Did Marvel Just Make Captain America The Ultimate Traitor?

Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 debuts today, and the book is almost as controversial as that time Sam Wilson was supposedly coming to beat up all the conservatives. But are the rumors true? Is Cap not what he seems to have been all this time? Spoilers below!

Nick Spencer and Jesus Saiz’s work on their debut issue is fairly straightforward. Captain America, having spent a brief stint as a 90-year-old man supervising SHIELD operations, has been returned to his youthful vigor thanks to a living manifestation of the Cosmic Cube. He’s still getting used to being in the field, and has a SHIELD team backing him up which includes some of Marvel’s attempts to reinvent Cap over the years.

Spencer spends quite a bit of time, in the book, exploring the motives of a suicide bomber Cap is attempting to save. Why did he join HYDRA? Why did he fall for the Red Skull’s racist rhetoric about immigrants? Why do people who want hope turn to committing acts of violence? It’s a compelling, and humanistic, angle to take. That’s a quality Captain America: Sam Wilson, also written by Spencer, has become well known for, and, as with that book, he contrasts it with lighthearted humor. (Baron Zemo’s recruiting drive, for example, does not go as he was hoping.)

We also flash back to Cap’s past as a young man, with his abusive father and protective mother. They’re helped by Elisa Sinclair, a young socialite who seemingly spends her time helping out the downtrodden of New York City. All of it dovetails to a final confrontation against Baron Zemo where Jack Flag, Cap’s current sidekick, saves Cap… and Cap repays him by chucking him out of a plane and saying “Hail HYDRA.” This unfolds as we discover Elisa is a member of what’s called the HYDRA Society in the 1920s, and she wants Steve and his mother to join. Yes, supposedly, Cap has been a traitor for these 75 years. But, if you know your comics, you likely have already figured out what’s going on. For those who didn’t waste their youth, let’s talk about the Cosmic Cube.

In the comics, Cap spent years chasing after the Cube, a device that can alter reality for whoever holds it. The Red Skull similarly spent years chasing it because rewriting reality is a lot cheaper and easier than building a Fourth Reich. In fact, Cap was brought back to his younger self thanks to Kobik, which the Cube turns itself into. Kobik, who’s a grade schooler, was being used to forcibly erase the minds of supervillains and reshape their bodies so they would be happy, productive citizens of Pleasant Hill. Kobik is pretty easy to manipulate; she’s a kid, after all. And she’s spent an awful lot of time around the Red Skull recently.

So, yes, Cap is a traitor… sort of. But it sure looks like he’s being manipulated by the Cube and the Red Skull. We’ll find out soon enough: Captain America: Steve Rogers is monthly from Marvel, and you can find the first issue on stands today.