only getting a small part of the story here.  And, quite frankly, this all seems a bit click-baity to me at this point.

There are a couple of key things to keep in mind here regarding this revelation:

  • There have been many times in the last 70 years when being a deep cover agent would be directly contrary to the missions he was involved with
  • One of his main antagonists who features prominently in this issue is Red Skull, who currently has top-level telepathic abilities thanks to stealing Charles Xavier’s brain a few years back
  • Steve was recently manipulated extensively by a cosmic-level entity during the Avengers Standoff event
  • We are only seeing a small part of the puzzle at this point, and from a clearly skewed viewpoint at that

The main point I’d like to focus on for the moment is the fourth one.  Basically, in my opinion, this boils down to some artificial, knee-jerk controversy that Marvel is simply using to generate buzz and attempt to steal some of DC’s momentum that they are building with the start of their Rebirth event in this week’s DC Universe Rebirth #1.  Saying that Captain America, the flag-wearing symbolic character who is supposed to represent the United States, has actually been a Nazi Manchurian Candidate was clearly always going to grab headlines in the press (which is exactly what Marvel wants since there really is no such thing as bad publicity) and set off a firestorm of outraged protests across social media.  But let’s be clear here: we have no idea what the context is for this revelation.  None.

Let’s recap the relevant parts of the issue to see why this is the case.  Cap is hunting down Baron Zemo following the events of Avengers Standoff alongside Jack Flag and Free Spirit, and during the fight he splits off to fight Zemo alone while the other two mop up some z-list bad guys in Zemo’s employ.  Jack Flag decides to pursue the helicopter to help Cap, and makes it just in time to seemingly save Cap from Baron Zemo.  Cap then proceeds to throw Jack Flag from the helicopter, apparently to his imminent death, and says “Hail Hydra” in the final panel of the comic.  In addition to this we see some flashbacks to the 1920s where a young Steve Rogers and his mom are befriended by a mysterious woman who eventually convinces them to go to a Hydra rally of some sort (hinting that this would be how Rogers was indoctrinated by Hyrda in the first place).  And that’s it.  The creators have said that hints about this can be found as far back as 2014, but I have not yet had the opportunity to go back and read through those myself.  They’re also claiming that this is a change that won’t be reversed and that this is the real Captain America, but anyone who knows anything about comics knows precisely how much faith they can put in these statements (hint: none).

Captain America and Jack Flag

So when you take a step back and look at it for a few moments you can pretty clearly see that there is a lot we do not know yet.  This being a double-agent situation (i.e. Cap is only pretending to be a Hydra operative to play a long-con) seems unlikely, but then so does the idea he has somehow managed to be a true Hydra operative for so long without ever breaking cover (even when it probably would have meant Hydra winning and taking over the world).  Most likely we’re looking at a situation where the cosmic entity I mentioned above accidentally changed some of Steve’s history when she rewrote his physiology.  It could also be any number of other possible causes based on previous adventures and encounters with his opponents (many of whom have mental or temporal manipulation powers), and we will just have to wait and see where Marvel is going with this.

Here’s the more simple origin behind this though: this revelation creates buzz, and it does it on a day that is extremely important to Marvel’s biggest competitor, DC.  Marvel wants people talking about Captain America, especially with the highly successful Civil War movie fresh in our minds, and they have gotten that.  People are going to buy this book just to see what all the fuss is about, and as far as Marvel is concerned that’s a win.  Once the book is paid for it doesn’t really matter what the person says or does with that book.  That’s especially true if it translates into increased sales for issue 2 and beyond, and you can bet it will.  People are going to want to see where this story is going.  Some (perhaps most) will do so to condemn it and preach fire and brimstone from their social media pulpits, but, again, that is what Marvel wants.  Others will buy it so that they can form their own opinion on it free from bias, and yet others will buy it because they are genuinely interested to see where this story is going.

I am in this last group.

Captain America Hail HydraMarvel has piqued my curiosity on this one, and I am looking forward to seeing what the end game of this story will be.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t blatantly obvious clickbait, but it is surprisingly good clickbait.  Am I outraged at all about this?  No, not really… I just can’t muster up the energy to be.  Maybe it is the decades and decades of “… and nothing will ever be the same again! (really, we mean it this time!  Cross our hearts and everything)” headlines that we’ve gotten from Marvel and DC, but I don’t really believe for a second that this story is going to have any truly lasting staying power in the history of the character.  Oh, sure, Marvel will go through the motions and try to convince us that Steve really is a deep-cover Hydra agent – they have to, it’s all part of the game, and it is how they sell comics – but somewhere down the road, maybe a year from now, maybe later, it will all either get retconned out of existence or be revealed that it was some sort of elaborate quintuple-cross or something.  And for our part we’ll be outraged and post rants and threaten to boycott Marvel or whatever, and then never actually do it.  And I’ll just sit here eating popcorn and enjoying the show as it unfolds.  I just hope the controversy doesn’t prove more entertaining than the actual story, as that would be disappointing.

So, the moral of the story as I see it right now, is that you can get your pitchfork out if you want, but you’re really just tilting at windmills if you do.  If the idea of this even remotely offends you then you’ll want to vote with your wallet and not give Marvel money for this comic.  Simple as that.  For my own part I will continue to buy it so long as they manage to keep the story entertaining, but the moment I feel they’re delving into controversy for the sake of controversy (which, frankly, they’re already edging pretty close to) I’ll drop it and not look back.  Until then I’ll be happy to Hail Hydra and enjoy the fireworks.

You can get Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 digitally on Comixology or physically at your local comic shop to see what all the fuss is about.

EDIT: There has been additional controversy about this cropping up more recently regarding whether or not this move is antisemitic in nature.  I’m not personally sure I can see much of an argument for that and consider it more than a bit of a stretch, but I’m also not Jewish and I definitely do not have the right to tell people whether or not something should offend them.  So I’m not really going to go into this at all, but I wanted to make anyone reading this aware of that additional layer to the controversy.  If this does offend you then, again, vote with your wallet and don’t buy it, and tell other people not to buy it.  All the rants, diatribes and huffing and puffing will have far less of an impact than hitting them in their wallets, guaranteed.

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