Steve Rogers Captain America 1

capt america steve rogers 1

Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Steve Rogers Captain America 1, originally released May 25, 2016.

Patrick: The most troubling thing about any inspirational figure is that they are necessarily mutable. Human beings are never only one thing, but we often reduce them to a single trait or value so that we may incorporate that into our own view of the world. John Lennon believed in peace, Martin Luther King Jr. believed in equality, Steve Jobs believed in innovation. Those are all trite reductions of fantastically complicated people, but it is useful to have avatars of these qualities and principals. Nick Spencer and Jesus Saiz’ Steve Rogers Captain America 1 sets out to complicate one of the most inspirational figures in comics — which I feel is a necessary exploration of the Greatest Generation — but the issue is almost more interested in the concepts of inspiration and legacy than the specific twist deployed on the final splash page.

And that twist should be no surprise to anyone that’s stumbled onto this piece: Steve Rogers hails Hydra and everyone on the internet loses their goddamn minds. If you’ve been on Twitter or Tumblr or comic sites the last week, you’ve seen this reaction. A creation of Jewish storytellers that advocated for intervention in World War II turned into a Nazi! Those words are (mostly) accurate, and the implied outrage (mostly) makes sense, but complaining about that development displays a fundamental misunderstanding of how conflict works in storytelling. The beginning of a story should introduce a threat that makes the audience unhappy – otherwise, what are we sticking around for the resolution of?

Also, it’s immediately obvious that Spencer and Saiz are aware of the inspirational power of the figure they’re wielding in this issue. Cap’s opening voiceover is singularly focused on the idea that inspiration is a powerful, even dangerous concept. We’re literally in the middle of an all-out-brawl in a train car when the narrative cuts away to detail the history of suicide bomber Robbie Dean. Saiz and Spencer don’t offer us a page-turn as a segue to this backstory either – one panel, we’re enjoying some superhero punch-ups, the next we’re getting into the head of a man at the end of his rope.

no page turn

That sets some interesting priorities, doesn’t it? Rather than staying with the action-packed fun-times, we’re interrupted with the story of a character we’ve never met before and who isn’t long for this world. Robbie had a tough life, but Spencer’s narrative is careful not to overly villainize or victimize him. The kid makes mistakes, he makes bad choices, but he also falls into groups and patterns that are arguably beyond his control. Even joining up with Hydra demonstrates a mixed bag of agency and a lack thereof. We’re not letting Robbie off the hook for falling for Red Skull’s speech, but we’re also not downplaying Skull’s persuasive powers either. In fact, that page of Red Skull in the basement is amazing for how much every other element of the story takes a backseat to the one charismatic dude with compelling talking points. Steve’s voiceover, which had been driving the story up to that point, gets cut off, and even Robbie fades away as Red Skull (and his tirade) occupy every single panel.

Red Skull owns the page

Of course, it’s not just the bad guys that inspire people to action. We’re here to discuss Captain America, right? Obviously, the character has inspired others to take up this specific mantle — Sam is still Cap as you’re reading this — but there are also examples of less-direct legacy-continuations playing out here in the form of Jack Flag and Free Spirit. Both of these heroes are decked out in red, white, and blue, and much of their mid-battle banter has to do with wanting to live up to the example set by Cap. Jack Flag even mentions that he can’t wait to tell his grandchildren someday that he fought alongside Captain America. That’d be a good story for him to tell – a clear and easy one, based on a series of oversimplifications.

There’s a curious scene back at S.H.I.E.L.D headquarters where Jack Flag, Free Spirit, and The Whisperer are all bragging about how instrumental they are to the mission of Captain America. They joke about seeing him through the werewolf era or the armor era, and even have to reflect on their own shortcomings. Jack Flag — the big lame-o — used to bring a boombox into battle, and Free Spirit was originally designed to KILL ALL MEN. But they’re both so excited to be both heroic and relevant now. They’re people, so they change, just as the values or traits we ascribe to them can change.

That leaves the audience primed to embrace the twist at the end of the issue. And don’t be fooled: everyone that’s threatening Nick Spencer’s life, or burning his book, or accusing editor Tom Brevoort  of antisemitism is embracing the twist. You don’t have those passionate reactions without believing it on some level. Spencer is artfully leveraging nearly a century of sentiment against us and it is working.

