Captain America #4
Cap is on a rescue mission to save Sharon from the grips of a mysterious foe. Upon realizing that General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross delivered Sharon into enemy hands and has in fact been working with the enemy, Cap embarks on a new kind of "crisis of faith" as he faces the dangers of a 21st century world with no great wars.
As Sharon faces her captor, she discovers that it is none other than Alexa Lukin, widow of Alexander Lukin. Sharon killed Alexander all the way back in the Brubaker run on Cap, just moments after he was dispossessed of the Red Skull. Lukin reveals that, although seizing the power vacuum left in the US by Hydra's regime collapse is her main goal, there is an element of the personal here as well.
The last we see of Sharon is a panel of Selene, the mutant vampire, preparing to feed on our heroine. Meanwhile, as Cap winds his way through the facility, he encounters the mercenary Taskmaster and a fight ensues, leaving the reader at a cliffhanger.
Much the same as in our own world, the discourse of patriotism permeates this current Captain America series. The connections to Steve’s time as an avatar of Hyrdra in Secret Empire serve to create added wrinkles to the notion of what it means to be patriotic, particularly in the 21st century United States, where the term has been mobilized by many citizens and politicians alike as a battle cry against their brethren. Where once, patriotism was clear in the face of international evils– the Hitlers and Mussolinis of the world– now we face an internal battle for the soul of a nation.
The real focus of this series seems to be on the battle being fought on the message boards and social media that has pitted citizen against citizen, splitting families in the voting booth, creating a hostile living environment in which “us versus them” has become the national factory setting (despite our being both “us” and “them”). The question of foreign influence looms large, as Lukin describes moving away from our “infested cities” into the American Heartland, only to find a ready and willing workforce thanks to governmental neglect. She calls them a “glorious proletariat” as she remarks on how similar the US is to Russia. Many may read this as an attack on Republican voters in the rural United States, but the narrative doesn’t quite support that in either context or subtext. The critique is not on Republican government or those who support it, but on government as a whole, Red and Blue, and the ways that the loudest voices (metropoles) receive the majority of the attention while the majority of the nation becomes voiceless.
In the wake of the Hydra occupation, industry seems down in the Marvel world, Soldiers and government workers now return to their lives of economic duress, and nobody seems to have taken notice. Nobody except the Power Elite, who see the vacuum where media cameras don’t care to go, and seize the opportunity to mobilize a decrepit workforce. The rhetoric is not unlike that of the recent Republican presidential campaign, in which jobs were promised and a bright shiny future for hard working peoples was presented on a silver platter. These things are needed for a great number of the population, without a doubt, for survival of entire towns that whither away like neglected houseplants, and thus the appeal for many is obvious and difficult to discount, no matter what the talking heads on your particular favorite news outlet would lead you to believe. It doesn’t take a fool, a racist, or a bigot to succumb to the promises of the Power Elite. It doesn’t take any of those things to turn on past heroes, either, as we see Cap torn apart by public distrust because his face was the face of the enemy not that long ago. As heroes fall, what rises to take their place?
All of this rambling diatribe that most won’t actually bother to read is for this statement: Coates and Yu have created a Captain America series that digs at the very heart of what it means to be an American Patriot in the 21st century, when all the great wars have been fought already leaving the United States with faceless enemies on all sides. Who can be trusted in a world like this and for how long?
If you are among the throngs of fans that are turned off by hamfisted political commentary, I would urge you to read Captain America with an open mind. If you want to see a liberal boogeyman here, I'm certain you can convince yourself of its presence, but the multi-layer narrative actually may be the most bi-partisan (or perhaps anti-partisan) text to be found in comics today.
Captain America #4: Discursive Maneuvers
Writing - 10/10
Storyline - 8/10
Art - 9/10
Color - 9/10
Cover Art - 10/10
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