An Attack on Steve’s Morality in Captain America 697

by Spencer Irwin

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

Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s take on Captain America is already drastically different from Nick Spencer’s that preceded it, doling out mostly episodic adventures in comparison to the one long story Spencer told, and focusing less on actual politics and more on the idea of Steve Rogers being a good and righteous man, and trying to inspire others to be the same. The return to simpler, more swashbuckling tales has been a nice palate cleanser, especially as readers reacquaint themselves to the original, non-Hydra version of Cap, but I’m hoping we get something a little more substantial sooner rather than later.

Fortunately, Captain America 697 is already a smart change-up of the series formula, foregoing the small-town adventures to instead place Steve in the cross-hairs of Kraven the Hunter, looking to hunt Cap as sport. Both Steve and Kraven seem to realize that this has been done before, which is why Kraven throws in Steve’s kryptonite — an innocent civilian he must guide and protect through their jungle trek. This ends up being a two-pronged attack on Steve’s morality on Kraven’s behalf — not only is Steve forced to go along with Kraven’s game in order to keep the man safe, but it turns out that the man is actually working for Kraven and looking for an opportunity to kill Steve himself. Both aspects are nothing less than an attack on Steve’s very goodness itself.

Steve, though, is smart enough to figure out that his companion is crooked long before it’s revealed to him (or readers). I wish Steve’s doubts had been clearer to readers, but I appreciate what this says about Steve as a person — he knew this man was evil, working against him, but continued to protect him anyway until he explicitly turned on him. Steve is just a genuinely good man, an inspiration, but that doesn’t make him a sucker.

Ultimately, the most enjoyable aspect of this issue may just be the chance it gives Samnee to bring to life Cap’s trek through the jungle, giving us a glorious fight against a leopard (and plenty of other action sequences) in Samnee’s typically smart and kinetic style.

I’m specifically fond of this sequence here, which uses the shape and layout of the panels to show the arc of Steve’s throw without the need for motion lines. This is typical of the thought and skill Samnee puts into all his work.

The issue closes on an intriguing cliffhanger, one that not only taps into Cap’s greatest fear, but which seems poised to set up a larger threat and an over-arcing story to this volume of Captain America. That may be just what this series needs to take its already-charming stories to the next level.

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

One comment on “An Attack on Steve’s Morality in Captain America 697

  1. I picked this up because I was interested in Marvel’s post credit scene idea, and seeing how such a tool was going to be used by Marvel. Pretty poor. Post credit scenes work because of payoff, either with a reveal or a gag. That’s why the worst ones in the movies were Amazing Spiderman and Thor Ragnarok, movies whose post credit scenes lacked a reveal, just mystery. Who was the man in the shadows? What was the giant ship? Nobody knows. And the post credit page here has nothing happen. This could have been used as a tease for what was going to happen, but Logan turning up only to miss Steve isn’t anything. It is just page space. And I’m not going to pick up any other is these issues unless I already planned to

    The comic itself was also pretty bad. As a comic all about challenging Steve’s morality, it does a terrible job with Steve’s morality. Not that he’s immoral or anything, just that the comic explores his morality in such a way.

    The important part about superheroes is goodness, but it isn’t about the fact that they are good, it is about how they are good. One of the key ideas is exploring their beliefs. Captain America, for example, is often all about the ideals that underpin America’s myths about itself. Here, however, is a comic that strips all of that away to create the most simplistic notion of goodness.

    One of the key things is the fact that there are literally no innocents or civilians int his comic. Even at the bar, the woman is a villain. Even in the flashback, there is only HYDRA. The relationship between a superhero and civilians is an important one. The idea that superheroes help those without power to save themselves. Instead, we have a comic where everyone is a threat to Steve. A problem that compounds itself with the actual events of the comic.
    I mean, imagine if this comic was the sole surviving superhero story ever, examined by archaeologists who had no knowledge of superheroes. This comic’s presentation is of a man of pure morality, living in a world so degenerate that literally everyone seeks to destroy this sole beacon of heroism. The surrounding context of every other Captain America story negates this, but it is a problem that a done in one story, especially a done in one story with that ending, pays so little attention to the idea of superheroes as Protectors of the Weak that we end up with THAT.

    But there is also very little ideology to this comic. What makes Steve Rogers a good person? He helps a seemingly innocent man and he tells Kraven to hold on. Certainly good, but not exactly a deep examination. There is a reason why he often fights Nazis and fascists, because they present an ideological opposition to define himself against. But this comic lacks anything like the idea that Steve fights for, say, ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’. Or any particular ideals. His goodness certainly exists, but is simplistic. Especially against a threat that is equally simplistic (I want to kill Captain America specifically – which is not a bad thing, were it not for the fact that the hero is also simplistic).

    What you end up having is a very empty character. I don’t know the rest of this book, btu I would assume the idea of this issue was to give a very traditional story that affirmed everything classic about Captain America before shaking everything up. This book doesn’t betray that intent, but does the worst version of it. It is the most simplistic version of Captain America possible, as empty as you could go without being out of character. A story where there is no civilian to define his relationship against, no ideology spouted by anyone.

    Add to that the fact that Kraven feels wrong (I can’t see Kraven willing to let anyone else have the kill on his prey, even if it was his plan), the pacing issues (should have revealed the gun to the audience half way through, so that something happens instead of repeating the same sequence again and again and again) and smaller writing issues, and this is an exceptionally unimpressive issue.

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