Recently, things have been rather interesting for Marvel and their golden boy, Captain America. Earlier this week, the hashtag #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend went viral and was trending worldwide across social media, as fans urged both Marvel and Disney to spice things up and let Cap come out of the metaphorical closet. Wednesday marked the release of Marvel’s new comic book, “Captain America: Steve Rogers #1” by writer Nick Spencer and artist Jesus Saiz, which dropped a major twist bombshell – igniting the internet into a frenzy.
Spoilers abound below, so read on at your own risk.
Spencer and Saiz shocked the world with their premier issue of the new series, revealing that the newly-regenerated (more on that in a bit) Captain America, the first Avenger, WWII hero, is actually an agent of the nefarious HYDRA organization. Captain America is a double agent? Shit. That’s some heavy stuff to drop on comic fans, especially on the heels of Marvel and Disney’s hit film “Captain America: Civil War,” which paints Cap as the most patriotic good guy, ever.
The story in the comics is obviously separate and different from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), so it will be interesting to see if this has any influence in the MCU. As far as the comics go, up until recently, Steve was leading SHIELD and battling osteoporosis without his superpowers, after the Super Soldier Serum in his system broke down, causing him to rapidly catch up to the age he should’ve naturally been. At the end of the massive event “Avengers: Standoff,” old-man Steve was near death after a severe beating from Crossbones when Kobik, the sentient form of merged Cosmic Cube fragments (more backstory here, for those interested), rejuvenated Steve, making him young again and restoring his super-human abilities just in time. Steve completes his comeback from near-death with the premier issue of “Captain America: Steve Rogers,” albeit with a new, differently-shaped shield (armed with a laser cutter?) because Sam Wilson (AKA The Falcon) is still running around as Captain America as well, with the original shield.
At the onset of Issue No. 1, this seems to be yet another run-of-the-mill Captain America story, with Steve and his C-list sidekicks Jack Flag and Free Spirit tracking HYDRA villain Baron Zemo, who has been on the run with his prisoner Dr. Erik Selvig (yes, the one of MCU fame. He’s also the “keeper” of Kobik when she’s in human form) since the end of ‘Standoff.” After establishing the main story, things shift gears to an apparent HYDRA recruitment rally, where Red Skull is preaching racist anti-refugee/immigration and using the scourge of unemployment (pretty timely material, right?) to rile up supporters. We’re then introduced to a young man without a cause, who wants to belong to something and signs up for HYDRA, but then has second thoughts after watching fellow members beat a man to death, solely because of the color of his skin. Peppered throughout the dual-story is a flashback to Steve’s childhood in 1926, where a mysterious woman, Elisa Sinclair, rescues Sarah Rogers from her alcoholic and abusive husband Joseph. Elisa takes a special interest in Sarah and her young son, eventually inviting them to attend a meeting for a “league” she is part of. Elisa hands Steve a flyer, which shows information for a meeting of the New York Chapter of the HYDRA Society, with the organization’s classic logo boldly displayed atop the paper. Rounding back to the hunt for Baron Zemo, Cap and Jack track him to Baglia (a fictional, sovereign island nation, ruled by criminals. Sounds nice, right?) and board his plane to apprehend him and save Dr. Selvig. Flag, obviously doing the “right” thing, knocks Zemo out cold. In reaction, Steve unexpectedly throws Flag from the plane to his death, then turns to Selvig and says, “Hail HYDRA.”
If you’re thinking to yourself, “Boy, this sure sounds like nothing more than a stupid marketing ploy!” you’re not alone. Unfortunately, this seems to be the real deal, at least for now. In an interview with TIME, Marvel Editor Tom Brevoort said author Nick Spencer pitched this story at the end of 2014, when he was coming on board to take over the regular Captain America series featuring Sam Wilson, and is definitely not a gimmick. In a separate interview with EW, Spencer emphasized that this is actually THE Steve Rogers, saying “This is not a clone, not an imposter, not mind control, not something else acting through Steve. This is really Steve Rogers, Captain America himself.” The author went on to specify that this will have a “profound impact” on the greater Marvel Universe, as well as the other Captain America series and its protagonist, Sam Wilson.
While it’s all well and good to publicly say that this is permanent, history will show us that monumental reveals like this are largely not what they seem, or are quickly canceled out when a new team of writers and illustrators takes over the series and resets everything to the status quo. Keep in mind though, the new “Captain America: Steve Rogers” series isn’t so much about the HYDRA reveal, as it is about what will happen next. How will Cap recover from or fix this issue? My best possible theory is that Red Skull is using the same Cosmic Cube technology he used to raise Bucky Barnes (The Winter Soldier) from the dead (the same tech that was just used to restore Steve’s abilities) to manipulate Steve, give him false memories, and make him an unwitting double agent.
Only time will tell what’s truly going on with The First Avenger, but issue No. 2 of “Captain America: Steve Rogers” promises to delve further into Cap’s past and reveal more of his agenda. Look for it in stores or online June 29th.