I’ll warn you before we get into spoilers. Which we will. If you’re not going to read this one because “OMG, they made Cap a Nazi!” then I would encourage you to read this review so you know the score. If I can just tell you it’s quite a bit more complicated than that, and if that’s enough to convince you to read the book for yourself, then skip the rest.
If it matters, I’m going to spoil up to the second issue in the arc.
This is the famous book that contains Captain America himself saying “Hail Hydra” and that shows Cap is and always has been a secret member of Hyrda.
What’s going on, though, isn’t that Captain America, the Steve Rogers we all know and love, has actually been in Hydra this WHOLE TIME. What’s going on is some of the most comic-book-ass-comic-book stuff that you can imagine.
I’ll make it simple as possible: There’s a cosmic cube. It is the most powerful thing ever, and it can rewrite reality. Including the past. A cosmic cube becomes a sentient, living being that takes the form of a little girl. Through manipulations, the Red Skull convinces the “cube” to monkey around with history, and one of the significant changes the cube creates is reaching into the past and changing Steve Rogers’ entire back story.
And so, Rogers was kidnapped by Hyrda, indoctrinated, and he becomes a Hydra agent. One of the top men.
Here’s my take on why this is controversial: Everyone saw this one panel, saw that Cap was in Hydra, and lost their shit. And they never actually bothered to read the book.
This happens a lot in comics because it’s super easy to take a visual medium, isolate a part of it, and then freak the fuck out.
After reading the book, I’ll make this prediction: This story is going to be altered or changed, and that alteration or change has been planned into the narrative since before it began. This story is not about pulling a fast one or taking a beloved character and making him a bad guy because that’s fun to watch. It’s going to be a redemptive story for Captain America. It’s just a prediction, and I’m not a betting man, but I’d be willing to lay down some serious cash and say that there IS a purpose to this, and that purpose is not to show it’s so fun to be a villain or that Hydra is in some way correct to be what it is. It’s about putting Captain America in a crazy spot, and we’re all wondering how he’s gonna get out of this one.
Longtime comic book fans know this: These sorts of things happen in comics constantly. House of M is nearly identical in the idea of altering reality in a seemingly irrevocable way. Civil War II is mostly about whether the future is accurately predictable by someone with special powers, and is this predicted future actionable? Many will probably recall that Captain America was dead a few years back. Dead, dead. As was Bucky. And, you know, about half of superheroes. Fewer remember that lots of Marvel’s core characters were “killed” and then put in a pocket universe and…look, weird shit happens in comics all the time, mostly in the service of altering reality.
What makes this an interesting story, if you READ IT, is that it’s not just saying, “Boom! Heil Captain America, bitches!” It’s asking the question of how our past, the way we’re raised, and countless other things alter us, and my suspicion is that it will soon be asking the question of whether there’s something “essential” about us that’s not changeable.
The worst part of the book is the intrusion of Civil War II. Honestly, Marvel. Just do your crossover books as their own series and leave that shit out of the regular continuity of the other books. Nobody cares. Nobody is going to be like, “Oh shit, I’m gonna buy all your titles now because I need to get all the Civil War II action!” No, just make the event its own book and move on. It’s fine. We’ll forgive you. Speaking on behalf of fanboys, that shit where we’re like, “Um, excuse me, how can Wolverine be in space in Wolverine #167 and ALSO on Earth with the X-Men that very same month?” is over. It’s long over. We get it now. We’re good. I apologize for that stuff in the past, but with the movies being their own sort of thing, I think we’ve got it down now.