Been a while, I know. Life kinda got ahead of me for a bit, but I just had to stop in for a minute, because I feel like a Star Wars fan when the prequel trilogy came out. Wtf?
You all know why we’re here. You know what I’m going to talk about. Let’s get it out of the way.
Steve Rogers has secretly been a HYDRA operative since he was 6 years old.
Now, instead of ranting about how stupid an idea this is, I want to remind everyone that there is NO WAY this is going to stick. It’s just a brainless gimmick to grab attention, and will likely be the product of a cosmic cube or some other such nonsense. That having been said, it still ruins what is an otherwise good issue.
So with that out of the way, let’s get right down to it.
Captain America: Steve Rogers #1
Writer: Nick “Look at Me!” Spencer
Artist: Jesus “This Book’s Real Savior” Saiz
The book opens up in 1926, (almost 20 years BEFORE the creation of HYDRA…this is probably important) with a flashback scene of an “always portrayed in flashbacks as a stinking drunk” Joseph Rogers getting angry about some trivial thing and turning to beat Sarah, as was tradition for the Rogers family back then. To be fair, it was the 20’s. I think it was ok to do horrible things to people you loved in those days. Anyway, a random woman intervenes, beating down Joseph and sending him running off while she introduces herself to Sarah and her young son, Steve. The entire scene is set in sepia tones and grayscale, except for highlights done in red. RED, people. Pay attention. I tend to think Jesus Saiz is choosing his colors very specifically.
Jump forward to present day, where Steve is doing his best to beat down a HYDRA cell with Sharon Carter and Rick Jones back at HQ helping out with logistics. Steve is narrating and right away something seems a bit off. Not in his character, that is still 100% on point (and something Spencer seems to be an expert on), but rather something is amiss with some of the facts, though I’ll dive into that with a little more depth later.
Steve’s narration is key in setting the scene for introducing the new HYDRA- now led by the Red Skull (just like in the movies!). This HYDRA is recruiting everyday people who have had a rough life. People who, like Robbie Dean Tomlin, Steve’s target, might have drug problems, or come from broken homes, or are just lost and looking for someone to blame for their bad luck. The Skull is taking full opportunity of these misfortunes and uses it to promote his hate speeches and scapegoating. Yep, that’s right. The Red Skull has just officially turned HYDRA into the Nazi party (draw your own similarities between this and the current political climate in the US- I’m staying out of that one).
We learn that Robbie is strapped with a bomb, and despite Rick working hard to separate his car from the rest of the train, Steve doesn’t want Robbie to give his life for a misled cause. Again, very Steve. Instead of letting the poor kid roll down the tracks to his death, Steve decides to try and reason with him. His plea falls on deaf ears though, as Robbie is so broken by life that he triggers the bomb and blows himself up for what amounts to nothing. There’s something really unsettling about his face when he does it, too. Saiz is killing it with the art.
During the train incident we also learn that Steve has a field team in the way of Free Spirit and Jack Flag, proving yet again that Spencer is the reincarnation of Mark Gruenwald. I’m not complaining, just noting.
Steve is very shaken by the kid killing himself, and in a tender scene between he and a very wrinkly Sharon (poor Sharon) he states that this new HYDRA has gotten under his skin. He also reveals that he’s a bit rusty, since he, for whatever reason, doesn’t feel right in his new/old body. “I used to look in the mirror and not recognize the ninety-year old, and now I don’t recognize THIS— especially when I’m moving. It’s got me…out of sorts“. Take that on face value if you will, but I believe that means a bit more. Subtext- it’s real.
That scene leads to more flashback and then an incredible scene with Rick, Jack Flag and Free Spirit swapping Cap stories. It’s things like this that make the stupid revelation at the end of the book more of a gut-punch. You want to ignore it, but since the rest of the book is so well done you just can’t. Sigh, I’m really trying not to rant about it.
