Show of hands, how many of you are pissed off about the revelation at the end of the recently released Steve Rogers: Captain America #1?
Okay, that's — WHOA! Guys, put down the pitchforks! Just take a breather for a second and let me finish.
Now then, how many of you have actually read the comic in question?
Right, some people over there who are looking a little nervous and kind of half-raising their hands — and I hear quite a few people muttering with proud disdain that they stopped reading Marvel years ago. And then there's maybe 1 percent of the crowd who has actually read the comic.
For those of you who haven't read the comic yet, be prepared for spoilers.
Seriously, I'm warning you. Last chance. Turn away now.
Really, I'm not joking.
HERE BE SPOILERS
During Rick Remender's Captain America run that began during the Marvel Now relaunch, Steve Rogers lost the super soldier serum. He rapidly grew be to his true age and at that point, and Sam Wilson took over the role of Captain America.
But Steve hasn't been out of the picture. He's been working with S.H.I.E.L.D. and runs his own team of Avengers in the Uncanny Avengers title.
The recent Avengers: Standoff crossover saw S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Maria Hill use a sentient Cosmic Cube called Kobik to create Pleasant Hill, a suburban paradise where supervillains were imprisoned and made to believe they were Pleasant Hill residents.
During that crossover, Steve was altered by Kobik and de-aged back to his physical prime. But rather than take the shield back from Sam, Steve said they would share the mantle of Captain America. Now, Nick Spencer, who is already writing Sam Wilson: Captain America, is now also writing Steve Rogers: Captain America.
The issue ends with quite a surprising revelation:
Through flashbacks, we find out that back when Steve was a kid, his mother was approached by a woman named Elisa who wined and dined them and invited them to join a concerned citizens group — named HYDRA.
The implication here is that Steve has secretly been a HYDRA sympathizer since he was a kid. Spencer and Marvel editor Tom Brevoort have been doing the rounds and giving interviews about this. They swear this is the for-real truth about Steve Rogers, that he's always been working secretly with HYDRA.
As you can imagine, the internet is freaking out over this. Twitter has a #SayNoToHydraCap hashtag that's spreading like wildfire. Spencer is getting death threats for crying out loud (come on people, it's a freaking comic book). But if nothing else, this brings home just how much Cap means to people.
But here's my response to it. Do you remember this guy?
It's Happened Before: Remember When Doc Ock Became Spider-Man?
Just prior to Marvel Now, Dan Slott wrote a story called "Dying Wish." In this story, a dying Doctor Octopus manages to kill Peter Parker by transferring his consciousness into Peter's body. Otto then swore he would be a better Spider-Man than Peter could ever be.
That saw the Amazing Spider-Man title replaced by a new one: Superior Spider-Man. Back then, Slott and Marvel swore up and down that this was the for-realsies all-new status quo for Spider-Man, that it wasn't a hoax and Peter Parker was really dead and not coming back.
And we have never seen Peter Parker since.
Oh wait, that's right.
He came back a little over a year later!
The whole Superior Spider-Man story was never intended to be a permanent change. It was a story Slott had in mind, and it was a damn good one, too. But Marvel told everyone it was the new status quo because if they had said, "Oh, this is just temporary. Peter will be back in a little over a year," then that kind of robs the story of a lot of its impact.
And this is hardly the first time a comics publisher has said that a massive change to a comic character is now a permanent change and the old version is gone forever.
Here's another example:
Remember When Marvel Killed Off Steve Rogers Following The Civil War Crossover?
I'm sure you do, because it made newspaper headlines and was talked about on all the cable news networks because they apparently had nothing better to investigate.
Steve Rogers was dead. He wasn't coming back. That's what we were told. They had a funeral for him and everything and Bucky then took over the shield.
Obviously, as you know, Steve came back in a limited series titled Captain America: Reborn. Once again, this was a long-running story writer Ed Brubaker had in mind. But if Marvel had come out and said, "Yeah, Steve's not really dead," then that would have robbed the story of its impact.
This is the first issue of a new series. It's part one of a story-arc. And read Steve's narration at the end of the issue:
"This road has not been easy, and I have plenty of cause to doubt it. But even still, I hold true to what I believe — and I follow in the footsteps of those who inspired me. You see, I dream of something better, too."
These are the words going through Cap's head after he's apparently killed Jack Flag, one of his partners. One reading of this is that Steve is saying the road of being a secret HYDRA agent hasn't been easy and that he's following in the footsteps of the fascists who inspired him.
But I see it a different way. I see this as saying that what he's doing here is what he's doubting. I think he's taking extreme actions to deal with HYDRA, possibly to infiltrate them from within. And following in the footsteps of those who inspired him? He doesn't name names here, and that's key. If Spencer really wanted to confirm Cap was a Nazi, then why wouldn't Steve mentioned some fascist Nazi figures, either real or fictional, who inspired him?
Maybe I'm reaching with that. But I find it hard to believe that Spencer, a writer who has shown great respect for Marvel's characters and their history, would suddenly decide it's a good idea for Cap to be a Nazi. Nor do I believe that Marvel or their parent company, Disney, would allow it to happen.
Instead, I think this is exactly the same situation as with Superior Spider-Man. We're getting the beginnings of what will probably be a long-running story. It will make headlines, it will piss people off, but just because Marvel says, "trust us, this is real, it's not fake," doesn't make it so.
Consider some of the things that have happened to Steve in recent history: He spent years living in a dimension ruled by Arnim Zola where who knows what could have been done to him, he was de-aged by a Cosmic Cube that also has the power to alter not only reality but memories as well, and the Red Skull now has psychic powers.
Any one of these events, or some combination of all three, could account for what's happening here.
And look, I sympathize. I really do. When Superior Spider-Man was announced, I was positively livid. I didn't go the incredibly juvenile route of issuing death threats, but I was angry at the change. Furthermore, I felt betrayed by Slott, a writer who up until that point, I admired.
Then I gave the series a chance after hearing how good it was, and I was blown away. It was one of the best Spider-Man stories I'd read in years. The ploy worked, and helped breathe new life into the character.
Some have even gone so far as to claim that Spencer is the embodiment of all things grim 'n' gritty, to which I say, "Have you ever read the man's work?"
Spencer's Marvel work has been nothing short of spectacular and pretty much as far from grim 'n' gritty as you can get. This isn't some schlock writer we're talking about. Spencer has proven his chops through titles such as Superior Foes of Spider-Man, Astonishing Ant-Man, and Sam Wilson: Captain America. If you want to read more speculation on why Marvel chose this route, head over here.
I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt. I say he's earned it, and I don't want to live in a world where the internet's tendency toward outrage first and asking questions never stops creators and publishers from taking chances with characters.
Need more reassurance? Look no further than this article.