No More Mr. Nice Dictator in Captain America: Steve Rogers 18

by Michael DeLaney

Captain America Steve Rogers 18

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Michael: It’s kind of been a kick for me to watch Steve Rogers slowly enact his devious Hydra takeover, but in Captain America: Steve Rogers 18 the kid gloves have come off. As he faces The United Nations, Steve is devoid of any of his hunky charm and goes full-on authoritarian. Steve demands allegiance from the UN and threatens grave consequences if any nation crosses Hydra.

The issue is also book-ended by scenes of Namor’s mental diary as he contemplates giving up his cosmic cube fragment to Hydra and the consequences of refusing. We already know from recent chapters of Secret Empire that Namor will eventually give up the fragment, but Nick Spencer uses Namor’s dilemma as an example of Steve keeping the threatening promise he made to the UN.

Marvel and Spencer are doing some impressive work here by maintaining the release of Secret Empire in tandem with their two Captain America titles. That’s in no small part due to the artists — here Spencer is joined by Javier Pina and Andres Guinaldo. It’s difficult to say if this was intentional, but the Steve Rogers that Guinaldo draws in the UN resembles an angry old man. Maybe that’s just because he’s spouting off such fearful rhetoric and talking down to everyone, but it felt like a stark contrast from the typical pretty boy Steve Rogers that Pina draws a few pages before.

Trumpian things of note here: Steve essentially “demanding loyalty” and going against the majority of the UN. Another thing that struck me was how one ambassador characterizes Steve/Hydra’s bravado as nothing more than typical superhero spectacle. You could make the argument that the ambassador underestimates what Steve is in the same way many of us underestimated The GOP — they’re not the same thing they used to be.

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

4 comments on “No More Mr. Nice Dictator in Captain America: Steve Rogers 18

  1. I didn’t get to mention Black Panther’s badass hijacking of the UN assembly. I love that T’Challa wants the whole world to know that he is not afraid of Steve and Hydra. He lets them know of Hydra’s numerous incursions into Wakanda and dares Steve to come and face him himself. T’Challa is not taking Steve’s bullshit.

  2. HYDREXIT: Steve Rogers continues the now weird reality that this is a better book than its twin, Sam Wilson. Again, it builds a true, overarching narrative for the issue that makes it a story, not just a place to dump all the information about Secret Empire deemed not important enough for the main book. Which is what Steve Rogers sued to be, and Sam Wilson is now.

    THough this is nowhere near as strong as the last issue, as the idea of doing a story from Namor’s perspective about why he decided to surrender to HYDRA doesn’t fully come together. In this issue, we learn why someone would surrender to HYDRA, but not why Namor would.

    I always feel that this issue bites off slightly more than it can chew. It wants to explore the scary strength of such nationalistic rhetoric on an international stage and the fundamental weakness of any foreign policy built upon that rhetoric (interestingly, this is the first comic to be built in part around HYRDA’s foreign policy with real world nations, instead of fictional stand ins. As important as Atlantis and Wakanda are, so are France and China.)

    Steve, dressed in his most real world dictator garb yet, makes a speech that despite everyone’s hatred of his policies, demands attention. The rhetoric is scary, and the threats meaningful. A big part of it comes from confidence. The only proof of Steve’s statements that the US doesn’t need trade are his own words, despite being a ludricous idea (remind you of Trump talking about the need to buy American, which is both terrible American policy but also instantly broken when Trump purchased Russian steel?). The speech scares. Hell, in some panels he truly looks like a madman who has lost control. You can understand the siren song of the speech, why the UN feels intimidated.

    But attention is also paid to how bullshit it is. The Mossad effortlessly steal from HYDRA’s data storage, and no attention is paid to how HYDRA are supposed to know that Isreal is the nation that needs to be embargoed. France successfully fights off HYDRA, who are unequivocally the bad guys and unequivocally rejected. They aren’t people deserving a seat at the table, just a bunch of idiots with guns. And for all of his statements about the military force of HYDRA, the Ascedants are shown to be incontrol of the battlefield. And then, as a final statement, as Michael so wonderfully said, T’Challa takes over the UN in a badass stream that depicts HYDRA as useless, calling out his bullshit and showing the cowardice fascists have beneath their bluster. Steve Rogers talks a big game, but can’t follow it up. Fascist rhetoric in a nutshell.

    The problem with doing a ‘fascist rhetoric is scary and powerful BUT when applied to foreign policy is utterly useless’ story is that the issue so effortlessly demonstrates HYDRA’s weaknesses, the arc of the audience is the exact opposite of Namor’s. We both begin the issue uncertain. WHat should Namor do? How much of a risk is HYDRA? But while our arc is to see the fundamental weakness behind the rhetoic, Namor’s arc is to capitulate. No reader sees T’Challa’s speech and goes ‘Namor should surrender’. A real example of where the needs of the great Secret EMpire story undercut the story Spencer wanted to tell here. The plot required an ending inconsistent with the story that this issue required.