When we get back to Steve and Sharon, they are meeting with the ever-infuriating Maria Hill, who drops her own bomb on our heroes- S.H.I.E.L.D. has found Zemo. See, Zemo went missing after the whole Pleasant Hill situation that went down a few months back and he’s been towing Erik Selvig along with him (hostage style, not buddy comedy style). Since then he’s been hearing all about Red Skull’s new HYDRA and, to be honest, he’s not liking it one bit. Seems he believes that HYDRA is more than just, as he puts it, “…some street gang of poorly-educated layabouts blowing themselves to bits…”. He claims responsibility for making HYDRA the exceptional organization it was (why does no one give Strucker his due credit?) and starts to assemble a new version of the Masters of Evil to take down the Skull and reclaim HYDRA.
The entire scene with Zemo gathering his new “followers” is hilarious and has a Venture Bros. vibe to it that is signature Spencer. The comedy is disrupted by Steve’s team (The Liberty Crew? Team Stripes?) who break in and just start to tear apart the new Masters, though it hardly seems a challenge. During the fight Steve contradicts himself on a single page by shouting both “Eyes on the leader! Zemo will use the fight as a distraction!” followed almost immediately by Jack asking if Steve needs help chasing after Zemo and Steve responding, “No! Focus on these three! Zemo’s mine!” Not sure what to make of that, but it just seems like something thrown in to set up the next couple pages at the expense of the momentum that was already in place.
As Zemo tries to escape in his jet (which comes complete with a “Captive Selvig” action figure), Steve hitches a ride and proceeds to beat the tar out of him. This is really where the entire story goes downhill. This entire review I’ve been pointing out things that I PRAY will be important to explaining the absolute garbage that plays out over the next 4 pages.
I’m not going to lie- at this point I’m likely to start ranting. Feel free to stop reading if you want- this might not be pretty.
So Jack Flag jumps on board to clock Zemo, who has gained the upper hand on Steve. But instead of being met with gratitude, Steve throws the poor guy out of the cargo door, presumably to his death. A very “WTF?!” moment to be sure, but it’s immediately followed by one last flashback that shows Ms. Sinclair (SINclair. THAT HAS TO MEAN SOMETHING! DOESN’T IT?!?!) handing a f***ing HYDRA pamphlet to Sarah Rogers, who passes the ominous looking Skull-Emblazoned paper to her 6 year old son! It’s immediately followed by the most perverse image I’ve seen in a Cap comic in years- Captain America saying “Hail HYDRA.”
Again, like I said earlier, I assume that this will be a “The Skull used the Cosmic Cube to re-write Steve’s history” in a similar fashion to the “Snap” Wilson nonsense from so long ago. Actually, I’m hoping, praying and begging. I outlined a whole bunch of inconsistencies between the Steve in this issue and the Steve we’ve all grown to admire. Little things he’s said, small things that I’m interpreting as hints- it’s all there, and hopefully not just because I want to see it. Hell, I’m even taking the one good Remender moment, the “Always stand up” that Steve learned from his mother, as proof that this history is different. Sarah Roger taught Steve to fight back, not HYDRA. Never HYDRA. NEVER.
The thing that really bugs me here, more than the stupid and inexcusable twist, is that after everything I’ve seen, I KNOW Spencer is capable of better writing. This ending is just shock for the sake of shock. That’s it. It’s not story-driven, it’s not organic, it’s just bludgeoning, attention-grabbing stupidity. And it’s worsened by Spencer and editor Tom Brevoort fueling the fire on social media and news sites just to gain attention. The rest of the story, hell the entire book, is great. It’s as if Spencer completely understands the characters but has no respect for them. Like the freaking scientists in Jurassic Park- he realized he could but never stopped to think if he should. I hope Jack Flag eats Spencer while he’s on the toilet.
There’s way more I could say about this issue, like how Spencer still wrote Steve as a good guy, despite the fact that he’s (now) a villain (and whatever crazy connotation that comes with), but I think I’ll limit my rage for now. Feel free to head over to his Twitter account if you want to see more.