Spencer, I’m sure we could each fill a thousand words with explorations of what this development says about America or Donald Trump or Globalization or Terrorism or Nationalism or WHATEVER, but I’m mostly tickled that this comic forces conversation. I’m not totally convinced that conversation is complete just yet (y’know: after one issue), but I look forward to seeing how Nick Spencer continues to use the office of Captain America to ask hard questions.

Spencer: Patrick, to say this issue spawned a lot of discussion is one helluva understatement, and there’s no way to fully dissect this issue in the space we have; I mean, I’d love to dig into the “Hydra as the Republican party” theory Patrick, Drew, and I tossed around a few days ago (Red Skull is Trump, the huckster bending Hydra/the party’s interests to his whims while alienating the more traditional members of the organization, such as Baron Zemo, who I deem to be Ted Cruz simply because it makes me laugh), but there’s simply bigger fish to fry.

What I know for sure is that, 1. by dropping this bomb on Marvel fans knowing full well the kind of heat he’d take, Nick Spencer has shown more guts than just about anybody I’ve ever seen, and 2. that I kinda resent Spencer for doing it. It’ll probably take me a while to fully unpack that second point, but for starters, I’m frustrated because, up until that last page, I was fully enjoying this issue, and was ready to start recommending it to every casual Captain America fan I knew. Now those same fans are condemning the issue sight unseen, and I don’t feel like I have enough leverage to talk them out of that stance, nor do I even know if I want to in the first place.

Seriously, though, there’s so much to love in Steve Rogers Captain America 1 that’s been completely ignored because of all the discussion of the “twist.” Patrick’s already done an excellent job of exploring much of the politics and thematic stuff Spencer’s got in play, but even the smaller details like characterization and interplay are tremendously on point. I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve read a comic with Sharon Carter in it, but Spencer immediately sells me on her and Steve’s relationship.


That same sense of closeness and camaraderie extends to Jack Flag, Free Spirit, and Rick Jones, all of whom are allowed to bounce off each other and seem genuinely fond of each other, and whose various quirks make them feel like fully-dimensional characters even if we ultimately see very little of them (and I’d never heard of Flag or Spirit before this issue, making this an even greater feat). Ultimately, most of the “hurt” I feel over Jack Flag’s death is due to Steve being the one to kill him (that betrayal hurt far more than the “Hail Hydra,” actually), but I had still grown to like Flag just enough in this brief period that the loss of him as a specific character hurt as well, and that’s a sign of good writing.

Jesus Saiz is pretty astounding throughout the issue as well — his facial expressions capture the emotion of each character perfectly, and Saiz’s focus on the lines on many of his characters’ faces emphasizes the toll the threats they face put on them. This is most prominent in Sharon Carter — which is refreshing, as she’s allowed to show her age and is never disrespected by the narrative or the characters within it for it — but also evident in Robbie Tomlin, who looks far older than he should be thanks to his hard, rough life.


Saiz also impresses with his color choices: the sunset from the helicarrier is dazzling, while his nearly-monochrome take on the flashback scenes is smart and intuitive (especially the rare splashes of red — they usually represent violence or danger in these scenes, but are also used to accent Elisa Sinclair, thus serving as subtle foreshadowing of her true allegiance to Hydra).

Yet nobody’s talking about any of this; Steve’s “Hail Hydra” moment is getting all the buzz/outrage, and I expect that was always the intention. I can deal with that; the problem is that this moment’s cliffhanger status leaves very little to actually discuss other than our feelings about the idea. That way, sadly, lies madness.

If you spent even five minutes online this past week, you were probably overwhelmed by the sheer outrage over this issue; God, I know I was. I usually hate the word “outrage,” as it’s generally used to minimize the pain of people legitimately hurt or upset, but that also depends on the context; I’m far more dismissive of the (ridiculous) “outrage” over a female Thor or a black Cap than I am the (somewhat founded?) cries of anti-semitism surrounding this issue. But justified or not, the outrage over “Hydra Cap” went too far — sending death threats to Nick Spencer is pure evil, and I’m amazed by the lack of awareness of fans actually burning these comics (if for no other reason than they likely had to pay for them).

