Steve Rogers, sentinel of liberty! One of the most beloved heroes in the Marvel comics library has been through some tough times lately. After spending a decade trapped in a homebrew dimension run by Arnim Zola, Captain America faced his greatest challenge yet: Old age. Sapped of the super soldier serum that made him a nightmare for Nazis in World War two, Rogers was forced to fight from the sidelines as his mortality crept up on him.
That all changed of course. Repowered and back to peak physical condition after the events of Pleasant Hill. And Captain America is doing what he does best, fighting terrorists and protecting America. Business as usual then, right? Not quite as this week revealed a twist that was totes shocking, yo. Spoilers after the image.
Right, so what’s the big reveal that has everyone so angry? Well thanks to the raging jackasses at publications such as EW, the AP and Time who decided to ruin the twist without warnings in pursuit of clicks, it looks like Captain America has secretely been an agent of HYDRA all this time. Yup:
That’s the final page from Captain America: Steve Rogers #1, which sets up the patriotastic pugilist as having been a member of HYDRA since the days of the Great Depression. All of this is punctuated by Cap throwing former sidekick Rick Flagg to his apparent death from a jet after they attempt to see what the Red Skull is up to with his new grassroots version of HYDRA that is recruiting disenfranchised American citizens into its ranks.
All of this, set to an origin story where Steve’s mom joined HYDRA back in 1926 and Rogers apparently followed in her footsteps as he pulled off a con-job worthy of an alternate ending on a DVD of the Usual Suspects, having faked being the greatest patriot in the Marvel Universe for almost a century. Well alright then.
Naturally, fans are livid. Like, properly angry if you frequent any forum or read the comments, as they rant and rave about this being anything from a mere shock value twist with no actual substance to Marvel attempting to sway some press to their side away from DC’s red-hot Rebirth event. Marvel executive editor Tom Brevoort says that this was all part of a plan, that will totally make sense. Because of course it will.
“Issue 2 kind of winds the clock back a little bit and lays out exactly how and why things are the way they are,” Brevoort said to TIME.
And it lays out a roadmap for where things are headed in the future. At this point, I don’t want to say too much definitively because I want people to read the comic books. But people will be able to connect the dots and follow the trail of breadcrumbs. It means on the most fundamental level that the most trusted hero in the Marvel universe is now secretly a deep-cover Hydra operative, a fact that’s really only known to the readers and to him. That makes every interaction he has with anyone take on a second layer, a second meaning.
It still reeks of pure gimmickry at this point, even if work began on this storyline back in 2014 already. “Every single month whether it’s a run of the mill month for Captain America or an extraordinary month, our job is to put him in situations that place that character under some degree of pressure and see how he reacts to that,” Brevoort said when asked if the new angle was in fact a sales-pushing gimmick.
And hopefully our readers are surprised, shocked, elated, see something of themselves, learn something about themselves. To say it’s a gimmick implies that it’s done heedlessly just to shock. The proof is always going to be in the execution. So you’ll have to read the rest of the story to see.
But I certainly believe it’s not a gimmick. It’s a story that we spent a long time on, that’s compelling and captures the zeitgeist of the world. It will make readers wonder how the heck we’ll get out of this.
Like everything else in comics where controversial storylines are ushered in, expect this to probably be done away with in a dozen issues so far. Besides, Captain America: Agent of HYDRA action figures aren’t going to fly off shelves when Christmas rolls around.
Last Updated: May 26, 2016