How to lead into this without spoilers?
Let’s just say that in a certain title, the titular character, somebody that you’d recognize from a very successful film franchise, was recently involved in a very shocking revelation. This was something that contradicts, oh let’s say, pretty much 100% of this character’s history. The executives and writers have emphasized that this was not a clone or alternate universe or mind control, and is exactly what it really looks like… which is usually a pretty good hint that it’s not going to be what it looks like.
So, if you don’t already know what I’m talking about, maybe go read something else. Go get caught up on Usagi Yojimbo, maybe.
If you do know what I’m talking about, calm down. This is not what it looks like.
No, guys, Captain America is not an evil Hydra agent.
You know how I know that? Conceptual Inertia.
A character concept at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted upon by a massive amount of money, while a character concept in motion tends to stay moving in random directions in order to attract reader curiosity. Over time, a long-running character tends to oscillate around a fixed point, moving away from an unchanging core concept, then back, then away in another direction, then back again, in order to keep reader’s money orbiting in an inescapable gravity well.
Captain America’s core concept is, and has always been, “the opposite of a Nazi.” What was his very first appearance all about? Punching Hitler. So seeing him suddenly become a Double-Nazi, yeah, that’s got shock value. That could pull people into the gravity well. That’s the sort of thing that gets people writing blog posts and articles (like I’m doing right now).
When you gaze into the comic book, the comic book gazes into you also.
You can see why they’re doing this. They’re saying, hey, it was a big deal in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, when we found out that S.H.I.E.L.D. was secretly poisoned by Hydra, how do we top that? Who’s the one person who is even less Hydra than S.H.I.E.L.D.?
BUT if that was really what was happening here, you wouldn’t have a twist on the character concept—you’d have a full-on reversal. You do that, the gravity well collapses, and all the readers break orbit and start saying “What is the point of reading about the character at all?”
I think the people whose paychecks—paychecks much bigger than yours or mine, Dear Reader—depend on Captain America aren’t going to put out a panel like that one unless they think they have a course charted back to core concept.
It’s hardly like this is the first time a comic character has gone to some very weird places. This isn’t even the first time Captain America has gone to some weird places: He’s gone from being dead, to being Captain Not-Any-Country-At-All, to being dead again, to being director of S.H.I.E.L.D., to being old, and he always came back to being regular Captain America.
He was even a werewolf for a while, you guys.
He even recovered from being drawn by Rob Liefeld.
Is there a chance that this is 100% real? Yeah.
There’s also a chance that a rogue planetoid strikes Jupiter and knocks it out of orbit, causing the supercompressed carbon in its core to be flung into the inner solar system, where a meteoric shard of diamond from space strikes my TV remote just as I was about to watch a new episode of Steven Universe, and just happens to switch to footage of one of Alanis Morissette’s biggest hits. I’m not going to lose any sleep over the possibility of that happening though.
Yes, they’re saying that Hydra Cap is not a cop out. Of course they are. That is what they would be saying if it were a cop out, because they are telling a story that requires you to believe that it might not be a cop-out, because that is their job. It’s called Kayfabe.
Even if it weren’t a cop-out, there’s still Chris Evans, who’s still going to be in upcoming movies, and the comics version of the character needs to re-approach the movie version in time for whatever the first Infinity War movie is gonna be entitled. They did it for all the previous movies, and of course they’ll do it again.
This nightmare scenario that everyone is freaking out about? This is what retcons were made for.
-The Guy Who Wrote This.