Captain America 7

captain america 7

Today, Patrick and Shelby are discussing Captain America 7, originally released May 29th, 2013.

Patrick: This whole arc in Captain America  has been centered on one very bizarre story: Steve Rogers, trapped in Dimension Z, tries to make a life for himself with his adopted son, Ian. This is a comic book, so we didn’t spend much time watching Rogers change diapers or deciding what religion to raise his child or anything like that – most of those development moments were waved away with an issue-opening title card that read “Eleven Years Later,” way back in issue 4.We’re left to imagine that emotional groundwork, and hopefully our imaginations are pretty good, because Steve Rogers’ long odds (which grow longer by the issue) will net a pretty poor payoff if we can’t find a reason to care about Cap’s relationship with this kid.

Last we saw Cap, we had presumed that he murdered Jet Black in cold blood. I mean, he pointed a gun at her head and there was BANG, so… Turns out, that was a cheesy comic book fake-out, and he’s let her live to fight another day because he “(doesn’t) kill the helpless to get what (he) wants — especially the weak-minded.” Leave it to Captain America to zing his opponent while sparing her life. Anyway, the with the threat of an unarmed-and-naked-in-the-shower Jet subdued, Rogers scales Zola Tower to rescue his son. Soon, he’s face to face with Jet, and they square off on a catwalk over the Phrox smelting refinery. Y’see, Zola is preparing his castle and his army to traverse the interdimensional void and invade Earth, and this requires a lot of raw Bio Clay, which I take it the Phrox are basically made of. Cap appeals to Jet’s better angels (or at least, her desire not to feel the physical effects of guilt) and she turns on dime, agreeing to help Steve rescue his son and thwart Zola’s invasion plans. And just in time for a full-page reveal, Rogers takes a bullet through the chest, fired by (you guessed it!) Ian himself.

If I sound a bit flippant about Jet’s change of heart, it’s because I simply don’t believe it. Here’s the extent of Steve’s argument, and her subsequent thought process.

Captain American Changes Jet Black's Mind

She betrays the only loyalty she’s ever known because the nausea’s too much for her? I know Rick Remender has been building this entire story based on narrative assumptions – chief among them that Cap and Ian have a relationship worth fighting for. That one may ring emotionally hollow (I know it does for me), but this second assumption — that Jet is fundamentally a good person whose never been given an opportunity to do good before — is straight-up bogus.

Basically, I’m tired of this series lying to my face. Cap kills Jet – except he totally didn’t. Jet is evil – except she totally isn’t. Cap’s lungs refuse to take in air – except he totally engages in some wildly aerobic activities. The number of times Rogers assesses his physical condition in this series and declares it impossible to continue, but then continues of his journey anyway, is ridiculous. I count two of them in this issue alone. The first one is so comprehensive that maybe we’re just supposed to believe that Captain America is so far removed from his training that he can no longer self-diagnose his own battle injuries.

Captain America, for whom past exhaustion means nothing

No strength, chest NEARING TOTAL COLLAPSE, no adrenaline… oh, I guess he can just look at some inspiring word carved on a bullet and everything will be okay. Look, I’m all for pushing a hero’s limits, but time and again Remender has more or less explicitly said “we’re way past the limit, but let’s keep going anyway.”

I think the part that frustrates me most about all these gaps in logic and emotional shortcuts is that John Romita, Jr.’s art style has really grown on me. Not only have his jagged edges served to highlight the whole dudes-made-of-clay component of this world, but he’s got a great eye for staging showdowns. This issue, especially, does a great job of pitching  the Cap / Jet catwalk duel as an epic battle, worthy of our baited breath. I’m particularly enamored with the top two panels that span this two-page spread. It’s like wide-screen action on steroids.

Jet and Captain America square off

Shelby, I know you’ve been digging this arc more than I have, so I have to ask: are you moved by Ian shooting his father? I mean, let’s pretend you didn’t see it coming from the middle of the previous issue – did it have any emotional impact on you? If there’s one thing I liked about the story here, it’s the idea that Cap could win over his opponent by being so damned good. I thought that idea was largely undermined by Jet so obliquely trying to alleviate her physical manifestations of guilt, but we’re so close to a good idea, that I can’t tell if I’m being too grumpy about the whole affair or if the conclusion actually is unearned. I trust you’d weigh in on my grumpiness unprompted, but there it is anyway.

Shelby: Ian shooting his father did have an emotional effect on me, because I believe in their relationship. And I believe in their relationship because I believe in Cap. He is the ultimate good. If there is anyone who can physically and mentally carry on through this ordeal, it’s him. Some of it is built into his powerset; he does have abnormally high endurance and strength. That, combined with his sheer force of will (dude would be a Green Lantern in a heartbeat), sense of duty, and his love for Ian, and I believe he can soldier on.

That is where things are going to get interesting. Steve’s desire to get Ian out of there, to get him to a safe place, is really what’s driving him at this point. He’s physically running on fumes, with his parental drive the only thing pushing him forward, and he’s confronted with a son who seemingly no longer loves him? I don’t know what inner reserves he has left to call upon to get past this. More disturbing to me than the thought that Steve might not get his son back, is the question, “so what was the point?” If Ian stays with Zola, or heaven forbid is killed somehow, would this arc have been nothing more than a way to torture Cap?

