Captain America: Steve Rogers #1, or, Comics Are Cancelled Forever!

Spoilers ahead for Captain America: Steve Rogers #1, Superior Iron Man #1 and Batman & Robin Eternal #1



I’m not concerned with the controversy surrounding writer Nick Spencer and artist Jesus Saiz’s recent debut issue of Captain America: Steve Rogers so much as I am fascinated that there’s any controversy to speak of.

Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 sees the return of Steve Rogers to his strapping young self after a brief stint as an old, old man (classic Steve). The issue follows Steve as he takes on a noticeably-extremist Hydra more attuned to the terrorists of today than Nazis, and in the twist heard round the world Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 concludes with Cap throwing an ally out of a plane and saying “Hail Hydra.”

Oh shit!

There are less interesting reasons to be surprised that the controversy surrounding Cap’s dope new catchphrase exists. It’s a comic book, a largely serialized medium that ends on a cliffhanger with a reliable enough consistency that you can set your watch to it. It’s the first issue of a comic book and the debut of a new creative team, which is pretty much a flashing neon sign that the character will be heading in some sort of new direction that upsets the status quo. And to reiterate, it’s the first issue, so the story has barely left the ground.

But what fascinates me about the Captain America backlash, and boy oh boy has there been backlash, is that this is the character that crossed the line.

Good guys have gone bad left and right and plenty of these villainous benders have taken place recently. But Captain America’s hailing of Hydra is the only one I’m aware of that got written up in the New York Times. Yes, I read.

Last year there was an entire book based on the premise of Tony Stark’s maniacal ego getting the best of him. Superior Iron Man saw Tony Stark first give away an Extremis app that let the public enhance their looks and abilities, then charge exorbitant fees on the app when everyone got addict to their new and improved lives. Nefarious. And yet Superior Iron Man #1 didn’t go flying off the stands in a whirlwind of fury and curiosity, nor did it spawn a million think pieces. It just kind of happened.

To be fair, Superior Iron Man took place after the events of Axis, a storyline that saw Tony’s personality inverted, and it also choreographed suspicion in Tony’s cognizance pretty quickly. But the first issue of Superior Iron Man also saw its protagonist be a huge dick throughout, rather than in the final panel.

Superior Iron Man isn’t a fantastic analogue for Captain America: Steve Rogers #1. But it isn’t the only instance of a beloved hero turning against everything they believe in in recent memory.

I would argue that Batman & Robin Eternal #1 is a one-for-one equivalent.

Much as CA:SR #1 showcases Steve Rogers presumably allying himself with his sworn enemy, Batman  & Robin Eternal showcases Batman gunning down a boy’s parents in front of him in a dark ally.

Same character-180. Same first issue revelation. Entirely different, arguably non-existent, fan reaction.

So why can Tony Stark become a techno drug dealer and Batman can apparently murder parents in front of their children to little or no backlash, but Steve Rogers saying “Hail Hydra” lights Twitter on fire?

I have no idea. But if I had to wager a guess I’d say it’s all Chris Evans’ fault.

I’m not the first person to compare Evans’ performance as Captain America to Christopher Reeves’ Superman and I won’t be the last, because it’s a damn good comparison. There’s an inherent goodness and a deep sense of responsibility that Evans’ brings to Cap. As exciting as it is to watch him kick the shit out of pirates and terrorists and robots, what really defines Evans’ Steve Rogers is that at his core he’s a good guy. A solid bro, if you will.

Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne aren’t awful human beings by any stretch of the imagination, but where Iron Man is a smartass superhero and Batman is a brooding, vengeful, insane superhero, under Chris Evans’ stewardship Captain America has become the superhero.

Maybe the reason every other comic book reader with a Twitter account feels the need to send death threats like an eight-year-old animal-mutilator is because Captain America has replaced Superman as the very mold of what a superhero is, the foundation that is tweaked and twisted into endless variations. Maybe the twist at the end of Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 is upsetting not because “THEY MADE CAPTAIN AMERICA A NAZI” or “THEY MADE CAPTAIN AMERICA A GIMMICK,” but because it’s scary. It implies that evil can’t just get to smartasses and brooding, vengeful psychos, it can get to solid bros too. And if Hydra can get to Captain America they can get to the core, the essence of modern superheroism.

Or maybe they’re just a bunch of dumbasses.




