HAIL HYDRA! Why the New CAPTAIN AMERICA is a Masterpiece

13 QUICK THOUGHTS on a brilliant comic book.


I would have jumped on this a lot sooner but sometimes real life gets in the way of comics and unlike thousands of others, I wanted to make sure I actually read Nick Spencer’s Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 before I judged it.

Now, I’ve read it. Here are 13 QUICK THOUGHTS:

1. Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 is nothing short of a modern comics masterpiece. It’s smart, suspenseful and beautifully illustrated by Jesus Saiz. From a pure storytelling standpoint, it’s superb.

2. Anyone who thinks Steve Rogers is actually a Hydra agent — and always has been — has never read a comic book or, if they have, do not understand how comic books actually work. Status Quo A becomes Shocking Status Quo B and returns to Status Quo A, with maybe cosmetic differences.

There are so many clues to what's happened to Cap in this recap it's not even funny.

There are so many clues to what’s happened to Cap in this recap it’s not even funny.

3. I have been reading comics for more than 40 years. I was raised on Silver and Bronze Age comics and embrace a lot of the Modern Age. I do not like comics that are needlessly “grim and gritty.” I want my heroes to be heroic. I’ve gone out on a limb and have been highly critical of The Killing Joke. (Click here, if you dare.) Cinematically, I believe Captain America has eclipsed Superman as our greatest hero. (Click here, if you dare.)

I bring this all up because I’ve read a lot of comments online that say making Cap a Hydra agent is why they don’t read modern comics. I can’t abide that thinking. Story and context are everything and Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 reads very much like a classic comic book with a well-built twist ending.

4. Read this piece by Steve Englehart about his own Secret Empire, a highly regarded classic. (Click here.) Just imagine how the Internet would have reacted in Watergate-soaked 1974 when Rogers, for highly politically charged reasons, disavowed his Captain America identity and chose to become Nomad — a man without a country.


5. Nick Spencer is a talented writer who wears his politics on his sleeve. The Red Skull here is not just scary because he’s the Red Skull. He’s scary because he’s espousing much of the hate speech we’re hearing today that’s been disguised as political discourse. His vision of Hydra is a white-supremacist ISIS. Spencer makes it very clear why disenfranchised, suspicious, resentful, angry people will follow a despot with a message that empowers them.



6. Balance that against Zemo’s vision of Hydra, which reads like a cracked-mirror version of Spencer’s own Superior Foes of Spider-Man. There’s a very clear message about cartoonish villainy and real-world villainy — which is much, much more frightening.

7. And that brings us to one of the major — and bizarre — criticisms of what Spencer and Marvel have done here: That somehow making Captain America a Hydra agent is politically insensitive at best or anti-Semitic at worst because his creators — Joe Simon and Jack Kirby — were Jewish. I don’t even know where to start with this. So I’ll just say this: I’m Jewish. I’m OK with this. You should be too.

8. I never met Jack Kirby or Joe Simon and most of you haven’t either. To say they’d be appalled by this story is a facile argument with no evidence to support it, one way or the other.


9. Because you know as well as I do that when Steve Rogers “wakes up” or “gets better” or whatever — there’s a Cosmic Cube in play here, folks — he will stand tall over the Red Skull and make a speech about freedom and the dangers of hate, how the core American ideals of equality, when not perverted for nefarious means, must be preserved to have a just society. How even well-meaning people can be seduced under certain circumstances and how we have to stand vigilant against those who would undermine us all.

10. On this very point, people can disagree all they want about what Spencer and Marvel have done. But death threats and boycotts and supposed threats to burn copies of the comic all smack of the kind of fringe behavior that Captain America stands against.

Do you really thbink Marvel would have tons of heroic Cap variants, from the likes of Jim Steranko if they meant this Hydra business to stick? No. Cap will still be Cap in the end.

Do you really think Marvel would have tons of heroic Cap variants — from the likes of Jim Steranko, for example — if they meant this Hydra business to stick? No. Cap will still be Cap in the end.

11. The inclusion of a Greek chorus of sidekicks, which makes reference to Cap’s old armor and that time he was a werewolf — is so obviously an Easter egg that things will change back that I still can’t believe people don’t understand what’s going on here. Even the fact that Jack Flag, Free Spirit and the ever-evolving Rick Jones are around is part of that very message. Same goes for Sharon Carter’s aged appearance. This is all meta commentary.

