NOTE: If you haven’t read Steve Rogers: Captain America #1, and don’t want to be spoiled, proceed with caution. I will be discussing detailed spoilers for the issue, and for the last few months worth of Captain America stories. Proceed with caution.
If you’re still reading this then you know the news that has made shockwaves in comic book fandom, and provided readers with one of the biggest twist endings in years. That’s right, the last page of Steve Rogers: Captain America #1 revealed that recently restored original Cap is a loyal member of Hydra. The internet flipped out, and writer Nick Spencer has been sent thousands of tweets. Some of these tweets even included death threats. Yes, DEATH THREATS for writing a comic book. The response has been out of control. I’ve seen people swearing off Marvel, thinking that it’s a disgrace that a character created by two Jewish men in Joe Simon and Jack Kirby would ever be written to associate with a Nazi group, and just being generally upset at the development. I would never excuse the hate directed at Spencer, or the insinuation that people who enjoyed the story are racists, or that the creators and editors who made the story are racists. Those are very extreme, and have no place in any fandom. With that said, it’s okay to be upset at the fact that our hero, the man that stands for all that is good in America, the man that has the highest of moral codes has apparently never been that man. I loved the issue, and I was angry. I felt betrayed by Steve Rogers. That’s exactly the reaction Nick Spencer wanted you to have. It means something that people care this much about Captain America.
The thing is that this is was the first issue of a story, and there’s a great chance not is all that it seems. This is the 75th Anniversary of Captain America, his named was in the title of what will end up being one of the year’s biggest movie hits, and through both the MCU and comics he has become one of the world’s most iconic pop culture figures. Marvel Comics needed a big story, and that’s exactly what Nick Spencer and artist Jesus Saiz delivered.
So what is the deal with Steve Rogers? That is what I asked myself today. I read the issue a few times, discussed the issue with one of my good comic book reading buddies, gauged the reactions, and read the interviews with Spencer and editor Tom Brevoort. I came up with a theory that might help ease the minds of those worried that this is going to be permanent. I may be completely wrong, but the fact that it is indeed plausible goes to show that there are ways to show that getting all worked up this early just might be in vain. I know there are other reasons people are upset that go deeper than Steve Rogers is bad, and while I respect those feelings those won’t be the basis of this article. I’m going to discuss the theory below. It’s going to focus on the actual plot of the story, and what may be actually going on within the story.
Why do I think fans shouldn’t get too upset at Marvel quite yet? Well there is evidence to suggest that this is all a big plot hatched by the Red Skull that Nick Spencer has been planting seeds for over the past few months.
In the recent Avengers: Standoff crossover event the big event that caught everyone’s attention was Steve Rogers having his youth restored, leading to his taking up the mantle of Captain America once again. The premise behind Standoff was that S.H.I.E.L.D had created a sentient Cosmic Cube in the form of a little girl. Director Maria Hill was using the girl, who they named “Kobik” (after the supposedly scuttled S.H.I.E.L.D. project featured in earlier issues) to control Pleasant Hill. Pleasant Hill was a prison where the realities of inmates were warped to make them think they were other people living happily in a small town. When the Avengers found out they took exception, the villains led by Zemo started to remember, and all hell broke loose. It was surprisingly a great read, and one of the better small, line contained crossovers in quite awhile.
While we were all focusing on the return of a young Steve Rogers, an earlier scene from the same issue might prove to be just as important. In Sam Wilson: Captain America #7 Steve Rogers had the help of a mysterious Father Patrick. This priest helped lead Steve (who was still old at this point) and an almost dead Maria Hill away from the clutches of Zemo, and to Doctor Selvig who would go on to save Maria’s life. After leaving Steve, Father Patrick revealed himself to be Red Skull in disguise. The thing is that Hill had no idea who Father Patrick was when Steve asks her at one point. This means that there is a great chance that Red Skull wasn’t a prisoner, and disguised himself as a “Reformed” inmate to sneak into the prison. He probably snuck into Pleasant Hill to get a piece of a Kobik/Cosmic Cube, or one of the prisoners’ power set. Why would the Red Skull save Steve from Zemo? When he reveals himself to the reader Red Skull says that Steve is needed alive for what comes next. Looking back, this appears to be an important line, and one of the seeds planted by Spencer for where we find ourselves now. Also take into account that the villain was sneaking into Pleasant Hill where there’s a Cosmic Cube running around as a little girl. This is the same little girl that gave Steve his youth back. That cannot be a coincidence.
