Dystopia in the Not-So-Distant Future in Captain America 698

by Spencer Irwin

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

I was raised on classic television, and as a kid I remember always getting a big kick out of the fact that the original Lost in Space series took place in the “distant future” of 1997. As a general rule, ascribing a specific date to your fictional future is a great way to rob it of its power and wonder, but Captain America 698 turns that rule completely on its head, finding its most effective twist in the “when” of its dystopian future.

After being (yet again) frozen in a block of ice last month, Captain America awakens to find himself in a dystopian future America, a world burnt and disfigured and under the tyrannical thumb of Rampart, the right-wing threat that’s been in Cap’s orbit since Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s run began. Waid and Samnee quickly establish this world with familiar alt-future tropes such as Big Brother-esque death squads, but still manage to make it feel scarily prescient thanks to touches, like the self-inflicted nuclear attack and the 1% leaders who don’t even pretend to represent the people, that feel ripped straight out of the headlines, and right out of our current fears.

Yet, the most frightening aspect of this future isn’t the mutations or the death squads or the rich dictator named after a Jim Gaffigan sketch, but when it takes place.

Throughout the issue Waid characterizes Cap as an “old pro” at getting frozen and thawed, and combined with our familiarity with dystopian future stories, this leads both Cap and the audience to assume that he’s been awoken decades in the future. Instead, though, it’s only been seven years. What’s most frightening about this future isn’t any specific atrocity, but the fact that it happened so quickly.

It’s interesting reading this story so soon after the end of Secret Empire, which featured not only many of the same dystopian tropes, but a similarly quick fall for democracy. The biggest difference is the fact that, this time, Steve Rogers is still the Cap we know and love, the one who’s memorized the Bill of Rights, salutes those he saves, and who won’t hesitate for even a second before running into danger to save and protect the weak. Samnee’s classic Cap can’t help but to evoke nostalgia, and at one point Samnee even paints him like a war propaganda poster.

It’s hard not to feel hopeful with Captain America on the case. I can only hope Cap’s mission to take down Rampart ends up as relevant to current political events as Rampart’s dystopia itself does.

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


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