Ok, so now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, let me say that while I don’t like the twist or the direction the story seems to be heading (I didn’t sign up for evil Steve… Stevil?) the rest of the book is the same solid stuff we’ve been getting from Spencer. However, to me at least, CA:Steve #1 suffers from some of the same problems as the second Star Wars Trilogy- it doesn’t just ruin itself with a bad ending and stupid, out of nowhere revelations, but it retroactively harms the entire franchise. I can see pieces in place to fix things, but only time will tell if those are imaginary concoctions perceived by a desperate fan who is trying to make sense of a heartbreaking betrayal. Even if it’s a brief story, it’s going to take a while to repair the damage Nick Spencer has done to Cap’s credibility.
Captain America: Steve Rogers FCBD One Shot
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Jesus Saiz
This year’s Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) was last Saturday (it’s always the first Saturday in May, kids! Go read a comic!) featured our first real look at the new Cap book starting this month. Helmed by Captain America: Sam Wilson writer Nick Spencer, with art by Cap-newcomer Jesus Saiz, Captain America: Steve Rogers is shaping up to be a great new outing for the Star-Spangled Avenger.
The book opens up after the events of Pleasant Hill, and presumably after Captain America: Sam Wilson #9, with my beloved Sharon Carter no longer Agent 13, but now a Commander (of, I’m guessing, S.H.I.E.L.D.?), addressing the recent uprising of HYDRA activity. Sharon explains to a bunch of suits at a Senate hearing that HYDRA, the once organized, well-funded group of terrorists, has now devolved into a group of men with little training who seem to resort to guerilla tactics and target civilian areas with the express intent to breed fear and confusion.
Allow me to explain- in one of his first undertakings as the new/old/current/co Captain America, Sam Wilson, basically ran a gauntlet of HYDRA leaders until finally dismantling the terrorist organization. HYDRA was all but a terrible memory until the events of Pleasant Hill, a super-prison run by S.H.I.E.L.D., which resulted in the release of some of the world’s most dangerous individuals, including The Red Skull, Crossbones, and Sin. The three decided to rebuild HYDRA as less of a cult-like military unit and more like a group of fanatical extremists. They immediately began recruiting White Supremacists, Neo-Nazis, and anyone that believed in the Skull’s ideals of disorder, chaos and hate.
Back at the hearing in Washington D.C., Sharon is asked about an incident in Graz, Austria that happened one week ago. One thing I’ve realized that Nick Spencer LOVES to do in his stories is out-of-order storytelling. This has been used several times throughout his short run on CA:Sam, where he will start you at a point in the story AFTER the big event, and then have some character explain what happened while we see it through a flashback. Think “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”. Yeah, I know. I just made myself feel old with that reference. Anyway, it’s not a bad way to tell a story, I just felt the need to point out how often he’s been doing it.
So flashback to one week ago in Graz where Steve, fully suited up in his new uniform (and looking badass!), is taking out a small HYDRA cell and attempting to get information about an upcoming attack. He muscles some info out of one of the HYDRA goons, and while it happens completely off-screen, we are meant to believe that Cap got kind of rough with the guy. That should be nothing shocking since we’ve seen him do this before, but certainly FEELS different because Steve isn’t just throwing down with some clown in a green costume- this is a normal looking dude. Which makes sense for the “new” HYDRA, but I miss the green. I’m also a little confused as to why this guy was all “You’re Captain America! A hero! You won’t kill me!”, since we’ve all seen Steve throw HYDRA agents off trains and jets. Yeah, Cap isn’t a trigger-happy nutjob like a certain Skull-chested madman, but he does what he needs to in order to protect people. I guess the newly reformed HYDRA couldn’t afford a “Know Your Enemy” training video.
