A fair warning up top, what follows includes spoilers for “Captain America: Steve Rogers #1,” out this week. You have a few precious more words to drop out. Ready? Ok, here we go.
Last year Marvel embarked on their first line-wide reboot ever. Combining two pre-existing universes to form one main universe, a lot of different characters changed with many titles disappearing from shelves entirely. I’m looking at you, Fantastic Four. (Technically, I’m not looking at you since publication ceased before this relaunch.)
Part of this overarching story led to the mantle of Captain America being taken over by Sam Wilson, known to us comic readers and movie watchers as The Falcon. Like all changes in comics, the status quo would eventually win out, with Steve Rogers returning as Captain America.
Except this time, Marvel Comics has thrown us for a loop. Within the first issue of this new series, it is revealed that Steve Rogers, the man known as Captain America since before the U.S. got involved in World War II, has been a Hydra agent all along. Surprise!
It’s an ambitious turn for a character, who above all else, has steadfastly stood for the ideals and virtues of America. And it will be interesting to see how Marvel plans to incorporate this new wrinkle into the established character history. Will we get flashbacks to past events where Cap is shown feeding information to the enemy? Or will events that resulted in character deaths be the fault of our agent-turned-hero? The ground is fertile, but I fear that this development may have gone too far for some fans.
While Marvel has had a long history of being the innovating powerhouse in the comic book industry, this current move to relaunch and tweak most of its characters is something that DC Comics has been notorious for doing in the past few decades. In the last 10 years alone it has done so several times, with another reboot coming this summer.
And that’s where the uneasiness sets in for some readers. While there have been many changes in the past 50 years of Marvel continuity, you could always rely on the characters to stay true to who they were, or change based on dealing with events that have unfolded before the readers’ eyes. By retconning Captain America to be an agent of Hydra for nearly a century, we, as readers, have to trust Marvel Comics that the stories that come out of this revelation will not only make sense, but also be entertaining.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Every reboot enjoys a honeymoon period and may enjoy a lengthy stay, but eventually, the status quo will once again be fulfilled. No one switches sides or stays dead forever – Except Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben.
The last time a publisher stuck to its guns about a major universe change was DC’s Silver Age, which brought us the versions of its characters that we know and love today. The Flash, Green Lantern, the Justice League and others all underwent major changes in appearance and personality. Even Superman and Batman changed; shedding their goofy stories about boxing babies and genius dogs for more serious stories that would change the mythology forever.
DC Comics got to enjoy making drastic changes before the advent of the internet, where millions of fans can vent their rage before even reading the issue, reacting to a headline that has inflamed them instead. The worst you could hope for back in the ’50s was strongly worded letter by a fan whose name and home address would be published alongside their comments.
Where is Marvel taking us with this story and how long it will last is anyone’s guess. The patience to stick with a new direction and win people over is something that is not often seen in our instant-gratification society, much less the flip-flop world of comic books. The best we can do is pick up the next issue and enjoy the ride.
But until then, Hail Hydra.
– Mauricio Machuca