There's been a lot to do about the first issue of "Captain America: Steve Rogers #1," written by Nick Spencer and drawn by Jesus Saiz. I wonder how much of the commentary is based on Internet rage, rather than an actual reading of the text, though. I read the issue and I have a lot of thoughts.
I know there are some who have issues with this comic book and the turn at the end, but reading deeper into the story, makes perfect sense and honors the legacy of Captain America in a way that will make us all proud. That doesn't discount the shock or outrage some feel, they are completely entitled to it. But speaking for me, deep comics like this are what I read the medium for, and I'm in it for the long haul.
It's deep in many ways, and it had me thinking about our children. What we teach our children is something that informs the rest of their life. If we teach them to be skeptical, they will be skeptical. If we teach them to believe in God, they will do so. They believe in Santa Claus as long as we let them, but only until the evidence comes mounting so much that they are in disbelief and need our final assurance that they'd been misled.
If we teach them in the inherent value of the American way of life, this too is something they learn. Some teenagers might embrace a more rebellious view of the system, others embrace the system itself, but overall, the values instilled in them as children, that innate sense of right and wrong, is what we've taught them. Children are reinforced by our reactions to their actions. When they are mean, we lovingly scold them. When they are selfish, we chide them to share. When they throw a tantrum, we offer them succor and sooth them.
But what happens when we believe the actions we take for the greater good are actually bad? History is filled with tyrants and bigots who did what they thought was the right thing, not because of who they were born as, but because of who they became through their environment. No one ever thinks of themselves as the bad guys. Not the Nazis, the KKK, North Korea, or even Hydra. Often times, these organizations wrap themselves in the rhetoric of doing good.
In this issue of "Captain America: Steve Rogers," the Red Skull gives an impassioned speech to a group of desperate people looking for a better life. The villains throughout the issue espouse this Ayn Rand style philosophy as a move to prey on the weakness and desperation of others. We see it everywhere from Red Skull's speech, to the use of the train and it's control by "Battlestar Johngaltica." It's a manipulation. It's scapegoating. Someone else is responsible for your suffering and the good of your upbringing can be twisted into something else. Something nefarious.
Unless you're Captain America. No. As a man, Captain America could never be twisted by the empty rhetoric offered by someone like Red Skull. Or Baron Zemo. Or Hydra. But a lesser man might. This is why we see the suicide bomber's life from the beginning. One bad circumstance after another. He was corrupted by these dangerous ideas in adulthood.
But how do you corrupt the incorruptible?
You go to a time in their lives where they're more impressionable. Wouldn't you associate all the warm feelings you could to the organization that helped make your community better and helped your mother out of an abusive relationship? Of course. So that's why Captain America has been targeted in the 1920s.
This issue of the comic is a brilliant commentary on how important it is to teach our children to shed the hate and bigotry that we're seeing today coming from people like Donald Trump. Because even someone as inherently good as Captain America being fed the wrong garbage, whether that's the propaganda of Hydra in 1926 or the Fox News of 2016, won't grow up to be the Captain America we know and love; the Captain America we need.
Although we still have a long way to go to see exactly how this story ends up playing out, I think a few things are obvious. In the opening explanation of the comic, we're told that this takes place in a reality-bending super prison. We're told that Cosmic Cube is hard at work here. And Elise, the woman inculcating the Rogers family in 1926, is from the future or being influenced by the power of the cube.
How much more powerful of a story is there than using superheroes we know and love to show us the danger of not safeguarding our children from evil influence and inoculating them against it in the future with the ability to think for themselves?
Captain America comics have always been a reflection of the politics of the time. From punching Hitler in the 1930s to tossing generals in the ocean during the Iraq War, to Steve Rogers being assassinated during the Bush administration, Captain America has been a mirror we hold up against the state of our democracy. Now, with an election that proves that half of our electorate is rotting from within, poisoned by ideas they don't even realize are dangerous, this is the Captain America comic book we need.