Even Cap’s new costume is a dead giveaway. Because once he returns to the side of the angels, he’ll be wearing the classic red, white and blue outfit, or something very close to it, and the current uniform will become known as the Hydra Cap costume. Just like we’ve seen many other Cap costumes emblemize other stories or concepts.



12. Yes, Marvel is trying to sell comics. That’s what they do. Sell comics.

13. If you still don’t like what’s happened, do what I do. Create your own continuity. But don’t judge this book by the headlines. Read it and then decide.


Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. Thank you for saying what I have been thinking since the 10 seconds after the initial shock wore off. Thank you, and I am retweeting your article and including quotes in a video I am making to explain all this. Meanwhile, have some fun with ‘Nazi Cap’ as he trolls the reactionary fools 🙂 https://www.facebook.com/hydracap/

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  2. No, it’s trash and it’s been handled extremely poorly. You can’t comprehend that the MCU has eclipsed the books and that there are a multitude of press outlets proclaiming Cap a “Nazi”. The nuance games are trite where Nick and crew are being reactionary and trying to tell everyone that Hydra aren’t Nazis. They’ve been a Nazi allegory for decades and the iconography associated with them for the last 6-7 years in the MCU is straight fascist. Besides, claiming their “communist” roots is no better when they’re wholesale butchers too. I chalk this humiliating failure up to an echo chamber of ideologues that have become increasingly convinced that their own opinions are correct opinions. In an echo chamber there is never a bad idea. This is clearly a bad idea.

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  3. One other note on a point your missing. Steve embodies an idea of America. Him becoming a nomad is basically what he just did in the MCU when he threw down his shield and walked away from Tony. And he’s the hero. This thing where you think people would be outraged over him becoming a man without a country is laughable when he’s been fighting authoritarians and governments, including his own, in the MCU with smashing commercial success. You misread the public’s perception of not just the character of Cap but the political landscape.

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    • Well said, both comments.

      As for the article, declaring this issue brilliant feels hyperbolic at best. Same with the criticism aimed at those who feel it’s offensive to Jewish people and declaring being Jewish (from both ends) as a sort of qualifier. I’m not rending garments here, but I do believe having Steve portrayed as a Hydra agent is in poor taste and really, a distasteful attempt at outrage gimmickry. Yes, it’s a business so of course sales are what matters but really, this push that anyone who sees this as I do as screaming mimis is unfair. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s not exactly “tune in next week” usual fanfare. You made Captain America appear, for all intents and purposes, a murdering secret sleeper agent for one of the most identifiably fascist evil organisations in the comics world. Not cool in some people’s eyes. Not cool to declare them non fans or over reactive for finding it so.

      This article feels awfully pandering. Disappointing to discover from this site.

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      • Interesting points, Lucia. I’ll respectfully agree to disagree, but I can assure you I meant every word. So your “hyperbolic” is my truth and your “pandering” is my truth. But keep reading, because I always welcome thoughtful comments, pro or con.

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  4. I’m not a big comic book fan, so I don’t really know about the context of all this–but the writers seems to be pretty insistent that this isn’t mind control or someone pretending to be Captain America, it’s really him. So if that turns out not to be the case, isn’t Nick Spencer just lying through his teeth? Is that something comic book fans are okay with? I’m really asking, because I don’t know.

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    • We don’t know the real explanation yet, Kevin. But there’s a little deux ex machina called the Cosmic Cube that warps reality. It’s already part of the context of this story and I’d wager it will have something to do with the eventual resolution. In effect, this is Steve Rogers but it’s a warped version of him. That’s a likely scenario. And if it’s not the Cosmic Cube, it’s something else. But this is not in any likelihood a permanent part of the Captain America mythos.

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  5. No no no…..Steve was Nomad, trying to find himself.
    US Agent
    Nick Fury
    Even Batman respect Capt.

    This man is not Steve Rogers

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    • You’re right, Derrick. This man is not the Steve Rogers we know and admire. But I’m confident he will be back.

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  6. Dan. I did know Jack Kirby. One time at SDCC we discussed his WWII experiences and my dad’s P.O.W. experiences in Germany. He listened solemnly and then said, “Sam, when you go home next, I want you to tell your Dad I think he’s a great American.”