Winning Ticket, or, Secret Wars

secret wars


Even for a comic book event, writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Esad Ribic’s recent Marvel book Secret Wars is pretty big and bombastic. Basically every universe in the multiverse collides and is cobbled together into a single patchwork planet called Battleworld, made of the scraps of all of the dead universes. There’s a seemingly infinite horde of zombies, an omnipotent warlord and an army of Norse gods. Every one of the mini-series’ nine issues boasts at least one fist pump-worthy altercation between some combination of impossibly powerful denizens of the Marvel Universe.

Yet for all its scale and scope and rampant badassery Secret Wars really boils down to a story about what happens when one man’s ego is finally, conclusively placated.
I suspect we all have at least one hidden talent. One particular set of secret skills that we keep forever close to the chest because for whatever reason we’ve never gotten the opportunity to go full Taken and show them to the world. But if we did, if only we could, the world would be a different place.

For me it’s the lottery. I’ve never played the lottery. Never bought a ticket. But I suspect, no, I know that if, no, when, I finally break down and buy that Powerball ticket millions of beer tickets are as good as mine. I have talked myself out of buying a lottery ticket by reasoning that when I win it will be pretty unfair to the people who have played and lost religiously every time for years on end. That’s just the kind of guy I am.

Dr. Doom’s secret special lottery skill is absolute rulership over the entire universe. It’s a goal he’s aspired to, and on some level even achieved if but for a moment, in the past and it’s a goal that’s wound up making him a de facto villain. But villain is such a narrow word. Sure Dr. Doom wants to rule the known universe, which I guess is frowned upon, but he also genuinely, deeply, truly believes that he is the man for the job. Where I secretly ponder what jackpot amount is right for me to finally pounce and show the world my statistic-defying scratcher prowess Dr. Doom plans the improvements he will make to the universe once the universe stops getting in his way.

In Secret Wars the universe finally steps aside.

Secret Wars is a story about what happens when someone taps Dr. Doom on the shoulder and puts the winning lotto ticket in his hand. Only Victor von Doom’s winning lottery ticket is nothing short of godhood, and its repercussions are vast and totally awesome.

Good comic book events are few and far between and Secret Wars is nothing short of great, due in no small part to the brilliant notion at its center that is at once entirely fantastical and utterly relatable.

Pony Tricks Comic Cast Episode 52, or, The Cult Classic Finale

I did it, gang! 52 weeks and 52 episodes (plus four bonus episodes, just saying) and the Pony Tricks Comic Cast has come to an end. It’s been real, it’s been fun, it’s been real fun, but now I need to go a week without talking to myself out load about comic books. Don’t worry though, a new podcast will be coming to Pony Tricks soon enough.

This week: Amazing Spider-Man, Avengers v. X-Men: Axis, Batman and Robin, Black Widow, Daredevil, Justice League, Multiversity

Lastly, now that the Pony Tricks Comic Cast is over I’m going to explore new options for hosting my podcasts on the web, which means that as of a month from now I’ll no longer being paying for hosting on SoundCloud, which means all 50+ episodes the Comic Cast won’t be available here in a month. But I’ll do my damnedest to make sure they’re available somewhere else. Stay tuned to for more information about where these episodes will ultimately end up, as well as whatever podcast I waste my time on next.

Pony Tricks Comic Cast Episode 51, or, The Ultimate Penultimate Extravaganza

Next week is the Pony Tricks Comic Cast finale! But this week is the Ultimate Penultimate Extravaganza! Join me as I count 10 penultimate television episodes and roll your eyes as I poorly recount details from the 1966 Batman television series! One more to go folks!

This week: All-New Captain America, Avengers v. X-Men: Axis, Batgirl, Batman, Outcast, Silver Surfer, Superior Iron Man, Thor, Walking Dead, Wytches

Pony Tricks Comic Cast Episode 43, or, A History of AMCs The Walking Dead as it Pertains Specifically to Myself

Join me this week as I spend more time talking about my turbulent relationship with the Walking Dead television show and less time talking about last week’s comic books than ever before. Seriously, there’s only one way to find out just how successful my attempted speed-run through nine books is, because I haven’t posted the results on the Wikipedia yet.

This week: Batman and Robin: Futures End, Daredevil, Edge of Spider-Verse, Justice League: Futures End, Multiversity, Superior Spider-Man, Superman/Wonder Woman: Future’s End, Thor: God of Thunder and Wonder Woman: Futures End

Pony Tricks Comic Cast Episode 39, or, The One Before 40

So close to 40! Which I guess is a milestone or whatever. I celebrate by talking about some things I like, AND some things I don’t like!

This week: Batman and Robin, Daredevil, The Fade Out, Ms. Marvel, Multiversity