What’s interesting to me is that Spencer seems to be predicting these reactions within the issue itself. That page Patrick posted of Red Skull’s speech, for example, is all about outrage. His audience — like Spencer’s — feels hurt and hopeless and needs something to rail against, but are completely misguided in their target and methods. Then there’s the matter of empathy.

maria and sharon

Maria Hill sees Hydra agents and can only focus on what they’ve done wrong; Sharon acknowledges that, but can sympathize with where they came from and what drove them to crime. She sees even her enemies as people, and that’s something the “fans” harassing/threatening Nick Spencer have woefully overlooked.

For people who supposedly emulate Cap, they’ve sure misunderstood what he stands (stood?) for. I’ve seen a lot of people I respect take some rash, puzzling, sometimes even troubling stances this week (creators patronizing fans who are legitimately upset by the twist/the ethics surrounding it, online friends badgering Spencer or claiming that “even writing a story where Cap is mind-controlled by Nazis is anti-semitic” when Jack Kirby himself wrote at least one story with that plot). I suppose that’s fitting, as the ultimate purpose of this issue is revealing the dark secrets of Marvel’s patron saint himself. It hurts seeing people you respect screw up, fictional or otherwise.

While upsetting readers is a fundamental part of storytelling, though — nothing hurts as good as a brilliantly executed twist or character death — there’s a difference between that and alienating readers by fundamentally changing who a character is. A Steve Rogers who secretly serves his greatest enemy (and a Nazi organization at that) is my equivalent of Superman snapping necks in Man of Steel or Batman nearly murdering Superman in cold blood in Batman v. Superman — it’s a betrayal of everything the character’s ever stood for.

With that in mind, I’m curious to see what the legacy of this storyline eventually ends up being. I’ve seen very few people actually enthusiastic about this concept — some are outraged, most of my friends simply dismissed the idea as “stupid” and moved on, and the few actually interested in reading the book seem more curious than anything. Will all this buzz actually have any impact on sales or reception, for good or for bad? Hell, will the quality of the book even make a difference? Who knows at this point.

So, can a Captain America who serves Hydra make a good story? Probably — if anybody can do it, Spencer can, and if it bombs, it will be easy enough to reverse (Kobik is still in play, after all). Is it a story that should be told, though? I’m honestly leaning towards “no,” and Spencer’s gonna have a lot of people to convince otherwise.

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16 comments on “Steve Rogers Captain America 1

  1. Oh man, so many thoughts. For me, the big thing that the people decrying this premise for being anti-semitic is that it perfectly positions the series for addressing the real-world anti-smitism of Trump (something I’ve been thinking a lot about since reading this piece in the New York Times). I mean, what better way than to address once respected old white dudes supporting a xenophobic demagogue than to have the paragon of respected old white dudes throwing in with a xenophobic demagogue? Personally, I’m not willing to make any subject matter off-limits for storytelling, but I’m particularly unwilling to make issues central to current American discourse off-limits to the physical embodiment of American values. To say that Cap, for all of his history couldn’t do such a thing is to ignore the outpouring of support Trump has garnered from heretofore upstanding, freedom-supporting Americans. That is, I think this twist would work even if I thought Spencer’s intention was to permanently alter Cap’s history.

    But, of course, nobody thinks that. It’s no coincidence that Kobik is still an active force in this issue, and further no coincidence that the charismatic leader chosen to stand in for Trump also has mind-control powers. In that way, I think this is decidedly different from Man of Steel or Batman v. Superman, which unequivocally asserted those murders as sober, uninfluenced choices made by DC’s two biggest adherents to the “no killing” rule. The ending of this issue is undoubtedly more complicated than that, but even if it wasn’t, the reactions are totally unwarranted.

    When we’re dealing with 75 year-old characters who have appeared in countless comics, movies, television shows, video games, etc, there are bound to be interpretations that you don’t like. This twist isn’t any more capable of “ruining” my enjoyment of Captain America than Batman v. Superman was capable of “ruining” my enjoyment of Batman. It was an interpretation I wasn’t going to enjoy, so I skipped it altogether. I’ve done that with a LOT of comics over the years, reading the ones that I like and skipping the ones that I don’t.

