Captain America: Steve Rogers just launched this past Wednesday. It’s never that exciting to see a new Captain America launch unless Brubaker or Waid is writing the book. But, that’s not being fair to the new guys taking their shot at the various Captain Americas running around the Marvel Universe. Starting with the Sam Wilson Captain America character, Spencer carved out a hook that was insanely intriguing. Sam Wilson was a Captain America that found himself at odds with Steve Rogers. The now elderly Steve Rogers had become entrenched with helping SHIELD operations to the point that he was interfering with Sam’s time as Captain America.
The older citizens of the Marvel Universe spent the first issues distrusting Sam, often quipping “Not My Cap”. But, Sam pressed on until he discovered that SHIELD was in fact, misusing cosmic cube technology for personal gain. Steve eventually had to side with his former partner when faced with the revelation. End of Act 1. So far, so good. From there, the legwork began to bring the various Captain Americas into one of the most interesting Marvel crossovers in recent memory. Avengers: Standoff kicked off Act 2 of the current Captain America revamp. When the Captains America had thought they stopped SHIELD’s misuse of cosmic cubes, they forgot about one. Naturally, the creative team worked in a way for The Winter Soldier to be one that discovers it.
Nick Spencer is a former politician turned writer and his political background plays incredibly well into the material. Hell, a friend of mine still has some materials from when Spencer ran third party in Cincinnati. When Spencer started Avenger: Standoff, he made quite the case for what SHIELD was doing with the cosmic cubes. SHIELD director Maria Hill had accidentally caused a cosmic cube to become sentient. This cube now resembles a five year old girl and has taken the name Kobik. Maria Hill smells opportunity, so Hill and Dr. Erik Solveig work together to get Kobik to warp a SHIELD military site into a thriving town in the heart of rural Connecticut. The kicker is that the populace will all be supervillains who have had their identities and minds altered via Kobik’s cosmic cube powers.
Standoff dared to show a world where the villains were happy as unaware prisoners. In the outside world, friends of the villains were spending time looking for their missing friends and life generally moved on. Naturally, a few villains slipped through the cracks and the early stages of a new Hydra were born out of the disgruntled prisoners. The Avengers arrived, get altered and turned back by Rogue’s ability to fight off mental control. Punches are thrown and Steve Rogers convinced little Kobik to de-age him to stop Crossbones from killing him. Things end well, but a new Hydra is formed. Maria Hill is brought up on federal charges and the Avengers move on. End of Act 2.
Fan response was riding very high. Interest in the Captain America books were spiking for the character’s 75th Anniversary. Captain America: Civil War was a smash hit and he was getting his own Free Comic Book Day release. This is the start of Act 3 and were things get a little shaky. Speaking for myself, Free Comic Book Day is getting harder and harder to attend. The events are bigger and its helping the industry, but it still feels odds to seed big changes into books that require a ton of investment from an emerging crop of readers. But, Marvel is on Year 3 of doing just that and what wrong could the House of Ideas do now?
Not much happened in the FCBD issue, but it featured the Red Skull dropping the plot point casually about what was to come next. This is important, as the Red Skull all but says that he’s going to use a Cosmic Cube to rewrite Captain America’s personal history. When reading the first issue of Captain America: Steve Rogers, you can see parallels between Red Skull’s origins and the new reveal for Steve Rogers. But, let’s slow that train down for a moment. The Red Skull that we see in the comics isn’t the Red Skull of the films or your dear memory. This Red Skull is a clone of the original that got wheeled out for retcons and needed plot points throughout the years.
This Red Skull is also packing the harvested brain of Professor Charles Xavier which somehow is giving him telepathy and other psionic powers. How dead tissue grafted onto a pre-existing clone brain does that is beyond me. My name is not Krieger and I don’t dabble in Nazi science experiments. But, it’s comics and I’ve spent years buying into a sentient dog that teleports people to the Blue Area of the Moon. Well, this walking science experiment of a Red Skull has seemingly used a Cosmic Cube off panel to warp Captain America into a Hydra sleeping agent. But, you only know this if you read the Free Comic Book Day issue, as it hasn’t been seen on-panel in any other issue or referenced at any time before now. Naturally, people freaked out.
The nature of preemptive criticism has permeated through every corner of the Internet. The last few weeks have seen the moral authority of the online academics downplaying James Rolfe’s early dismissal of Ghostbusters (2016) due to disinterest. The canon of media acceptance is always full of holes, but tolerance of personal disinterest wasn’t allowed. Were his views slightly childish and didn’t acknowledge that the film doesn’t need his approval? Sure, but what bit of media needs full acceptance? Art isn’t a democracy, it’s a high dollar addiction.
The entitlement of Film Twitter, Pop Culture arm-chair critics and know-it-alls to proclaim righteous authority over others is a plague on the Internet. Much like how missing one issue of Captain America can color your review of the Hydra traitor reveal, gaps in knowledgeable perception impact all consumers of media/art/funny pictures. Everyone from Angry Video Game Nerds to 12-year-old message board members to the academic elite to neckbeards to women to all points beyond are allowed to share their emotional response to something they see. The only history that matters to the viewer is the personal one and that history is informed by content. Placing such a key plot point in an issue that a ton of readers could’ve missed was a misstep by Marvel and undermined a lot of what Spencer was trying to do with his opening bow on Captain America.
Now, Spencer is getting harassed online and USA Today pats themselves on the back for another early Marvel spoiler before books hit store shelves. Comics are still a viable form of entertainment, but the industry has to realize that they’re not film or TV. Accessibility and story-flow still dictates so much of how the material is perceived and the slightest misstep can leave casual and long-time fans feeling shafted. Things like this are what give way to preemptive criticism and cause potential audience members to shut down to any change, even if the story sets it up. Even though the plot twist left me annoyed, this comic reader will still stay onboard for what Spencer offers next for Captain America: Steve Rogers.