Steve Rogers Captain America #2
Published on: 06/29/2016
Written by: Nick Spencer
Art by: Jesus Saiz
I have a rule I like to abide; don’t judge a single comic before you’ve allowed the series to explain itself. After all, my initial thoughts on “Grayson” were pretty dismal and that series turned it around harder than a rocket ship pulling a U-turn. So when Captain America so defiantly proclaimed “Hail Hydra” my initial thought was “Go on…” Who’s to say that this character, created chiefly to punch Adolf Hitler in the mouth, couldn’t play a compelling Nazi? Well the second issue is out and Steve Rogers is not a compelling Nazi.
Before any of you start bandying about how Captain America was created by two Jews deeply affected by anti-Semitism and proclaim it’s offensive to make him a Nazi, allow me to deflect that emotionally charged statement. Speaking as the non-practicing grandson of Jewish immigrants, I wasn’t too worried about this desperate grab for attention by Marvel. And though I tried to follow my own rule, my gut instinct told me this giant spectacle would be written badly and cause a bigger sales slump than the controversy would gain—see “Death of Superman”. Sure enough, I open issue two and immediately the back tracking began.
There’s two ways to write a world shattering event in comic books. Either you go back through the continuity, researching every small detail, until you connect a line of bread crumbs that leads where the story needs to go. But if you’re a hack and that’s too hard for you, just invent a magic MacGuffin. In this case they recycled an old MacGuffin. Remember the Cosmic Cube with unlimited power? Yeah turns out they broke it and so it turned into a sentient little girl with omnipotence—because of course it did. Then, in a turn of events that is neither well thought out or properly explained, this girl decides that her favorite person and father figure is going to be Red Skull. I flipped from page to page trying to figure out if I’d missed a panel but no, she just shows up at Red Skull’s door and sits down for dinner with Red Skull and his daughter. So sure enough, Red Skull decides to brain wash this little girl so she will rewrite Steve’s brain so he will believe he is with Hydra, which seems unnecessary given he still has Xavier’s brain—oh yeah, forgot to mention that he still has the MOST POWERFUL TELEPATHIC POWERS IN CONTINUITY!
So not only does Red Skull have a little girl who can rewrite reality at her whims but he has the ability to make an entire room of people willingly blow their brains out, a skill he feels some ambivalence about. Because, he reasons, he could rule the world just by thinking it but apparently that wouldn’t be any fun. This is a problem and again it comes down to writing. Red Skull is now unbeatable. Even if you had Galactus and his new Herald, Doctor Doom, Red Skull would still wipe the floor with them. So unless Marvel continuity has a magic “Kill Red Skull” button, any confrontation with him has to end in defeat. Oh wait! Silly me, I forgot. Marvel does have a magic “Kill Red Skull” button. They’ve used it many times before, I can’t believe I forgot this. They just have to get the Cosmic Cube! You know, the thing that broke and turned into a girl who can rewrite—oh, hmm…
Something else about this reeks of bad story telling. Perhaps it’s the fact that Marvel has relaunched continuity and yet still thought it was a good idea to have Red Skull keep his Xavier brain, the thing that made a lot of readers roll their eyes at “Uncanny Avengers”. It could also be that a few of the characters like Maria Hill are wildly out of character. Or maybe it’s that the big reveal, Cap’s a Nazi, was rolled back the very next issue as the result of mind manipulation. I mean come on, I wasn’t really a fan of “Superior Spider-Man” but they stuck that out for like four volumes! Tony was evil for at least two. After all those assurances from Marvel editorial that this wasn’t a clone or a shape changer and it turns out to be a cheap brain trick.
This book was just mediocre. It was poorly conceived with sub-par execution. I don’t even know how to compare it to “Invincible” because there were so many lazy shortcuts taken. So instead I will relay one of my favorite moments, a character reveal, that really had an impact. Mark has a half-brother, Oliver, a man with a slightly checkered past who struggles to do the right thing. Recently “Invincible” revealed Oliver was a traitor. The hows and whys are irrelevant but what I will say is that it made total sense. Sure Oliver has allegiances to Mark and Nolan, his father. But Robert Kirkman found a core to the character that would make him believably betray his own family. And it had infinitely more impact than Cap goose stepping into some weird public spectacle.