Hail Hydra? The New Captain America?
So I should open by saying I haven’t read the comic yet. And it’s an issue number 1, so nobody has that much insight into it. But in this week’s newest All New, All Different Marvel Universe title – Steve Rogers: Captain America #1 – we got to see a shocking twist on a 75 year old beloved character!
That’s right, Memes-away, it’s Hydra time! This was one of the most interesting things about Captain America: Winter Soldier, I think especially on a first viewing. The role of Hydra in the MCU is massive! It’s crazy! It sprouted a cool meme, it breathed life into Agents of SHIELD (honestly, they’ve been riding that train ever since), it was great. It had shock value, but didn’t change the meaning too much on what had come before – rather, it provided a whole bunch of context.
So let me talk it through, in terms of how it differs from its use in the movies, and then in terms of how it totally makes sense because of the movies.
DIFFERENT FROM DOING IT IN THE MOVIES
I’m re-reading the post I wrote talking about Winter Soldier and the meme. So sorry to be quoting myself, but:
I read a pretty good point about this meme – and sadly lost the post, but it’s somewhere on Tumblr, and hopefully others have made the point. This meme is in fairly bad taste – after all, Hydra is a Nazi spin-off eugenics hate group that would love to kill or control the world. Hail Hydra, as a phrase, is a direct derivation from Hail Hitler. Not our finest hour as a humanity.
So we need to remember with this one that we’re probably not on the side of Hydra. I like the idea of subverting the idea of who we can trust, and who the secret bad guys are. You can completely change the meaning of an entire story by dropping in a Hail Hydra. But we need to remember that the thing itself is bad: Hydra is bad.
However, that’s some of what makes this so good: the badness but also the success of Hydra. This was a reveal worthy of being a hidden reveal. Gone are the reveals of last year: the Mandarin is the Dread Pirate Roberts, and Khan is in fact Khan. No, this time, it’s a reveal that mattered. A reveal larger than one character. Larger than the film itself. Larger than the film and the concurrent TV show. This one had implications.
Okay, so here’s the scene from the comic:
I just… I don’t know. This has too many implications. This is too big. This is ret-conning in too much. I read the Illuminati comics and was a bit skeptical about that ret-con in, of that group influencing major events in the Marvel comics universe. This one is 75 years worth of undoing, and it feels like too much. It’s not a shocking reveal you’ve been working on the whole time, it’s a shock to shock, a change to change things.
In the movie, they were going back only 6 years of movies, but really only back to Iron Man 2 so 4 years. And they only made it so the bad guys were badder, and had recruited some low-grade good guys. This seems hard to actually make factually work.
But then again, I don’t think they need to.
I MEAN, IT’S CALLED ALL NEW, ALL DIFFERENT
Okay so I have a couple of points I want to weave together to say, of course they did this. First is Secret Wars, part of the reason I didn’t read this comic and don’t plan to. The Marvel comics universe, as we’ve known it for decades, came to a literal end. That universe died. A new one was born, a full-on universal reset. Big Bang 2.
Some characters made it through, from a variety of different former universes. So yes, Wolverine died in the comics a year or two ago – and the Wolverine in the comics now is Old Man Logan, from that alternate universe short series. Hmmmm, and now they’re making an Old Man Logan Movie…
And Steve Rogers as Captain America was done, and Sam Wilson was now Captain America. Again, yep, that happened and is still canon, and as far as I know in the comics now even Sam is still Cap… also. It sounds like this is Steve Rogers, brought back to life in this new universe, and apparently revealing that he was always Hydra!
But it’s also a whole new Cap in a whole new universe. It doesn’t have to be Steve Rogers, Captain America, Earth 616. Infinite universes died, he could be any of them. It could be something implanted in him as he came back to life. There’s any number of ways they could explain this away – and likely will in a few years.
I had said of Secret Wars that I felt complete, that I felt done with the Marvel Universe and I accepted that it was dead (Everything Dies). I’m planning on going back and reading some of the older stuff still (yay Marvel Unlimited!) but don’t feel a need to read the new stuff. Because they are literally rewriting themselves. Rebuilding, restarting. And I don’t have to go along for that ride.
And this is just one of the parts of that new beginning.
THE MOVIES ARE GOOD, SO LET’S DO IT IN THE COMICS TOO!
So as to my second point to weave. A lot has been made of how Marvel seems to be boosting interest in the properties it owns the movie rights to, and poo-pooing those it doesn’t (especially the X-Men). Such as the X-Men in the new Marvel universe being back to square one, hated enemies of society. Although bringing back Old Man Logan and now a movie… I don’t know. Anyway.
The long and short of it is, are the movies influencing the comics side of the business? I think the answer has to be, of course. The movies are insanely popular, they’re making a ton of money, sure – but more importantly, they’re introducing people who haven’t read the comics before to these characters, and surely people are picking up the comics who hadn’t before. Heck, I gave Avengers comics a try myself because the movies got me interested in them – I was an X-Men reader, through-and-through.
To me, that explains the universal reboot and all the rest – trying to create that sweet spot for a good entry point for new readers, while trying to hang onto all the existing readers you can.
And this stunt totally feels like a case of “this worked in the movie, let’s try in the comics!” It makes more sense for a new reader than it does for someone who’s read cap for a decade or more, right? There’s less information to parse. Fewer things being changed in your mind as you consider the implications of Captain America as public enemy #1.
Still, it’s kind of true. And kind of inevitable. The movies are going to creep into the comics, not necessarily because of some corporate directive, but just because you’re trying to connect to the new readers you’ve picked up. Getting into comics can be daunting.
So is this change my cup of tea? Nah. But hey, the Marvel Universe is dead to me, so what do I care?… Bring on the MCU!