The Ninjabot

Oh Cap My Cap: How the New Captain America Brought Me Back

Posted on March 17, 2013 at 10:09 am by Tyler Waterman

Over the past year, my relationship with Captain America has been a bit strained. I’ve made my stance on AvX pretty clear, and the opposite side of the “Cyclops Was Right” coin is inherently “Cap Was Wrong.” I found myself disagreeing with Cap on every single issue throughout the conflict, and can even make a pretty compelling argument that he was the actual villain of the crossover. Although AvX is far behind us, he hasn’t done much to win me back over. If he isn’t passively-aggressively questioning Havok’s leadership in Uncanny Avengers, he’s throwing his weight around the Jean Grey School in All-New X-Men, or dropping into Uncanny X-Men to point fingers in the wrong direction.

Where normally I’d just write off a character as getting less interesting and tend to focus less on their appearances, I can’t do this with Cap. It may be in the fifth spot, but Cap is firmly on my Top 5 Superheroes list. Growing up, I made countless shields and broke countless items throwing said shields. At least 15% of my wardrobe is Cap-related. I have over twenty Cap action figures. My point is, I’m really invested in this character! I don’t want to stop being excited about Cap showing up in books, and that was where I was headed. I was starting to lose hope that Cap would remain one of my all-time favorites.

Then I read the first four issues of Romita and Remender’s Captain America, and my hope was restored.

cap1

See? Cap’s grandfather knows hope is important.

To be honest, I can’t actually say I’m terribly surprised. When this book was first announced, every bit of information released made it clear to me that this was my very best chance to find redemption for this character. To start, I’d be hard-pressed to find a creative team I’d rather have on this title. John Romita Jr.’s art style is one that comic fans seem to either love or hate, and I fall on the far end of the love side of that spectrum. His sharp lines and severe angles please my eyes to no end, and what’s more, there isn’t a hero I love to see him draw more than Cap. On the words side, Rick Remender is responsible for some of my all time favorite stories. Although I’ve been critical of Uncanny Avengers, his Venom completely reinvented a stale character, Secret Avengers was one of the most unique pre-NOW! Marvel titles, and his Uncanny X-Force is one of my favorite X-titles of all time. I knew without a doubt this was a creative team I could have complete faith in.

However, even more than the team behind it, there was one announcement in particular that told me this was the Cap book I was looking for, and was the reason I waited until I had a back log of a few issues before I jumped in. Right from the start, the creative team made it clear that this wasn’t going to be the style of Cap book we’d grown so used to during the Ed Brubaker era. Now, make no mistake: I am in no way diminishing or implying any lack of love for the Brubaker run on Cap. In fact, I could write a whole separate article on how significant that run was both to the character, the Marvel Universe, and comic storytelling in general, but that’s for another day. But, with that being said, Cap was due for a change. For nearly a decade, the focus of nearly every Cap story was set firmly in his WWII roots. Whether it be enemies from the past reappearing, the legacy of Bucky, or even full-blown flashback stories, rarely have we seen Cap without being reminded more of where he’s been than where he was going.

Then along comes this new Captain America, and right from the gate we’re filled with promises of change. Both Remender and Romita took to the cons and the internet to ensure we knew that their intention was to tell a story unlike anything we’d been reading in a Cap title. They promised to boldly take Cap where he’d never been before; even better, they delivered on that promise three times over.

Yea, this definitely isn't 1944 Germany.

Yea, this definitely isn’t 1944 Germany.

The most obvious change is the setting. Gone are the familiar European trenches or Manhattan skylines we expect from a book called Captain America, replaced instead with an unfamiliar and terrible new world ruled by Arnim Zola that we’ve never seen before. Filled with monstrous experiments gone wrong, wild and deadly weather and tribes of savages, this “Zolaverse” is a terrible place to be trapped. What’s worse, Cap has no idea how to return home, no way to contact the Avengers, and has been forced to survive in this perpetual terror for over a decade. This isn’t Cap the superhero, it’s Cap the survivor, not a role we usually see him play.

Speaking of roles we never see Cap in, there is another in this book that is even more unique than that, one I never would have seen coming and one I’ve found exceptionally compelling. Cap isn’t just surviving this terrible world alone; this entire time, he’s also been protecting a child. When he escaped from Zola’s clutches, he took with him a small child that Zola was growing in a tube beside him. Cap named him Ian (after his grandfather), and over the years since he’s raised the boy as his own amidst the nightmare that is this world. Similar to the interactions of Bruce and Damian Wayne, this unlikely family dynamic has been a joy to read. Watching Cap teach his son how to use his shield, watching him instill his own values into the child, and also watching him butt heads with a kid as only a father and son can do is something I never thought I’d see. What’s more, I hope I don’t stop seeing it any time soon.

This is just all kinds of great.

This is just all kinds of great.

The last way they’ve changed the standard Cap formula is with their flashbacks. I know at first that statement seems contradictory, but it’s where they’re flashing back to that makes all the difference. Rather than the WWII scenes we always are reminded of, the flashbacks in this title focus on a young Steve Rogers in the 1920’s, watching him struggle with the loss of his father and the sickness of his mother. Flashbacks are an essential tool when telling stories about a hero who came from the past, and you can’t escape them when you write about Cap, but Remender uses them to tell us more about Steve and less about Cap, and that’s a welcome change.

If you were growing as concerned as I was about the way the character of Captain America was headed, I urge you to give this book a try. This is Cap the way we his fans love him the most. He’s backed against the wall, with everything to lose, and with an unwavering determination to save the day and to do it the right way. What’s more, long time fans simply have to see Cap the father, a relationship that is rapidly becoming as fascinating as the relationship between Cap and Bucky. I can’t think of a book I’ve read in a long time that I can be so confident on recommending: it may be covered in red, white and blue, but trust me when I tell you that it’s in fact pure gold.

 

Follow Tyler on twitter: @BatmanIncVP

    • Kstoltz

      I will have to check this one out. I've been get real tired of the Avengers vs. X-Men fallout, particularly in the way they've been depicting the Avengers. I've never really cared for hero vs. hero fights, mainly because after 50 years of them, they are so forced: The characters have to be willfully stupid in order to go along with the premise that they need to fight, and the worse part about that is they end up screwing up characters like Cap and Iron Man.

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