Movies & TV / Columns

411 Comics Showcase – Captain America: Hail Hydra!

June 10, 2016 | Posted by Aaron Hubbard

Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Even if I viscerally disagree with your opinion about a comic or a movie, or you disagree with mine, neither is less valid. My perspective is my perspective, built on my values, my tastes, and my life experience. If you’re here, you’re reading mine. I will very rarely make any attempts to be objective, because I believe that objectivity is ultimately pointless. If that is what you want, look at a sales graph or Rotten Tomatoes.

Last week, I talked about X-Men: Apocalypse and how much I hated it. And don’t get me wrong, I still do, but I’m also not going to sit here stewing in those negative emotions. I vent loudly, get everything out there, and move on. I won’t be seeing it again, and I’ll do my level best not to think about it again. Which really shouldn’t be too hard.

This week, let’s get out of the movies and into comics. Sort of.

A couple of weeks ago I went on a much needed vacation. Right around the same time, Steve Rogers: Captain America #1 hit comic book stands and the internet promptly exploded. I figured this would just be another dumb comic book storyline that I could just roll my eyes at and not worry about it again. But I realized that when even the airport security guy is asking my opinion because I happen to be wearing my “No, you move!” Cap T-Shirt, that this has exploded past just the hardcore comic book audience.

Steve Rogers “being a Hydra agent the whole time” is everywhere, generating memes galore, causing a ton of internet nerd rage, the author is getting death threats (seriously guys?), and I’m probably gonna be wearing my Star Wars and Green Lantern shirts in public for a while because I’m sick of this conversation. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen that kind of stir that didn’t involve Marvel killing Spider-Man or Wolverine.

And yeah, if you read even more than one of my articles, you’re probably expecting me to be outraged that Marvel is turning Steve Rogers into a Nazi and how it’s disrespectful to his Jewish creators or whatever. Hell, part of me is even wondering why I’m not as offended by this, but really, it’s just too dumb for me to really be upset by. Yes, it goes against everything Steve Rogers’ character is about, and yes, it’s just Marvel doing something controversial to create buzz. But the thing is… it’s just a comic book.

Look, I know that probably sounds like flippant dismissal, especially from someone who loves comic books. But the thing is, comics have been around for decades, and while there’s a lot of good stuff out there, there’s a lot of bad stuff too. People even confuse the two, which is why Batman v. Superman is a love letter to two of the most overrated comic books of the last forty years. There are thousands of characters, hundreds of books and writers and artists and they all have unique perspectives. Some of them are fantastic, some of them suck, but very few of them leave a genuinely lasting impact.

And unlike movies, comics are very much a niche audience. A movie (especially in the superhero genre) takes little time to consume, very rarely takes a long time to think about, and leaves a lasting impression. I mean, we’re still talking about 1978’s Superman The Movie and how Christopher Reeve’s Superman is so iconic that nobody can really live up to it. But are general audiences really talking about that time that Superman was split into a red and blue versions, or that time Connor Hawke was Green Arrow, or when Doctor Octopus took over Peter Parker’s brain for a while?

Do you see what I’m getting at here?

It’s not gonna stick. It’ll last six months tops and probably won’t even make it that far thanks to the backlash. Comic books come out every month, and they have to keep audiences on their toes, but all generally recent to the status quo. Beloved characters die to shock audiences, then come back to placate or excite them again. Epic crossovers occur to sell comics, but the “long-lasting” ramifications don’t usually last that long. Radical changes happen to get readers talking, and then retcons happen to set things back to normal to remind us why we fell in love with the characters in the first place.

And if there is anything about this “Hail Hydra!” nonsense that does upset me, it’s knowing that this is a dumb idea that is going to be retconned in a really stupid way. Which means a lot of time is going to be devoted to fixing Captain America when some executive should have just looked at the proposed story, known it was awful, and nipped it in the bud before it got to print. Which means that more time is going to be meant on this stupid story instead of making way for new, hopefully better ones involving Steve Rogers. Which makes me sad, because I’ve been waiting for a new “good” Steve Rogers comic for a long time.

Yep, that stuff sucked too. It just didn’t suck in a way that offended the sensibilities of people, so we all kind of forgot that it happened. Comic readers are kind of used to that, I think. Comics ebb and flow and you wade through the bad stuff to get to the good stuff, because when comics are great, it’s an incredibly rewarding experience. Part of the reward is knowing you had the commitment that most people don’t have, and it eventually paid off.

(No, that isn’t me being smug and superior because I read comics, I’m just saying it’s something that comic fans experience.)

So yeah, I’m just kind of bummed that time is going to be devoted to this story and not something else. I just hope the resolution isn’t completely stupid, doesn’t last too long, and doesn’t catch on so well that Marvel decides that really should be the new status quo for Steve Rogers. We don’t need another Clone Saga experience, nor do we need Captain America as an unironic right-wing old school Republican patriot because he isn’t and has never been one. Unless the one who’s been a Hydra agent all along is actually the Ultimate Universe Captain America, since that guy’s a real jerk already.

Actually, that last one would be kind of cool.

Seriously, just imagine 616 Steve Rogers coming face to face with that guy and showing him what it really means to be Captain America! That would be fantastic!

But I digress.

The important thing here is that yes, this is a bad decision by Marvel. It’s not going to get them any new readers, it’ll probably lose a few readers, and ultimately all it’s going to amount to is a bunch of really funny memes floating around the internet. Which isn’t exactly the publicity they want. Sadly, it is more than they deserve, because I’m really, really tired of this already and the second issue hasn’t even come out yet.

What do I make of it really? I just pretend that it didn’t happen. It’s what I do with all things I just don’t care for in fiction. My “head canon” will always mean more to me than actual comic book canon, and comics have a way of righting themselves more often than not. Even if it takes a few years.