Writer Ed Brubaker
Artist Mitch Breitweiser
Colors Bettie Breitweiser
Letters VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Art Daniel Acuña
As part of Marvel’s .1 initiative (a series of issues which serve as jumping on points for new readers), we get Captain America #615.1. But instead of focusing on the current Captain America, James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes”we instead turn our attention to the original Cap, Steve Rogers: Super Soldier.
For this .1 issue, we learn of a new man who has been given enhanced abilities, David Rickford, who has donned the original Captain America costume. Following Rickford, Steve finds that he’s been kidnapped by AIM scientists who intend to turn him into a MODOK. Steve saves the day, but tells Rickford to abandon the identity before he’s killed, and insists he’ll have him arrested for reckless endangerment if he doesn’t listen. The issue ends with Sharon Carter learning the the man who gave Rickford his powers, The Power Broker, was actually Nick Fury in disguise, who aims to prove to Rogers that he’s the only person capable of being Captain America, while Sharon reluctantly agrees not to reveal to Steve what Nick has done, because deep down she knows he’s right. The issue ends with Rogers looking at Bucky’s Captain America costume, seemingly in deep thought regarding Nick’s idea.
This absolutely cannot happen.
Let’s take a look at why this is a horribly out of character decision. First off, as Steve points out, there have been several men who have been Captain America throughout history. Before Steve was found frozen in ice, there were at least 4 different iterations of Captain America, if not more. During a popular 80s storyline, Steve decided that he couldn’t be Captain America anymore as he was expected to be a government lackey, and instead became The Captain. A new Captain America was chosen, Johnny Walker, who was more in line with what the government wanted; however, Walker snapped under the pressure and became increasingly violent, leading Steve to fight back and reclaim the costume. Recently and most notably, Bucky took over in Steve’s absence and has been Captain America for the past several years, proving himself to be worthy of the shield in his own right.
For decades, Steve Rogers has been insistent that Captain America is NOT a man, but an ideal; the hopes and dreams and wishes of not just America, but the entire world, given a name and a face. By the premise of the issue, this is all a lie: all those who were Captain America were not worthy successors, and the entirety of the identity’s regard lies solely within Steve Rogers. To have Steve agree with this would be a horrible character misstep; given his past history and beliefs of the costume, Steve should rebel if anything, going out of his way to insist and prove that he is merely a man, and the notion of Captain America is something bigger than him.
What’s even worse is that throughout the course of this issue, we come to realize…Nick Fury is entirely wrong. David Rickford’s brief stint as Captain America ended on so many similar terms to other premiere legacy heroes: with Rickford being shut down by a far more established hero and forced out of his costume. We saw that Rickford was holding his own against common thugs, and was even capable of utilizing the shield; something that we learned after Civil War very few people were capable of doing (in fact, if I recall correctly, the only people to successfully throw the shield, let alone catch it, were Clint Barton and Bucky), putting him leagues above several of even Steve’s comrades. With his strong military background, all Rickford was lacking is training and guidance; something Steve could have easily given him rather than shut him down. Hell, given his prowess with the identity so far, who’s to say even Nick couldn’t have prepared him? As Fury insists that Steve Rogers is the only man capable of being Captain America, here is a man of similar background and motivation who is already at a high level of training and preparation, who only needs more experience and a guiding hand.
This book may serve as a jumping on point for new readers, but for fans of the character it feels like a slap in the face, a quick attempt to wedge a retcon into the notion of the character. Unfortunately, it’s likely that we’re about to see Steve forced back into the Captain America costume under such a notion, as Marvel lines up for the upcoming release of Captain America: The First Avenger this July. It’s a shame too; this book only serves to establish that the upcoming story could very well undermine everything Captain America has stood for so far.