Thursday, May 26, 2016

Why making Captain America an agent of Hydra is a really bad idea

What the hell, Marvel?! Captain America is secretly an agent of Hydra? Seriously? You take your greatest symbol of America, of freedom and bravery, of fighting for good against all odds and decide to have him work for evil? Oh, and not just evil… an organization created by Nazis that felt that Hitler wasn’t extreme enough… an organization that Steve “Captain America” Rogers has been fighting since World War II!

You know, at least when DC made Superman a Soviet it was in an alternate reality. This is one of those situations where writers, desperate to shake things up for ratings or sales, make an outlandish twist that they end up not being able to reconcile without resorting to idiotic clichés to return the status quo.  

Remember the first Civil War storyline when Peter Parker decided to show his commitment to the “Pro-Registration” movement by revealing that he was Spider-Man to the world? Yeah, it’s that kind of thing. So a guy that had previously done everything in his power to protect his loved ones from his enemies decides to say, ‘Oh, what the hell?’ and yank of his mask before cameras? Then amazingly (pun somewhat intended) his enemies start targeting his loved ones! Uh oh! How do the writers get Spider-Man out of this jam? Oh, I know! He makes a deal with the friggin’ devil! Problem solved!

This is that same situation… not exactly of course, but in essence. Marvel isn’t going to keep Captain America a bad guy forever. For note, they may try to spin it that he’s not necessarily bad, but if you are knowingly working for an organization that advocates mass genocide like Hydra does, you are at the very least guilty by association and therefore one of the bad guys.

So, how is he going to get out of this one? Was he brainwashed? Is he a clone or robot or some other imposter? Is he being mind controlled? After all, Red Skull does have those psychic powers now. Therein lies the problem here. Those are all clichés… lame clichés at that. I really want to give Marvel the benefit of the doubt on this, but I don’t see how this story arc can resolve without resorting to some lame cliché or something even more ridiculous. I don’t want to shit all over the book without having read it or seen it through, but this just feels like a really bad idea.

Let’s step back from the continuity issues with this plot twist for a moment. Let us consider the storytelling aspect of this situation. My understanding is that we are being presented with the reveal that Captain America is a Hydra agent but know nothing of his motivations. It is very hard to tell a story through the perspective of a character that is deliberately hiding information from the reader. That is why such plot twists are usually reserved for side characters. How would the show Homeland have worked if instead of the main character being Carrie Matheson it was Sgt. Nicholas Brody? How could they have maintained the intrigue of his many secrets and mysteries surrounding his character if he was the focal point?

There is a such thing as an unreliable narrator, but there’s also a limit! When the protagonist purposefully holds back information vital to understanding his or her character, it’s hard for the reader to give a shit. It’s more interesting for a protagonist to uncover the truth about another character. It’s why Sherlock Holmes is the detective, not the case.

Can it be done? Yes, but it is very difficult to make it work and I really don’t think the writers of Captain America have the time, commitment and possibly even the talent to truly pull it off. Instead this will likely just turn into another black stain on Marvel’s continuity, joining other ill-conceived plot twists that came before such as Xorn being Magneto all along or Peter Parker being a clone or Gwen Stacy had had an affair with Norman Osborn and had two children in secret or Tony Stark is a teenager now and so on…

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