    Is this case different? Does the identity of Cap’s creators make this twist more than just a story you can choose to ignore? I’ve seen quite a few folks argue this point over the past week, but I haven’t seen anybody do it persuasively. I tend to adhere pretty strongly to the “death of the author” (which, contrary to popular belief, is NOT about threatening to kill authors), so I tend to not care about how Cap got to the page. For me, the meaning of any work of art comes from my own interaction with it, so Judaism has never influenced my reading of Steve Rogers: I’m not Jewish, he’s not Jewish, so unless the story is expressly about Jewishness, it’s never going to enter the equation. I realize that equation changes significantly for readers who are Jewish — who I can’t presume to speak for — but I think the unsettling nature of a presumed ally becoming a bitter enemy is exactly what this issue is about. That’s going to hit harder for some readers than others, but that’s the case with any narrative. A reader who doesn’t see that deeply offended reading (or an author who doesn’t anticipate or intend that reading) isn’t bigoted or insensitive, they just have different perspectives from which they view art. Some might argue that the Jewish perspective is the more important one in this case, and while I’m not sure I agree, I think it’s easier to point to the fact that there is no one “Jewish perspective” — while some have condemned this issue, others have praised it. In that way, I’m inclined to thing that this case isn’t different from someone not liking Meredith and David Finch’s Wonder Woman. They can (and should) skip it if they don’t like it, but it really can’t do any damage to their own head canon version of the character. Nick Spencer’s run on Captain America isn’t any more definitive than any of the countless Cap stories you’ve never read, so why treat it like it is?

    • I also think it’s not fair for people to say to be saying that they’re “making Cap a Nazi” when he is very specifically hailing Hydra and not Hitler. ESPECIALLY within the context of this issue, it is clear that Hydra is a more generalized hate and malice, able to adapt to the most historically relevant evil at the time of the comic’s publishing. Right now, that makes Hydra a cross between ultra-conservatives and terrorists, which in and of itself is a bold conflation to make (though, I’d argue was still one that Spencer was making in Sam Wilson Captain America 1).

      And, like Drew, I also LOVE the idea that the shining hero of the Greatest Generation SHOULD be exposed for it’s continuing racism, sexism and general terribleness. We always let that generation off the hook for everything because they stormed the beaches of Normandy. Which: fine, yes, that was a very heroic thing that the US Army did, but that does not mean that their full legacies are without tarnish. Cap’s superpower is essentially bringing that generation’s values to the present, so that should also be his greatest character-weakness.

      • I might add that making ANYONE immune to that “generalized hate and malice” undermines the very banality of that hate. The story of Robbie passively falling in with Hydra makes it clear that this kind of bigotry can happen incrementally, even to well-meaning people. Yeah, if Cap just woke up one day and said “I think I’ll join Hydra!” it would totally be a gimmick, twisting the character in directions he would never go. If, instead, the character we know as reasonable and compassionate was slowly lead down a different path, we would come to understand just how banal that evil is. That’s a SUPER important point to understand as our political discourse increasingly embraces bigotry — we can’t simply dismiss those voices as “evil,” we have to understand the conditions that nurture those outlooks.

        • Drew, I agree with you totally, and I think that Nick Spencer is making an incredibly important statement about the way poverty (and disempowerment overall) and terrorism go hand in hand. Both Robbie and Steve grew up poor and helpless, and I think the point the issue is getting at is, because of this, they were swayed by the same evil organization–though by different leaders within that organization–to join in the hopes of finally having a place in the world where they felt supported (financially and otherwise.)

      • I don’t think it matters that this is HYDRA, and that HYDRA are, in the comics, are ancient Egyptian cult. Ultimately, they are used as ‘Marvel Nazis’. When your leaders include Baron Strucker, the Red Skull and Baron Zemo, you are Nazis. Especially when the current HYDRA is speaking in neo-fascist talking points (and I don’t think the link to terrorism generalizes the new version of HYDRA. Ultra Conservatives/Neo-fascists have been connected to terrorism, though their methods of terrorism is usually mass shootings)

        On Drew’s point that this twist could work even if it was a permanent change on Steve Rogers history, it would be fascinating. William Burnside, but of the character so closely connected to everyone else would be powerful supervillain. And the idea of the people having to admit they didn’t notice a Neo Fascist under their noses until it was almost too late would be ripe for interesting stuff

        Though I don’t think what is happening here is a critique on the Greatest Generation. THere is some interesting stuff to say about that stuff, and I’ve heard people discuss how Captain America should do some ‘you’re a credit to your race’ unintentional racism to explore how he didn’t come from a perfect time (they actually do this on occasion in World War 2 stories, like in Parker’s Thunderbolts). But this story is about the horrors of fascism, not the flaws of the Greatest Generation

  2. Honestly, I really liked this issue. Thankfully, when I first read the reveal, I hadn’t seen any of the internet reactions, and I thought it was an amazing moment. Oh, it was horrifying to be sure, but in a good way. The way a cliffhanger SHOULD be.

