Spoilers for Captain America: Steven Rogers #1
It was the plot twist heard (with plenty of memes) ‘round the internet.
At the end of Marvel’s new Captain America: Steve Rogers series, the iconic hero threw one of his sidekicks out of a ship and swore allegiance to the evil Hydra organization. This issue revealed that, from childhood, Cap was trained and indoctrinated by his lifelong rivals after his adoption from a broken home.
Much like killing Robin, splitting up Peter Parker and MJ, or giving Carol Danvers the title of Captain Marvel, this was a move that sent shockwaves through the comic community. At least, that was how it started. But this narrative decision quickly struck a nerve with the general populace, and for good reason. Captain America is an icon, not just among comic fans, but in other parts of society as well. He’s the straight-laced, freedom-loving good boy of the Marvel canon, and having him “turn heel,” to put it in professional wrestling terms, into is as much of a blow to the collective psyche as turning literary hero Atticus Finch into a bitter racist.
However, much of the criticism towards this narrative decision comes in the form of angry, self-righteous indignation, and hostility directed towards Marvel, the writers, and the comic industry as a whole. The plot twist in making Captain America into Captain Hydra is accused of cynically exploiting antisemitism to drive up the sales of a series and generate interest in a character.
It’s important to give credence to these claims. After all, Captain America is the product of two Jewish men protesting America’s inaction towards Adolf Hitler’s horrific campaign. Was that character used as propaganda? Yes. Is there a lot to unpack in terms of galvanizing kids in wartime? Definitely. But all the same, one can’t deny the character has its roots in protesting Nazism and defending American values. Heck, his working title was “Super American.”
Which is why so many people feel hurt about the whole thing. Hydra is an organization founded by Baron von Strucker and Red Skull, two infamous Nazi villains in the Marvel canon. Yes, it’s true the Earth-616 incarnation of Hydra has very little to do with Nazism, but those roots are still there. For people familiar with comic history, and for a Jewish community who once found hope in Cap, this is a major blow.
At least, it could be a major blow. We don’t exactly know yet, and that’s where things get a bit dicey over making any big claim about the whole affair. As a lifelong comic diehard, I’ll admit these things have a history of big, dumb plot twists that become irrelevant in a matter of years, if not months. Remember Marvel’s “Battleworld” arc last year that was basically just an excuse to establish a bunch of separate canons?
Just like Wolverine is probably not actually dead, Captain America is, in all likelihood, not a secret Nazi. We only have one issue of one series to go off of, and frankly, its ending feels more like it was added to generate buzz for yet another Cap series, rather than something that’ll actually have long-lasting consequences. And if it does, the story will likely go along the lines of “Cap is a double-double agent using Hydra to execute some secret plan,” or something like that. It would go hand-in-hand with the espionage focus of his more recent outings.
While it’s important to validate the hurt this plot twist caused the Jewish community, it is also important to not make a judgement call from the first issue. If we took every comic twist at face value, and didn’t let a narrative thread run its course, we’d be in a constant state of anger at the industry as a whole.
If Cap was really an evil agent of Hydra this whole time, then I’ll call foul. But let’s allow the story arc to run its course before we spill any more ink on it, or attempt to unpack it. Because, as it stands, there’s a lot for us to learn before we have any real opinions on it.