I often write reviews of first issues of comics I have read, and I usually wait until I have 2 or 3 and write them at the same time. Still, it is probably worth an exception to write about this one now. Snyder is one of my favorite writers going now. Indeed, perhaps my favorite writer of the last 2 years. He currently writes Astonishing Ant Man and completed a series called Superior Foes of Spider-Man. Both are hilarious, and although it’s all been done, Spencer seems to find new and interesting ways to make light of the comic universe, and yet still bring in all of the trademarks of a quality writer- plot, characterization, pathos, etc. He also has started a comic for Image called The Fix, which I reviewed not that long ago, and is a bit over the top, but for the most part brings to life characters that would fit well in an Elmore Leonard novel.
All, high marks for Spencer, though of course, going forward he will be known as the guy who made Captain America into an agent of HYDRA. I have often lamented that comic books have certain boundaries that keep the market where it is. I don’t get it, but it’s pretty obvious. Thor can’t be female, Spiderman can’t be Hispanic, etc. I am hardly on the internet these days, but I know this is only the tip of an iceberg. I am mainly talking about my experience though of people who say The Thing can’t “act” that way, or Daredevil would “never” do that. Well, I feel like if an author has drawn up The Thing to act like that or explains why Daredevil does that, then it’s the writer’s story to tell.
These are well loved characters, so maybe I am the weird one, but that is why I love comics. Batman is the most obvious example. Batman can be a procedural detective. He can be a cold gothic loner. He can be overly cartoony liked in the animated version, or even campy (I suppose) like the ’66 version. I have read and loved very different takes by the likes of Frank Miller, Ty Templeton, Scott Snyder, James Robinson and Grant Morrison, to name a few.
Anyway, let’s get down to that big reveal. It went viral. How could Spencer do this? How could Marvel let this happen? There was outrage. The outrage I saw was mainly from non-comic book fans Ok, ok, comic book fans were outraged too, but I saw a lot of postings from people who haven’t been to a comic book store on a Wednesday for years (if ever). Sure, they watch the newest X men movie, but they have never put down $5 (yeah, outrageous these days) to buy a single issue comic, and they certainly did not read any of this particular comic except the very last page. They saw Captain America was a Hydra Agent, and they were hitting the “share” button on social media.
So what did happen in the book? Well, I rarely have seen reviewers so all over the board on an issue- there were raves and there were one-star reviews. I mostly fall in the rave category.
SRCA is a tricky book in that as a Marvel title with this character and that art, it appears to be a serious work. Yet, Spencer peppers the book with plenty of humor that I think most people aren’t expecting, or would cause reviewers to think it “clunky”. I think it will end up elevating the book. There’s also a lot of stuff crammed in the first issue. There’s two intertwining main plots and a host of characters introduced that are well-established Captain America players (though not likely known to many readers). I understand the drawback of this, and maybe that is one of the things that moves me from saying this is a Great to a Very Good comic.
But that Hydra thing? Well, for starters, Spencer has modernized Hydra in that they resemble a mix of a modern day American neo-nazi group and an ISIS type terrorist group. Hydra is led by classic CA villain The Red Skull who is busy in issue 1 laying out his plan to Make America Great Again, if you know what I mean, while Baron Zemo has plans for the group, and there seems to be a power struggle.
Obviously part of the lightning rod for this issue is Red Skull saying everything short of “we’re going to build a wall and make Tony Stark pay for it”, but that’s actually nothing new- as Spencer bright that to the Capverse last year. The point is Hydra has always been a variation on the Nazis, while Captain America steers up more patriotism than perhaps any other superhero. Some see this all as a slap in the face to the creators of the character- Simon and Kirby- two Jewish Americans.
To those who haven’t read the comic, it seems ludicrous that Steve Rogers would be a Nazi, which brings a point I want to bring up again- I have read the comic. It would be ludicrous to write Steve Rogers as a Nazi. There’s no hint that Spencer is going down some blasphemous road. He gives Rogers a strong moral background. The reveal, lest we forget is simply one panel on the last page of the first issue of a series. There will be an explanation. Likely, it’s Cap undercover as a plant, though there are other possibilities- perhaps the man in the mask isn’t Rogers, perhaps he’s mind-controlled, etc.
Given Spencer’s track record, I think this is going to end up being a worthwhile series. The fact Spencer is taking a chance with a plot that has led to him getting death threats may mean I like him even more.