    Moreover, though, I think the twist ties into the overall message of the story–which, if I’m allowed to have a self-aggrandizing moment, I talked about here:

    I think the issue has a lot to offer beyond the twist, though, but, unfortunately, it’s hard to find anyone who wants to talk about anyone except “Hail Hydra”. The flashback sequence, for example, is one that I adored. Especially early on, the artistic choices that Saiz uses to depict Steve’s father are fascinating; did any one else notice that Steve’s father is drawn in a remarkably similar way to the way Joe Chill usually is? I have some ideas about what that could mean if it is intentional–mostly having to do with the economic disparity between Steve Rogers and Bruce Wayne–but what do you guys think? Am I seeing something that isn’t there?

    Also, Spencer, while I did think Nick Spencer was making the Red Skull a Trump analogue, I didn’t realize that Zemo, the blundering also ran, so easily fit the mold of a Ted Cruz. Intentional or not, I love the comparison; it’s hilarious.

    • Saiz is a fucking genius (I’ll never forget Drew and I championing is work on the first couple issues of Birds of Prey as Watchmen-level good: ). And it is INFURIATING that no one is talking about anything but the twist in this thing. It is a very well constructed comic book on just about every level.

      So, I definitely welcome your piece Jeremy – thank you for sharing! I’m not sure I see the connection to Bruce Wayne. I’ll have to go back to the issue… but I don’t think you really need to walk that far to find a line between Batman and Captain America, right? I’ll be thinking about that this morning.

      • Yeah, it’s a funny thing about comics credits that only Spencer is getting flack for this issue. I mean, sure, Saiz isn’t on twitter, but I haven’t seen anyone take him to task for drawing this issue. Creator rights!

  3. If the issue stood on its own, without that interview, I think there would’ve been less furor. Divorcing my knowledge of the interview with the splash and what was presented in the issue, I’d have thought “he’s setting up a tease, the cosmic cube girl is probably involved somehow, as is that Red Skull as priest.” That they insisted that it’s absolutely Steve Rogers and now we need to consider that everything he did, including the final act he and Bucky had together, must be reevaluated through a different lens is kind of insulting. He’s the moral center of the Marvel universe, and he’s the embodiment of the best of America, even if it’s more of an ideal than anything that can ever be attained. Suddenly making him part of what was essentially a Nazi offshoot/metaphor is insulting, especially considering the reason he was initially created. This takes him from subverting the Aryan Uebermensch to fulfilling it.

    I don’t usually buy Cap books, but I bought this one because my husband insisted. I don’t think I’ll keep buying this run; I’ll just wait till it is on Marvel Online, and I’m sure the Internet will let me know what’s what as it comes out. It’ll probably be undone by Christmas. If by some bizarre chance it’s not, and Steve’s really been a Hydra sleeper for 80 years, then the outrage will be justified. Hopefully it’s the Cube girl and this will go down with other dumb ideas like Angelic Punisher and Matt Murdock, leader of the Hand.

    • I think Superior Spider-Man is the better point of comparison, since it also featured a writer insisting that the events of the story are real and permanent. To me, that’s the only way to play it. As readers, we know that whatever superhero will always survive/save the day, but I don’t begrudge a writer for insisting that they might not this time. They need to hold up that possibility for us to maintain our suspension of disbelief long enough to actually be invested in the story. Spencer is only reiterating what is in this issue, which suggests that Steve really was a Hydra agent all along. Sure, it’s probably the result of Red Skull tampering with time, and sure, it’ll probably be undone in relatively short order, but I think Spencer has a responsibility to his readers to not just give the ending away like that in an interview. Moreover, if Red Skull altered time, Spencer’s remarks aren’t necessarily untrue, even if the cosmic cube is later used to undo those events.

      • Hey that’s an interesting question that maybe we’ll know the answer to in like a day – is this part of what Civil War II is about? We’ve gotten hints that the story has to do with changing the future, but I always assumed that had to do with the X-Men somehow… maybe it had more to do with Avengers’ responsibility toward “protecting” history, which would include Roger’s.