    I know that Jack would hate this Hydra story. Because it’s cheap marketing at the expense of what he created Captain America for. One year before America entered the war he drew the first issue of Cap with him punching Hitler out. One year. That’s how much he was ahead of America at the time. He wouldn’t care how good a writer Spencer is, to him this would be just a bad idea that like you said, everybody knows how it will end. Why bother then? Oh. To desperately sell some comics at the expense of what the character stands for.

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    • With all due respect, the fact that you met and talked with Jack (and congrats on that, that is awesome), doesn’t mean that you actually know what his opinion on this would be.

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  7. To Dan: I respect your passion here and even your open mind especially given your culture, but spin this any way you want, this is a bad idea. If they had tried this another way, such as an additional drug joining up with the Super Soldier serum that was re-injected into him to return him to his “normal” state, or if the Hydra programming took place during the times he left or was forcibly separated from the shield and costume, or even 10-20 years ago, that could work, as long as you could refer to a plausible turning point in his long history where this could have happened, I’m sure most people would have gone for it. But to go back to the very conception and completely turn over 70 years of legacy right on its ear, making a total sham and lid of this iconic creation by two legendary creators in Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, is outrageous and heinous. I’m sure it’s a very good story (it damn well better be), but just because it’s a good and even engaging story doesn’t make it the right thing to do. “Birth of a Nation” by all accounts was a very well made movie, but that doesn’t mean it was the right thing to do either. I want to emphasis that just because I have a problem with this does it mean in any way am I advocating censorship, not it the least. I just think this was an idea that went WAY too far, to the point of being despicable.

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  8. Modern comics masterpiece? It’s not even a whole story. It’s a fragment where Captain America murders an innocent person and declares his allegiance to an organization that has Nazi roots. Do I think they will comic book their way out of trouble? I’m sure they will but that doesn’t mean that I want to spend x months rooting through a story where one of my favorite heroes gets Hal Jordan’d for the media hype. If it’s all a hoax, misdirection, a clone, a Cosmic Cube reversible stunt, that’s not a story. That’s a more click bait and some of us would like the story to be about what Captain America does, rather than what we don’t know about Captain America that will shock and unsettle us.

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    • It’s funny, a lot of people have been nicking me about that “masterpiece” line. I was referring to the first issue, so perhaps I should have used some version of “exceptional.” Because who knows — I may hate Issue #2! Doubtful, but we’ll see soon enough…

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      • Not too wordy for you? I saw whole pages of dense dialogue balloons and I thought it was the ’90s all over again. Too much text and the dialogue between Steve’s mother and father is fairly wooden.

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  9. “Because you know as well as I do that when Steve Rogers “wakes up” or “gets better” or whatever — there’s a Cosmic Cube in play here, folks” I have been saying that since Wednesday. Why is it the cube always rotates between the Skull, Doom & Thanos?

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  10. It’s great to see such thoughtful comments, whether you agree or disagree. Keep them coming!

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    • Hydra hasn’t been tied to Nazis in a very long time. They have the same name of the organization, but their agenda is world domination/oppression for ALL. Equal opportunity evil, just like most other villains. This isn’t Cap having made a choice either, as the cosmic cube always has unintended consequences even when used for good intentions, as is the case here. When all is said and done and the story complete, Rogers will be mostly himself, perhaps with new guilt of his time as ‘Captain Hydra’ and ramifications of those, but his legacy has not been besmirched.

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  11. I do not need to read this garbage to know it stinks. It is the ultimate expression of the contempt that Marvel now has for our beloved characters and their world. This has been building since Disassembled, and “no more mutants” and is now culminating in the Inhumans push and “Hail Hydra!”

    No. More.

    Frak Marvel! They can go burn! I will not read any more of their books. I will not see their movies or TV shows. I know a lot of others who won’t either.

    In the end, it may not make a difference, since Marvel makes it’s money off the movies and Joe Buttinseat won’t care (unless they’re stupid enough to have him do this on screen, then he might care). But enough is enough.

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    • “I don’t need to read”…such a modern American sentiment. Extreme reactionary position…Cap would not approve.

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      • @Dane: Bullflop! I have no obligation to actually wait until someone spits in my face to tell them not to do it.

        Cap would say “There are some things that are just wrong, and we have a duty to oppose them!”

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  12. This is just another example of comic book writers not caring about their characters – which is why comic books are not worth reading anymore. I stopped reading Spider man comics after One More Day. This turd here confirms my decision.

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  13. Masterpiece? Are you serious? There is absolutely no logical reason to call this piece of garbage a masterpiece.