The the fact that Hydra didn’t exist in the comics until WWII also makes the current story a little suspect. In the comics Captain America fought actual Nazis in World War II. As far as I know, Hydra as a Nazi stand in was a result of the Marvel Cinematic Universe not wanting to use the actual Nazis in their films. Comic book Hydra has been around for a long time, but the modern group we all love to hate was formed in Japan, and would be taken over by Baron Von Strucker. It was Strucker who expanded the group into the worldwide organization that would plague the heroes of the Marvel Universe. With the flashbacks in Steve Rogers: Captain America #1 taking place when Steve was a kid before the war, and Sarah being invited to a meeting of a group that hasn’t been formed yet, you have good reason to believe that something is weird about the entire flashback. You could say that Marvel retconned a new Hydra history after Secret Wars to line up with the movies, but Red Skull specifically mentions Strucker bringing Hydra back over from “The East” at the end of Avengers Standoff: Assault On Pleasant Hill Omega.
Also, the color scheme of the flashback in this week’s issue is interesting. The flashback scenes take place when Steve was a kid, and sees a mysterious woman named Elisa trying to recruit his mom into The Hydra Society. The scenes are in black and white, with the only other color in the scenes being the red on Elisa. I doubt having the res stand out like that was a superficial choice just because it looked cool. The red being feature in a issue that heavily features the Red Skull should make anyone look twice at what’s going on. If I had to guess I’d say that Elisa is somehow actually Sin, the Red Skull’s daughter. Also, out of everyone why recruit a Sarah Rogers? She doesn’t seem particularly special. Well it’s because of her young son. Elisa seems to know that Steve is a special boy and “Someone people will tell stories about” which totally sounds like she knows how important Steve is, and even who he will become. It is a great plan for Red Skull to find a way to change Steve’s past to make him a Hydra mole. He hasn’t been able to defeat Cap in years of trying, and knows Cap’s conviction can’t be challenged. But kids are vulnerable and can be molded.
This could be the result of a lot of things. Red Skull could have found a way to send Sin back in time to change Steve’s history. Remember that Red Skull was a prisoner of Doctor Doom following the Axis crossover, and Doom is well known for his ability to time travel using his Time Platforms. He apparently escaped from Doom, and he might have found a way to take a time platform with him. Remember that for all we know Red Skull still possesses telepathic powers from merging his brain with the brain of a deceased Charles Xavier in the first volume of Uncanny Avengers. He could have used these powers to create memories for Steve with the help of his daughter (or without her help, as Elisa doesn’t need to be Sin in this case). Most likely Red Skull got his hands on one of the Cosmic Cube fragments S.H.I.E.L.D. had (see the first arc of Sam Wilson: Captain America). These would be the same cube fragments that helped form Kobik, which would explain why Red Skull seemed to sneak into Pleasant Hill. Just as likely is Red Skull is the one responsible for Kobik usong her powers to bring young Steve back, and used his psychic powers to have the sentient Cosmic Cube change Steve’s history. This would explain the fact that Spencer has said in numerous interviews that this story is more about Steve’s future than his past. That’s because, if this were to be true, the Captain America that we have known for all this time was actually not a plant until the events of Pleasant Hill when his reality may have been altered, and his history rewritten.
Marvel says that this is really Steve and he isn’t possessed by anyone, an LMD, mind controlled , and that it is him in his right mind, It doesn’t say anything about Steve’s memories or reality itself being shifted by a Red Skull with Xavier’s powers, and a fragment of the Cosmic Cube. One of these fragments could be used to change Steve’s reality so that the what we saw in the first issue actually happened, despite it being a result of a villain’s machinations. Steve would still technically be in his right mind as reality itself would be altered. Spencer and Brevoort wouldn’t technically be lying based on semantics. People who have followed comic book writers and editors long enough know that using semantics, and technicalities to tease stories is a well worn tradition. Remember when Dan Slott spent the entirety of Superior Spider-Man telling kids that Peter Parker was indeed dead. Why would do they do anything else? They don’t want to spoil what comes next.
As I mentioned above, all of my reasoning might be wrong, but the fact remains that this was the first part of an obviously huge story. There’s plenty of room for speculation on what lies ahead instead of reacting like this was the end of the story, and we know exactly what is going on. We could use more speculation in place of some of the nasty, vile reactions from a certain segment of the audience. I’m not 100% sold that Steve Rogers as we have come to know him over the past 75 years willingly joined Hydra. I’m also not 100% convinced that he didn’t. I do know that I am excited to see what Spencer and Saiz have planned next, and wondering where they can possibly take the story from here. I have a feeling we will find out the twist sooner rather than later, but while readers will be clued in on the details, the story will play out for awhile. It might take longer to play out than that time Cap was drugged and saluted Hitler in Stan Lee/Jack Kirby story, but I think it’s safe to say that Captain America will eventually overcome his greatest challenge to date, and defeat Hydra once again. You can stop reading the series if you’d like, it’s your choice as a consumer. You can be mad, upset, offended, as those are all personal feelings that nobody has a right to judge. As for me? I’m choosing to save my ultimate judgement for when the story is finished, and that doesn’t make me a bad guy.