Spoilers abound, nerd. You have been warned. Overly sensitive fanboys need not apply.
In this week’s brand spankin’ new issue of CAPTAIN AMERICA – STEVE ROGERS #1 by Nick Spencer and Jesus Saiz we’re hit with a bombshell of a twist that has the internet ablaze.
Yesterday, May 25th, 2016— a date which will live in infamy– Captain America was suddenly and deliberately revealed to be an Agent of HYDRA.
It can’t be… The Avengers’ paragon hero golden boy… Hails his greatest enemy… HYDRA?
“GASP! SHOCK AND AWE! HOW COULD HE NOT THINK OF THE CHILDREN? NICK SPENCER WHY WOULD YOU DO SUCH A THING? IT’S AN ASSAULT ON ALL OF OUR SENSES! YOU’RE SPITTING ON THE LEGACY OF SIMON AND KIRBY! HERE, HAVE A DEATH THREAT OVER THIS FICTIONAL CHARACTER AND SCENARIO!”
All these quotes and more you can hear from dolts who believe Superman’s been dead since the 90s– people who have read less comic books than they can count on two hands.
This is something that happened in SUPERHERO COMIC BOOKS. SUPER. HERO. COMIC. BOOKS. I feel like I should say that louder.
True believers, this is a genre where the serious concept of being dead has been a revolving door since the Jean Grey made it cool in ’76. So why is Captain America being a HYDRA Agent the most upsetting thing since Spider-Man’s devilish “divorce” in 2007? How is it any different than your favorite wrestler turning heel for a little while? Hell, the first Captain America story I ever read is one where he gets high on drugs and beats seven shades of it into Daredevil. The short answer is, it’s not. The long answer is that any fan, any reader, anyone who is even passingly aware of the existence of tropes will realize there’s more to this. There always is. And if it’s not a plot twist that leads to a story arc about brainwashing, clones, impersonators, implanted memories, insert-No-Prize-winning-answer here, it’s just an obviously temporary status quo change. It’s a hook to get you to buy the next issue and continue the story. Or did you also forget that this is also #1 of a new title?
CAPTAIN AMERICA – STEVE ROGERS #1 is great, up to and including the twist at the end. Spencer has the Star-Spangled Avenger with a new setup following the Pleasant Hill story arc that’s run all things amok. He’s young again, Baron Zemo’s trying to start a new Masters of Evil, and he’s working as in operative team with ALL of his partners. If you include the cover, that’s Rick Jones, Falcon, Winter Soldier, Sharon Carter, Jack Flag and Free Spirit. And Maria Hill, I guess. We get background on them forming up, and Spencer does what he does best– have these colorful characters just hanging out talking about their absurd past adventures. We get a tragic story of a man who finds a sense of belonging under the Red Skull reorganizing of HYDRA as an underground community cult. We get Baron Zemo trying to reform a Masters of Evil. We get an interesting flashback story where Sarah Rogers, Steve’s mother, finds a friend and refuge from her abusive husband in a woman named Elisa Sinclair, who tries to recruit her into HYDRA. This is spliced between the action of a street scrapping, train tussling, rooftop roughhousing, aerial acrobatics, and a fight in a flying jet.
And then Captain America saves a hostage and reveals he’s HYDRA.
Oh, I’m sorry. Were you suddenly amazed by all the cool stuff in this comic that maybe you had forgotten about that little thing? Good. Because this comic is great and you should read it (and the next few issues) before judging one single page– one single panel, really. This story has a lot of set-ups in a lot of ways that can really pay off.
My personal favorite part of the book was Jack Flag punching Baron Zemo into next month– punching him so hard he probably broke his damn neck. It’s one of those cartoonishly awesome punches that probably had li’l HYDRA octopuses circling around the Baron’s head.
I should mention, though if you’re already familiar with Saiz it should go without saying, that the art is fantastic. From the characters fluid movement, their expressions from panel to panel, and the cleanliness of the lines… coupled with the fact that he pencilled, inked, and colored it by himself.
There is one thing that upsets me about this comic, and it’s not HYDRA!Cap. Like me, you should also probably be more upset that Jack Flag is going to end up wheelchair-bound twice in a decade. Poor guy can’t catch a break– gets stabbed and crippled by Bullseye, thrown in a Negative Zone prison, survives hanging out with the suicidally brave Guardians of the Galaxy, and just when he’s back with the hero that made him a hero, he gets thrown out of an airplane.
On that note I say, until Nick Spencer gives Jack Flag some karmic justice– MAKE MINE MARVEL!