    • As Drew said, do you really expect Spencer and Brevoort to say ‘this story doesn’t matter, don’t worry, everything will be fine’. They want to keep you engaged, and to suggest that this story doesn’t matter is a poor way both to market the story and to keep up the engagement (and the true measure on whether a piece of art is good or not is engagement). Quite noticeably, they were quick to declare that Steve Rogers wasn’t undercover, mind controlled or an imposter, but clearly left out anything to do with Cosmic Cubes, the thing that every Spencer Captain America comic has been about

      I also don’t know how insulting it is to turn Captain America from a subversion of the Aryan ideal to the Aryan ideal itself, when, at the same time, you turn him from a hero to a villain. Captain America is clearly the villain in this comic. He aligns himself with terrorists and murders Jack Flagg. They don’t pretend that Captain America is both a good guy and a Nazi. So surely a comic showing that a Captain America who followed Nazi ideals is a terrible thing is not against the ideals that Captain America was built upon. Especially in a time when actual experts on fascism are making clear the dangers of Trump, and therefore culture obviously has a need to understand exactly what those Nazi ideals are and why they are bad, instead of this vague understanding of ‘they were bad guys’. Taking a small diversion to show why it is so important that Captain America is the idealogical opposite of Fascism is, in my opinion, an idea worth exploring

      And what makes you that there is a possibility that this is gong to stick? Because I’ve seen many people say similar stuff, and I don’t get it.

  4. Before I can discuss the real meat, let’s deal with the controversy. Because sadly you can’t discuss the real meat without dealing with the controversy. And let’s begin with a followup to that AV Club article I posted on the DC Rebirth page, since the two books are exactly opposite to each other and therefore we end up having a lot of the same stuff

    The thing that really applies here is the discussion on coffee shop/bakery fanfic, as this is really true and speaks to a greater problem with a significant group of comics fans. There are fans who have a hatred of anything in comics that actually creates drama. Anything that challenges or creates conflict is seen as bad. I’ve seen communities who seem to hate Johns, Slott, Hickman, Aaron, (Scott) Snyder, Spencer and more, to the point I wonder who are they actually reading. Now, I don’t like all of those writers, but the fact is, these communities have a distaste for all of them. And a lot of it comes down to not enjoying being challenged with the sort of drama that is inherent is stories like Hickman’s Avengers or Superior Spider-man. And I feel that Spencer has managed to hit the nerve of this sort of feeling in a truly effective way, hitting anyone who feels that in the slightest, because Fandom is broken.

    What it is about is a true rejection of storytelling. I mean, whatever you think of this comic, the one thing people have to accept is that it is the beginning of a story. But this is never the case. Some people seem to think that Captain America is now a Nazi forever, while others are angry at gimmick storytelling that will be retconned away later. Both of these dismiss the very obvious other option, that Nick Spencer has a planned ending for this story that addresses the concerns. I’ve seen some people say the idea that Spencer has an ending planned doesn’t matter because not everyone is familiar with comics and their frequency to tell this sort of story, but this isn’t unique to comics. This is storytelling 101.

    This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t engage in the story, that the fact that we know that this isn’t the case is grounds to dismiss it. But there is a real problem with people who don’t know how to engage with a story properly. What the end of this issue is is a Cliffhanger. Something bad happens, that seems like an insurmountable challenge that will prevent the rightful ending from occurring, and the correct way to engage with a cliffhanger isn’t ‘Everything is fucked, this is stupid’, but ‘How are they going to get out of this one?’

    But our ability to engage with a story seems to have been destroyed to the point that we cannot recognize a cliffhanger (because the ‘victory’ of geek culture has trained geeks to feel entitled, and therefore don’t know how to respond when someone liek Spencer refuses to give them what they want). Let’s ignore the Mary Sue article that suggested that making a superhero a Nazi is a perfectly good idea were it not a character who symbolically did not represent progressive values. That writer has much bigger problems. But among every other discussion, the big problem with the twist is the idea of Captain America being a Nazi is wrong.

