It’s New Comic Book Wednesday. A day that fills thousands with joy as each new comic issue offers new adventures for our favorite characters.
This particular New Comic Book Wednesday, however, brought an adventure for fan favorite Steve Rogers, who has taken up the mantle of Captain America once again, that no one could see coming.
That’s right: Steve Rogers: Captain America #1 has the infamous Hydra-fighting, Nazi-defeating super soldier uttering words that strike fear in grown men, and have Jack Kirby and Joe Simon rolling in their graves: “Hail Hydra.”
Okay, what did she say? Yes, you heard me right, Captain America says “Hail Hydra.”
[Warning: SPOILERS for Issue #1 will be found below.]
Now, hear me out. At the beginning of the comic, we see a snippet of Steve’s childhood in Brooklyn. His father was physically and mentally abusing his mother, Sarah, and a stranger, named Elisa Sinclair, intervened.
Cue to the next scene when Steve – er, Captain America – is on a mission to stop a runaway train with a bomb from entering Grand Central Station. During Cap’s skirmish with several Hydra members, the reader is given some backstory on an unknown person, named Robbie Tomlin.
Robbie and Steve had a similar upbringing; however, the differences between the two end there. Whereas Steve didn’t just dream of a better life, he made his life better by joining the Army and becoming a super soldier. Robbie, on the other hand, just dreamed about something better. He chose an alternate lifestyle: criminal activity that lead to jail, falling into a crowd of white supremacists, drug and alcohol addiction, and finally falling into league with Red Skull himself.
Now, I will be the first to admit this: the Hydra that Red Skull is spewing is a really attractive picture. He speaks of protecting the land, preserving heritage and culture, and the loathing of immigrants and refugees entering the US’s border. And he’s gaining a lot of attention from people who want the same. In 1926, he gained the attention of followers such as Elisa Sinclair, and as it became apparent in the end, it looks like he may have caught the attention of a Sarah Rogers as well. (And honestly, the parallels between a certain Presidential candidate and Red Skull are frighteningly clear.)
What isn’t clear however, is if Steve was persuaded by these “teachings” when he was a child. His “Hail Hydra” at the end of the issue can be attributed to many things. I’ve sussed out about five different ways that he could say it, but not mean it.
Ruse #1: Steve is simply playing double-agent. This is something that happens quite frequently in comic books and television. For example, my specialty is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and in multiple instances, SHIELD agents were used to infiltrate the evil Hydra. Bobbi Morse in the beginning of Agents of SHIELD season 2 along with Jemma Simmons during the same season; Lance Hunter during the first part of season 3; Maria Hill in Captain America: The Winter Soldier; and even Hope Van Dyne as recently as Ant-Man. So, it could be a natural transition to have the good Captain pretend to be Hydra all along in order to infiltrate and tear them apart from the inside.
Ruse #2: Steve was checking to see if Selvig had been brainwashed by Baron Zemo. When we first see Zemo and Selvig, they are making their way from Pleasant Hill, a small-town super prison. (Pleasant Hill was also a place where Steve himself was de-aged and his powers restored via Cosmic Cube.) Exactly how long was Selvig stuck with Zemo? What kind of mind control does he happen to hold over the scientist? Is Steve saying those elusive words to garner some kind of reaction from him?
Ruse #3 – He said it sarcastically. At the point in time when the words “Hail Hydra” were uttered from Steve’s mouth, he and Jack Flag had just knocked out Baron Zemo, and it seems as if they finally got the upperhand on the villain. The “Hail Hydra” could have very well been uttered like one would scoff at an unbelievable action or phrase. (We’ll just have to forget that Steve had just thrown Jack from the aircraft before he said them.)
Ruse #4 – A body/mind switch with Robbie Tomlin. What I failed to mention before was that the bomb on the train that Steve was sent to stop was none other than Robbie Tomlin, the man that Steve shares a similar upbringing with. Could the explosion on the train have caused a brain/body meld between the two? It could explain the sudden switch in beliefs and, in comic logic, anything can happen.
Ruse #5 – Steve is just acting on Hill’s orders. The meeting that Steve and Sharon have with Director Hill in this issue has some definite gaps in the storyboards. In one frame Hill mentions that they found Zemo, and the next it cuts to the flashback of Zemo’s revolt at Pleasant Hill, and another of him and Selvig trekking through the snow covered Himalayas to get to Bagalia. What exactly happened between the last frame where Hill says “we got him” and the cut to Bagalia where Steve, Jack, and Free Spirit show up to capture the bad guys? Could there be an elaborate plot that we’re not seeing yet?
Am I in denial that a much beloved character could forfeit everything he’s ever fought for to become the enemy? No, I don’t think I am. The Steve Rogers that comic and movie fans know and love would not jeopardize his beliefs for such an act of treason. I’m not the first person to think that, and I certainly am not the last.
Does this sound like the same Steve Rogers who said he doesn’t like bullies no matter where they came from? No. Does this sound like the same Steve Rogers who remained an unmovable piece on the side of the liberty, the good, and the just? No. Does this sound like the same Steve Rogers who said that even if they were the only person to stand against Hydra that he would do it for and in the name of freedom? No. Does this sound like Steve Rogers to be a turncoat to SHIELD in this endless battle between good and evil? Nope. And does this sound like the same Steve Rogers who said:
“This nation was founded on one principle above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob, and the press, and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the River of Truth, and tell the whole world, ‘no, you move.’”
It absolutely does not.
The Captain America we see in the pages of this new comic is not the same Nazi fighting hero that Kirby and Simon inked in those frames seventy-five years ago. Only the writer of this current series knows the direction that Cap is being taken. Is Captain America going to remain the paragon of truth, liberty, justice, and freedom? Or is this just beginning of the end for the ideal American hero?
Unfortunately, the next issue of this series does not hit shelves until next month; that’s entirely too long, yet not long enough, to speculate all the theories that will circle around this comic and this character. And as I sit here and finish this post in my Team Cap shirt, I truly believe that the love and admiration I have for this character aren’t for naught. I truly believe that there is too much good to Steve Rogers that he could never be a true agent of Hydra.
At least that’s what I’m hoping.