    Oh, and Dane? I don’t know what you’ve been reading, but Hydra’s never stopped being associated with the Nazis. Biggest reason? RED SKULL. The man who thought the Nazis weren’t Nazi enough.

    This ‘shocking swerve’ is so bad that it makes some of the worst pro-wrestling angles in WWE look like Lord of the Rings.

    Do you know what I felt when saw Steve Rogers, CAPTAIN America, say ‘Hail Hydra?’ I felt like I was slapped in the face by my big brother. I’ve grown up with Captain America since the 80s. He was always the best of us. This? This turns Steve Rogers into the world’s biggest hypocrite. Every criticism he’s thrown at Iron Man and Cyclops is now MEANINGLESS, and I hope to God that Tony calls him out on this right before giving him a unibeam to the face.

    And on top of that, Cap being Hydra screws over… well, pretty much every hero on the planet. Once this gets out (and you know it will), the loyalty of EVERY costumed adventurer is going to be called into question. Because if Captain America can fall, who knows what the others think?

    Specifically, Jack Flag, Free Spirit, Sharon Carter, Winter Soldier, Sam Wilson, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver will be among the highest priority targets for suspicion. The first three because they’re a part of Steve’s support team. Winter Soldier will become even MORE of a target because of his past brainwashing, plus any trust he has for Steve will be chucked out the window. Sam was Cap’s partner, and like Winter Soldier he’s going to have SEVERE trust issues towards Steve from now on. Hawkeye, Wanda, and Pietro will be called into question because Steve handpicked them as replacement Avengers.

    In addition, there’s the little matter of CAP BEING ABLE TO LIFT MJOLNIR! Only the worthy have been able to lift Mjolnir, the most heroic of heroes. Freaking Superman and Wonder Woman have been able to wield the hammer. And yet we have Steve Rogers, the original Captain America, turning out to be an agent of Hydra. The bad guys. Who’ve always been bad guys.

    Thor, in her book right now, is trying to prove that she’s worthy of Mjolnir, that she didn’t ‘trick’ the hammer into letting her pick it up. Cap being Hydra just made her lose a lot of credibility, as Odin the way he’s being written now could easily use Steve being Hydra as ‘proof’ of Jane stealing the hammer, putting her at even more risk.

    It’s an imbecilic move. Stupidity on the level of One More Day (and it’s follow-up One Moment In Time), and just as insulting as One More Day as well. It’s a slap in the face to longtime fans of the character.

    Honestly, I’m holding out hope that Nick Spencer remembers that little detail. That Steve can lift Mjolnir. Only the good guys can do that. So why in the world would Steve be a villain? There has to be a reason for this hackneyed, insulting plotline. And it better be a good one, otherwise all they’ll be doing is trying to draw out the punchline of this horrible joke.

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    • “Specifically, Jack Flag, Free Spirit, Sharon Carter, Winter Soldier, Sam Wilson, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver will be among the highest priority targets for suspicion. The first three because they’re a part of Steve’s support team” Along with every hero he’s ever worked with, Avengers, Hell he pesontaly recommended the Panther for membership! Like you pointed out Hydra has always been associated with Nazi’s, not just the Skull, but Strucker. I still maintain there’s a Cosmic Cube involved. This plot line screams of CA&F #170-75 in 1975 where the Secret Empire set it up to look like Cap killed the Tumbler and involved the X-men leading up to the huge White House battle where Secret Empire #1/Nixon kills himself crossed with the Skull’s having created the Falcon in the first place and making him a sleeper agent

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  14. never forget, #10 is reserved for Spider Woman’s behind and the Joker being scary

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  15. My huge honking problem with this storyline isn’t the actual story; it’s the hyperbole from Marvel concerning the story. You can read Tom Brevoort’s comments for yourself: he says that Steve Rogers has always been a Hydra agent and that flies in the face of sixty plus years of readership. It’s insulting and silly to act as if the readers didn’t read those hundreds, no, thousands of comics and gain access to Steve Rogers’ internal thoughts and see his selfless actions in thousands of appearances. I’m okay with a plot that involves the Cosmic Cube or whatever- I’ve been around long enough to see the Skull swap bodies with Cap and all kinds of other nonsense and I’m okay with it if it makes a good story. Just don’t insult the readers for hyperbole’s sake and then get surprised when they take your hyperbole to heart and are accordingly furious.

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