You’re right about one thing, Patrick; Jet’s reversal is a tough pill to swallow. Maybe it’s a combination of Cap’s mighty goodness and her weak-mindedness? She has basically been brainwashed her entire life, after all. It’s a stretch of the imagination at best, and wholly nonsensical at worst. But her change of heart is my only big complaint for this issue; I have been enjoying this book immensely. I love the outrageous extremes of this science fiction environment, and I love seeing Cap (himself an outrageous extreme) thrust into that environment. It’s basically a pulp sci fi mag from the 60s, but staring Captain America, and that nonsense is right up my alley. What’s even more exciting is that, as things wrap up, I have no idea how this story will end, or where Remender will take it from here. No matter what happens to Cap and Ian, I haven’t a clue what kind of story this will be after. I do, however, believe I will enjoy it. 

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page.  Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore.  If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

13 comments on “Captain America 7

  1. I feel like I just got tricked by business. Not only was there a “BLAM,” there was reddish-looking, blood-like splatter. I was just a tad disappointed in the fact he let her live. It would have been an interesting game-changer for Cap. Alas.

    I’m still on board with this series for the same reason that Shelby is though, and I totally love the whole “I can’t possibly move another inch…AEROBICS AEROBICS AEROBICS” thing that Cap has going on. I totally understand where Patrick is coming from, but Cap’s a superhero, they have a penchant for doing the impossible.

    Hey Shelby, are you reading Uncanny Avengers? Remender says that this story arc will have lasting consequences for Cap that we’ll see reflected in that book.

    • Mik, you’re right about him being a superhero, but I think Patrick’s point is that it is possible. Like, Cap isn’t saying that a normal person couldn’t do it — he’s saying that he can’t do it…but then he does, anyway. It’s kind of a cheap way to up the tension to arbitrarily say something is impossible only to arbitrarily violate that statement by demonstrating that it is possible.

  2. Hey, so Ian’s turn here is clearly brainwashing, but it’s hard for me to discount the betrayal he felt at learning his true parentage. I’m reminded of this op-ed that ran in yesterday’s New York Times. There are a lot of things that piss me off about that op-ed (from privileged white lady in New York crying about some bullshit to the very nature of said bullshit), but you can’t deny that people care deeply about who’s whose parent.

    • Crazy article – I’m furious with basically everyone involved.

      That raises a great point though, Drew: it’s possible that Ian could have been legitimately turned against his adoptive father – there’s emotionally honest precedent for that. But instead, he’s brainwashed (with zombie-ish skin, just so we don’t confuse this for Ian’s real intentions). The brainwashing removes the emotional complexity of the issue, and it delegitimizes Zola’s perspective. I guess when allegiances mean so little that they can be turned with a promise to relieve nausea, we shouldn’t put too much stock in Ian’s choices to do anything.

  3. Breaking Bad Season 3 Spoilers RIGHT HERE:

    Cap shooting Jet at the end of the previous issue felt an awful lot like Jesse shooting Gale at the end of season 3 of Breaking Bad. Huge character moment, dude stretched to his moral limits. Both scenes end with a close shot of the shooter’s face and a loud noise. The difference is Breaking Bad trusts me, and I trust it – when I see Jesse shooting Gale, I can start to work on unpacking what that means for that character and his world. But when Remender’s Captain America shows me the exact same thing (or really, anything now), I can’t trust it.

    I know this is starting to verge on harping, but the move really annoyed me.

    • I remember there being a thread in the comments of The AV Club’s coverage of that episode that posited that the camera move that happens just before Jesse pulls the trigger (that moves from facing down the barrel to a clearer shot of Jesse’s face) meant that Gale had moved out of the way. Nevermind how stupid that would be (a guy knocks on your door, dead-set on shooting you, a little step to the right isn’t going to stop him), it robs that scene of it’s emotional intensity, and betrays a deep distrust of the storytellers. Sometimes, I love a good surprise twist (which Breaking Bad is often quite good at), but I just could not see that reading holding ANY water (nor could I see wanting it to).

      • Yeah, I read that too, and immediately dismissed it as pointless speculation (and not just because Vince Gilligan was also debunking it in interviews the next day), because the story was clearly: “Walt’s back against a wall, he forces Jesse to kill an innocent man.” For that story to mean anything, Jesse’s got to actually do it. Just as “Driven mad by grief, Cap breaks a solemn vow not to murder unarmed opponents in the name of revenge” REQUIRES Cap to murder someone. What else was that encounter about? A superhero deciding not to kill someone (when that’s his MO) is kind of a non-story.

  4. I got a good chuckle out of myself thinking that Cap was just really bad at diagnosing the severity of his injuries. Or maybe he’s just a big ol’ drama queen? “Oh my god, you guys: I totally, absolutely can’t possibly take another step!”

    • I know I’ve already referenced two other outside sources in this comment section today, but this reminds me of the RadioLab episode on limits (which is absolutely worth the listen). One of the things they talk about is that we have some kind of mental governor in place to keep ourselves from actually using up all of our reserves, but that it stops us LONG before we’re really close to being spent (they make a good analogy to a fuel tank meter that reads “E” on a quarter tank). The idea is that we need some energy so that we’re not so exhausted as to not be able to fight or flight. Being in a life/death situation is one of the few ways to override that governor, so it’s possible Cap could think he was at his limit, only to find his second wind…but that doesn’t explain why it would happen more than once in a single issue.

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