    Secret Empire – Underground/Woman Inherits the Earth: I’m not going to usually discuss other issues underneath unrelated comics, because of the new structure, but as I have already commited to the bit, I want to make sure I finished it.

    I said that Secret Empire 4 was proof that Spencer should do the core Avengers comic. And I think Underground is proof that Whitley should do one of the ancillary ones, and replace Ewing. All the fun and joy that Ewing attempts, but doesn’t feel as hollow. The characters feel like people. People with broad, archetypal personalites, but that is exactly what is required, and a big improvement compared to Ewing’s ‘historical trivia and power set approach’. And so you have a very fun roller coaster ride of Avengers punching dinosaurs

    Whitley writes everyone really well. It is a shame that Tony is stuck in the quinjet, because he writes a fantastic Tony. Whitley finds something for everyone to do, and gives them moments for their character to shine. Special mention goes to Hercules’ excitement to fight dinosaurs and Bobbi, who Whitley has fallen in love with the post-Mockingbird version of.

    And Bobbi naturally works really well for Whitley, as she is the perfect lead for this issue. Whitley’s work often engages in feminist themes, and the Underground walking into the aftermath of a feminist revolution against the patriarchy in the land of dinosaurs is so perfectly fit for a Cain inspired take on Bobbi. Seeing Bobbi forced into an alliance with the sexist Sauron to get the cosmic cube fragment works so well, as are her trials trying to get the cosmic cube piece without ruining the Savage Land but letting Sauron destroy the progress. A fun comic, even if it isn’t really a Secret Empire piece.

    THough it did have a small scene on the traitor, and if I’m reading the underlying intentions of the scene correctly, it just confirmed my suspicion on who the traitor is. It obviously isn’t Pietro, his wish to save Wanda makes him too obvious. But I do believe that everything has been primed for the reveal that HYDRA have something of great stature hanging over one of the other members of the Underground

    (oh, and while I won’t do a full thing on it, Brave New World was disappointing, without a good story inside it. Invaders still crap, Bob, Agent of HYDRA feels wrong now that HYDRA are no longer a pathetic villain faction but a legitmate threat and most importantly, they messed up Rayshaun’s origin to becoming the Patriot. Spencer suggested some interesting stuff with Rayshaun at the end of Sam Wilson, but this origin is basically ‘Rayshaun wanted to help, so Tony made a suit and gave him some training’. No idea about what makes patriot special, where he fits in to the Marvel pantheon. WHich is a shame, because the Rayshaun of Sam Wilson would have been an interesting and unique new superhero)

    • Why do we need a new Patriot at all? What was wrong with Eli Bradley? Marvel seems to have some sort of vendetta against him — Marvel wouldn’t even allow Gillen to show him on-panel in his Young Avengers run, hence one of the YAs speaking to Eli’s mother on the phone and her saying Eli was sick. The whole endeavor seems like kind of a waste.

      Actually, I’d like to see what Eli thinks about Secret Empire — he was never the biggest Steve Rogers fan in the first place.

      • Apparently, there were plans for Eli that left him off the table, but the plans never materialised. Considering that Spencer started seeding Secret Empire back in 2012, it is possible they still have plans. But part of me wonders if they just have a problem with his backstory – his grandfather complicates any attempt to show Steve Rogers as the one true Captain America in a way that making Sam Wilson Cap temporarily doesn’t. Or maybe they think it has been too long and it isn’t worth bringing him back (but he is hardly obscure in a Marvel where all of his other team mates are still running around in noticeable roles)

        Which is a shame. Eli was always second only to Kate in my list of favourite (classic) Young Avengers. If we focus on Spencer’s work with Rayshaun, Rayshaun does feel like a lesser version of Eli. Symbol of America that is actually angry at America. Not much difference between Eli punching a classmate after all of his classmates hate his history project on the Tuskegee Experiment and Rayshaun Do the Right Thinging. Both have that same anger, but Eli combines that with so much other stuff (the MGH stuff, the idea of him being a failed leader that had to hand the reins to Kate).

        And yeah, Spencer’s work would have been an amazing time for Eli. What would he think about an official black Captain America? What would he think of how Sam dealt with the issues in the book? (he could easily have replaced Rage. Would have been more interesting, having the Rage role filled by someone holding a shield). How would he react to Secret Empire?

        The best case scenario would be Eli returning and Rayshaun proving to be a great character by himself. There’s enough space for both of them. But while I’d prefer to have Eli back, especially today when he is more meaningful than ever, I’ll be content if Rayshaun becomes an interesting character. Which is the problem. I can’t understand why anyone would want to write Rayshaun after this origin. So we’ve lost a great character and replaced him with a crap one.

        But oh, imagine a Patriot ongoing with Eli. With the right team, Eli could so easily have one of the best books on the stand. Eli during the time of Trump is the most perfect premise I could imagine

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