How a War of Language Escalates to Full-On War in Captain America Steve Rogers 19

by Patrick Ehlers

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

There are few political and social movements in my lifetime that have caused my peer group to stand up and say “fuck that whole ideology.” The rise of Trump and white nationalists is one such movement. I do it too — I find the ideas and attitude so repugnant, that I can’t help but extend my disgust to the people who preach it. Whether I’m justified in jumping to such combative language (did I really just use the f-word in the first sentence of a Retcon Punch piece?) the effect is undeniable: I’m contributing to the adversarial relationship that makes it feel like there’s moral gulf between myself and a Trump supporter. And with a chasm between us, how do we ever find common ground? Captain America Steve Rogers 19 asks these same questions, and unsettlingly lands on an answer: war.

There are two conversations around which this issue is built: Steve and the Odinson and Steve and Sharon Carter. Writer Nick Spencer layers both of these conversations with tons of tiny references to the on-going “culture war” in America. Let’s start with Odinson and Cap. I’m using that name for the fallen Thor because that’s the name that he insists on, but Steve keeps using his old name. Cap’s deadnaming the Odinson, the practice whereby you call someone by a name they no longer use. Deadnaming is a huge issue in the trans community, as using a person’s name is one of the simplest signs of respect and courtesy, but transphobic people will gleefully withhold that respect. It’s a potent metaphor in 2017, but is hyper-relevant in light of Trump’s tweets about transgender people serving in the military.

What’s more, instead of comforting a friend (or former-friend, it’s hard to say Rogers has friends anymore), Rogers taunts the Odinson for not fighting to keep his hammer. Steve all but calls him a cuck, and all poor Odinson can eek out is the sad, but true, statement: “it’s… it is not mine.”

There are echoes of taking one’s country back in what Steve is saying. Does that make the Odinson’s statement an admission of defeat, or an acknowledgement of reality? Steve sees it one way, and the Odinson sees it the other, which means their conversation inevitably turns to threatens and shattered glasses — a total breakdown of interpersonal diplomacy.

Things are much worse when Steve checks in on Sharon Carter, who tried to kill Steve in Secret Empire 7Sharon strikes out from a place of much more obvious weakness than the Odinson — she is imprisoned, and he’s decked out in Hydra officer garb. Artist Jesus Saiz brilliantly stages most of this scene with Sharon’s body framing the action — in the foreground, even when trapped behind glass.

Her words help define Steve in this moment. She compares him to the Red Skull, raises Steve’s ire until the point she finally drops a different f-word: fascist. This was already miles away from being a productive conversation, but that word flips a switch in Cap’s brain. His eyes narrow, he takes a beat, marches out of the room, and declares war.

Does Steve deserve to have all of these difficult conversations? Totally. Does he deserve to have his actions and behaviors accurately labeled? Absolutely. Does that discourse lead him to a more sensible course of action? Of course not. Aggression beget aggression. Spencer is not prescriptive here, but illustrative of a process of which we’ve all lost control.

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

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One comment on “How a War of Language Escalates to Full-On War in Captain America Steve Rogers 19

  1. Patrick, I love your take on the Odinson scene, comparing it to deadnaming. That is a fantastic take. THough I would be wary of saying too much about the idea the discourse being insufficently productive. In fact, I’d argue Sharon’s discourse had the best possible effect.
    Building bridges with Trump voters, done properly, is a good thing. But there are some that are too far gone. While there is benefit is building a bridge with Jim from Ohio, trying to build a bridge with the real life Red Skull, Steve Bannon would be an atrocious idea. THis version of Steve is too far gone for discourse to convert him, the value in the discourse it to hurt. And by that metric, SHaron was hugely productive. Comparing him to Red SKull, calling him a fascist, is the exact thing that throws Steve, valuable during a time where Steve’s resolve is shaken. We can see Steve had taken tha tpersonally, because of his childish attempt at getting the last word. ANd hoenstly, that is more valuable than anything else Sharon could achieve.

    As an issue itself, this is a hard thing to discuss. Of all the Secret EMpire tie ins, this has th eleast effort of an actual narrative. It is simply two conversation, with no overarching ‘story’. Similar themes and ideas etc, but not a ‘story’. THe actual content of the conversastions is fantastic. SPencer shows a real aptitude with what Aaron is doing with Odinson at th emoment, creatign a compelling conversation by rooting everything not just in who Odinson is generally but in his current context. And the Thursday line is really perfect. You can see Odinson really enjoying that excuse for revelry.
    And yeah, as I said, the Sharon stuff does such a great job at making Sharon’s words hurt. She is written pitch perfectly, and makes me wish that SPencer gave Sharon more time throughout his run. A really great scene

    Still, as an issue overall, it is missing the ‘story’. The great tragedy of tie ins like this…

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