    And now, let’s explore the final scene in the context it exists in.
    Firstly, Captain America is traditionally known as a superhero, and as someone with a strong moral backbone.
    Secondly, Captain America aligns himself with HYDRA, who, in the context of pop culture today, is one of the most iconic villains, known by everyone as Nazi organization and in fact is a pop culture meme of evil because of how perfectly they capture a specific idea of evil in today’s culture.
    Thirdly, Captain America aligns himself with HYDRA who, in the context of the Marvel universe, are an organization that isn’t technically Nazi, but often represents the ideals of its leaders, usually the Red Skull, Baron von Strucker or Baron Zemo, who are Nazis. Because of this, HYDRA is, in the greater Marvel Universe, seen as evil.
    Fourthly, Captain America aligns himself with HYDRA, an organization that, in the context of this very issue, is characterized with Neo-Nazis and terrorism, and are therefore evil.
    Fifthly, Captain America reveals himself as HYDRA just moments after pushing Jack Flagg, superhero, ex-Guardian of the Galaxy who was constantly sick of that cosmic #%$! and both characterized and identified as a hero in the comic. This is, of course, an evil act.

    Placed in context, there is a clear contradiction. The first point clearly contradicts the other four. Now, let’s assume that Nick Spencer and Marvel editorial understands that HYDRA are bad guys and that Nazism, terrorism, and murder are wrong, which I think are very fair assumptions. Which is a more fair conclusion? That they decided to make a Superhero a Nazi, or that it is the first step in a story that will resolve that contradiction so that points two through five don’t contradict point one (easy answer, prior to this issue, the Red Skull used the cosmic cube to rewrite Steve Rogers history so that during the period of these comics, Captain America isn’t a good guy)

    The fact that despite all that context (and please note that point 2 doesn’t even require you to read a comic book, and yet should be more than enough to come to the conclusion I reached), we can’t assume that there is an endgame to this is dreadful. That we are actually assuming the most likely resolution to this is that Captain America is a Nazi. We’ve forgotten how stories work, because we have gotten used to the idea that stories should do nothing more than give us what we want.

    And it is sad, because of what this book wishes to do with it. The Donald Trump thing is obvious, as is the awareness of the connection between Trump and Nazis. The book is obviously interested in the sad revitalization of the neo-fascist movement, something that has made a comeback in many forms. And Donald Trump is at the centre of that. And that’s what makes making Captain America a member of HYDRA so clever. Because they don’t just exist off in the side, easily dismissed as villains. They also exist as the Republican nominee. What Captain America being HYDRA actually is is the worst case scenario in the General Election.

    Nick Spencer guides us on what can turn people into a neo-fascist, shows the horrors that neo-fascists can inflict (if there is a point of criticism of this issue, this is it. I think Spencer conflates Neo-Fascist terrorism with our perception of Muslim terrorism. THis sort of terrorism should manifest itself with mass shootings), and then, after seeing the horror, forces us the to confront the worst case scenario. And why? Because the worst case scenario is almost here. Captain America as HYDRA is the superheroic equivalent of a Trump presidency. And when that worst case scenario happens, things go wrong. Jack Flagg gets thrown out of a plane. Heroes die, as the very structure they exist in is perverted.

    Is this what fans wanted? No, it isn’t. But we needed something better. We needed something that was going to challenge us, that refused to give us what we wanted by instead tried to confront us with a horror that challenged us. But who cares about that? Because fans are entitled to the version of Captain America that doesn’t challenge the world. We won’t explore what HYDRACap means.


  5. I finally read this two days ago and I had no idea there was a twist ending. I was surprised, but mostly I was sad. Not a weepy kind of sadness; I didn’t start sobbing hysterically. I just felt sad, like something I trusted was taken away.

    On that level, that means it was a good story. I was invested the whole way, I even enjoyed the goofiness of Jack Flag and Free Spirit or whatver her name was.

    My big question was this: Was the Cap backstory about his dad and mom something that was known before this? I guess I wasn’t aware of it, but I’m not a huge Cap reader (only really read him in Avengers, for years his self-titled comic wasn’t very good (other than Brubaker).

    • Cap’s dad being an abusive alcoholic has been a piece the character’s history for awhile now. I don’t know when it was established, but the first time I learned about it was an original Civil War One-shot by Christos Gage where Iron Man reflects on the time Cap confronted Tony about his drinking; he says that Cap told him about his father’s alcoholism.

    • Which elements? HYDRA stuff is definitely new, but the idea of Steve Rogers as the son of Irish Immigrants is pretty old. I believe it was Remender who established Steve’s father as an abusive drunk

      And yeah, I loved Jack Flagg and Freedom Spirit (I think her name was). I love that Jezebel joke so much. I’m looking forward to seeing what Spencer does with the sidekicks after this issue

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