Steve sends the information he gathers to Sharon, who is in some sort of S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ along with Rick Jones, former secret informative known as “The Whisperer”, who then relay that info to Sam Wilson, Co-Captain America, and his partner, the Falcon. Sam and Falcon quickly and entertainingly take out the HYDRA operation, narrowly saving the city from a bomb, but while the celebration starts, Sharon receives word that another bomb, one that our heroes knew nothing about, has gone off killing twelve people. Obviously HYDRA is more organized than everyone thinks.
Jump back to present day Washington D.C. and Sharon explaining the mission to the Senate, who sees her explanation as simple excuses for botching the mission. Steve steps in, interrupting a blowhard Senator and launching into a 2-page speech to rally the troops against HYDRA. Jesus Saiz uses some great imagery of the Senators in a “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” pose while Steve explains that they aren’t in the meeting to find blame, but rather to figure out what to do about the new HYDRA, something that Steve refers to as a spreading virus. If I haven’t said it recently, let me just say that I am crazy excited to have Steve Rogers back in Cap-mode. I know everyone in the Marvel U seems to think that “the world needs Captain America”, and while that may be partially true, what I think the world really always needs is Steve Rogers.
Steve urges the Senate to make a formal declaration of war against HYDRA, and turn the tables by taking the fight to them. A great idea, but also one that the Red Skull seems to have not only anticipated, but was counting on. How this will play out remains to be seen in a few weeks when Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 hit stands. If this first story is any indication, Spencer and Saiz have a well-crafted book planned for us. Spencer continues to tap his expert knowledge of the characters he’s writing to deliver unique dialogue and perspective from each one, maintaining that delicate balance between serious and funny. Saiz’s art is outstanding, and compliments Spencer’s story nicely with action scenes that are coherent and flowing without being overly complex. And I absolutely love the way he draws Steve.
Overall, the FCBD issue of Captain America is a great introduction to a new chapter in Captain America history.
Captain America: Sam Wilson #9
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Angel Unzueta
With the events of Pleasant Hill behind him, Sam Wilson is prepared to march forward as Captain America. But with the return of Steve Rogers, the original Captain America, the question on everyone’s mind is whether or not the world is ready for two Caps, and that very topic is the focus of this month’s issue.
The book opens up like all of the recent issues- with way too much recapping. Now I get that there are people that need to be caught up to speed, but each issue gives us a full (and usually entertaining) recap on the first page via some clever “Twitter” posts. These “tweets” (as the younger folk tell me such things are called) do a fine job on their own without having to then take the next three pages to say the same thing with more lengthy narration.
Despite the recap pages growing in number like (insert clever metaphor here), I have to admit that they really don’t slow down the story, which starts up right away with a smug Maria Hill almost bragging about how she and S.H.I.E.L.D. aren’t getting held accountable for the Super-Prison breakout that took place just a short time ago. This time the argument that ensues ends not in Steve and Sam on opposite sides of the fence, but rather the two agreeing that something needs to be done to ensure justice is served. Steve moves like a district attorney, deciding that he and Sam need to build their case against Hill before acting. The first step to that, of course, would be finding Kobik, the sentient Cosmic Cube who was both the cause of and solution to the catastrophe that was Pleasant Hill- a plan Sam reluctantly agrees to.
I’m glad the Sam/Steve feud has been resolved so quickly, because I love seeing the two of them together again. Sam’s emotional nature pairs well with Steve’s level-headed leadership, which is why the two have always been a great team. They just always seem to balance each other out.
After sparring with the always delightful Misty Knight, Sam heads to a grand ol’ “Welcome Back” press conference for Steve, but not before revealing to her that he is a bit worried about being unnecessary once the original man is back in the stars and stripes. Even though it was his idea (something he conceived during the Pleasant Hill fiasco) he still has every right to be concerned, I mean, we’re talking about THE Steve Rogers, here.
And boy, does our man of the hour sure look spiffy in his new uniform. It has sort a MCU vibe to it, which is fine because a) that’s a great look, and b) Sam, with some modifications, is already wearing a version of the classic comic uniform. Still not entirely sold on the triangle shield, but we’ll see how I feel after I’ve seen it in action.
