On the (rarely) wonderful social media source that is Facebook, I recently read that in the latest Marvel comics, Captain America is revealed to be a Hydra agent. Now I’m not well-versed in the comics, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe is responsible for Captain America being my favorite character. His morality and patriotism is truly admirable, so seeing this newest revelation is like the twisting of a knife in my heart. Now I don’t doubt that there will be some kind of explanation or ret-conning later on, but still, this reveal completely changes what we all have come to know and love about the character.
Captain America’s character was first conceived in the 1940’s in response to World War II. His character has stood the test of time for many years now, and while there have been some differences in his personality, at his core he has overall remained the same with each challenge he faces. Comic book writers really do have the challenge of giving this character something new to grapple with, and bringing something new to the table to get these emotional moments can be difficult. But making Captain America a Hydra agent just doesn’t make sense, especially seeing how the movies have approached the modernization of his character so expertly without making such a dramatic change.
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain America strives to save as many lives as he can and avoid conflict. He understands though that in times of conflict, sacrifices have to be made for the greater good, but he will still do what he can to protect the innocent. It’s his duty to fight for his country and the citizens. As the movies have continued, Captain America comes into conflict with the current way the government is run, creating conflict between his ideologies and that of the government. What makes his character so great in the movies is because of how he is faced with adversary on a personal level that conflicts with that he believes in, and it forces him to take on these issues head first.
At his core, Captain America remains a loyal soldier willing to protect his country and the people he cares for no matter what. He’s not just the “Boy Scout” trying to do good – he becomes much more nuanced in the later films when his ideologies don’t match with that of the modern world, forcing him to either flow with it or ground himself in what he’s familiar with. It makes his character fascinating to follow, and seeing his development in the movies is great and among one of the strongest aspects of the films.
The reason that Captain America has been able to stand the test of time – and why his films in the MCU are among the most adored – is because of his philosophies on right and wrong. No matter what, Captain America strives to do what he believes is right, even if it means fighting everyone else around him. In a way, this makes him an incorruptible hero – he is grounded by his philosophies and arguably stubborn to a fault because of them. He inspires people to feel just as strongly for their beliefs, and to seek justice for all people.
With this newest stream of comics though, if he lacks his morality and goodness from the very beginning by becoming a Hydra agent, than he is a fundamentally different character. He’s no longer the Captain America that resonated with so many people throughout the decades. It’s not that he’s different – he’s unrecognizable, and this makes it difficult for people to support this new iteration of his character.
Now I don’t mind seeing characters being portrayed differently at times. It has the potential to be really compelling if done right and has a good setup. For example, Bucky Barnes is a great example of a character that was dramatically changed within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Bucky starts out as Steve’s best friend, and is someone Steve greatly admires and arguably strives to become. Bucky was brave and loyal to the very end, so seeing his transformation into the heartless, killing machine that is Winter Soldier is a big deal.
It’s not done just for shock value – we have a history with the character, and we want to see where he goes. Will he regain his old personality traits as Bucky, or will the influence of the Winter Soldier and Hydra continue to haunt him? These questions make us much invested in his journey to redeem himself, and because of this dramatic change in his character, we are able to gain so much more from his story and character traits. Because of how compelling and complex Bucky’s character has become in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he’s easily risen to the top as one of my favorite Marvel superheroes.
At this point, if they were really wanting to go with something new and dramatic for Steve Rogers’ Captain America, it would be better for an entirely different character to take up the mantle of the Captain (which in a sense, was already done very successfully with Bucky), and then have conflicting ideologies involving the meaning of what Captain America should do versus their own judgment. That could be compelling while still giving us something new to think about without specifically changing Steve Rogers’ character and his core personality traits.
With the movies having done a good job of modernizing Captain America without changing these core elements, I think the comics should strive to do the same. By having Captain America side with the enemy, willingly or otherwise, it destroys the foundation of what his character has meant to people in the last several decades. It’s a bold move that will leave a lasting mark on the significance of Captain America and his future character development.