That’s not something you’ll see in this book, though, because despite Steve’s triumphant return, this is still Sam’s book, and Nick Spencer manages to keep it that way. Which, considering that this is THE Steve Rogers, is impressive.
Steve reunites with his old pal, D-Man, who doesn’t hesitate to run past Cap to give Cap (this could get confusing) a big hug, and he also meets Joaquin, the new Falcon, before taking the stage. Joaquin is great as always, delivering what is easily the best line in the entire book: “What’s up, Captain Establishment? You’re looking awfully white this afternoon, sir.” But, see, what’s outstanding about Joaquin is that he’s a young kid with an attitude, yet all his snarky joking aside he’s a very respectful character who genuinely seems star-struck when actually meeting Steve. And I mean, who wouldn’t be? This is THE Steve Rogers we’re talking about. Okay, I’ll stop with that now.
While Steve is rallying the troops in classic Cap fashion, and people are celebrating the return of THE Steve Ro…right, sorry. Anyway, Sam is standing off-stage watching and wondering how he could possibly compare to his partner when a fabulous deus ex machina gives him the opportunity to show a nation of people who pretty much hate him just what the new Cap (wait, current Cap? Co-Cap?) can do. A mercenary called Chance crashes the event and tries to kill Steve, but is stopped by Sam in an ensuing air battle. It’s the one big action scene of the book and flows nicely thanks to art by new Cap headliner Angel Unzueta, and while the man can obviously draw a solid piece of action, something about the way he draws faces bugs me. I think it may be that there are some panels where people have no teeth when they have their mouths open. Yeah, I get that it’s true to life, but it just looks a bit odd to me. Anyway, moving on.
The crowd witnesses the spectacular feat and cheers Sam on as Steve proclaims, “Ladies and gentlemen- Captain America!”
Sam is loving the spotlight, but it’s short-lived as Chance, while being taken away by the police, reveals that his attack was provoked by the Pleasant Hill incident. Turns out that while Sam and Steve are trying to quietly build a case against Maria Hill, the rest of the world, or at least those who know about the incident, believe that the Avengers are just helping them cover things up. For a guy like Chance, a guy who was there and experienced things first-hand, this is not acceptable in the least. It’s one of those reality vs. perception things that can’t be resolved easily.
This revelation eats at Sam, keeping him from being able to sleep, even though he has the beautiful Misty in the bed calling him back (go Sam!). Sam admits that he isn’t use to compromise and that he has a feeling that things are about to get worse before they get better.
Interesting note- Sam likes to stand naked in front of large, coverless windows. Make of that what you will.
This month’s issue ends like all good issues do- giving us an ever so slight glimpse into what’s coming next, which in this case appears to be even more Gruenwald-flavored treats. I don’t know how I feel about that, though, because I’m still sitting here waiting for something new, and while I personally haven’t seen Americop in a while, I don’t have the same gleeful attachment to him (them, now) as I did with the Serpent Society. We’ll see what happens next month when the story unfolds.
Until then, go see Captain America: Civil War!
Marvel revealed the cover of the upcoming FCBD: Captain America #1, the special one-shot issue heralding in the return of the original Captain America, Steve Rogers! Check out the snippet from the press release!
[…]FCBD CAPTAIN AMERICA #1 brings you the titanic return of Steve Rogers as Captain America! Nick Spencer and Jesus Saiz bring you one of Steve’s first adventures since his dramatic return in the pages of AVENGERS: STANDOFF. Just in time for their new series Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 later that month! Then, go deeper into DEAD NO MORE, a top secret storyline coming later in 2016! If you got the chance to bring someone back, would you?[…]
I absolutely love that cover art! Free Comic Book Day is May 7th, so if you’ve ever been interested in Captain America (which you should be) then this is a good way to try it out without having to pay for it! Simply go into your local comic shop and take one!
They’re free, don’t worry.