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We're going into the first issue of the Captain America run by Ta Nehisi Coates because I have heard very good things about his writing, and his run on Black Panther. And I have to say, that Coates knows what he is doing with the Captain America character, especially when it comes to showing the impact that Secret Empire has had on Steve Rogers and the people he cares about. Coates goes into some pretty serious topics in the issue, and presents a philosophical dilemma that Rogers must come to terms with. The artwork by Lenil Francis Yu, who illustrated Superman: Birthright, does a fantastic with the job too.
We start the issue in the Sayan Mountains in Russia where we see a Hydra envoy transporting a young blonde woman while also seeing a shadowy figure overlooking the mountain's pass from above. With inhuman speed, the figure appears in front of the oncoming envoy and uses what seems to be telekinetic powers to disrupt the prisoner's transport. The remaining Hydra Agents attempt to kill the figure, but lower their guard when they see that their attacker is a woman. Well as it turns out she is a woman with telekinetic abilities and seems to be impervious to bullets. So we know that Hydra is going to get their asses handed to them on a golden platter bedazzled with diamonds. What happens is we are taken away from the ensuing battle between this woman and Hydra to the prisoner and another Hydra operative where the two begin to have an exchange.
"We Still Have Our Winter"
The prisoner tells the one Hydra Agent in the truck with her that they should have let her go and turned back when they saw the woman who is attacking them, because now they're all going to die. The Hydra agent being all cocky and arrogant, putting blind faith in Hydra and his comrades says that Hydra's reign has only just begun. The prisoner presents a rebuttal by saying that they are in Russia, the graves of Hitler and Napoleon's men alike, why would Hydra be any different than the other two? And that's when the woman fighting the Hydra envoy rips the truck in half, freeing the prisoner (whose name we find out is Alexa), and capturing the last remaining Hydra operative. The woman holds the Hydra operative in the air by his neck, when she is stopped by Alexa, saying that she's eaten enough today. In response the woman says that, "Selene cannot be sated." Alexa promises Selene that she'll get her food, but first she needs to talk to her people to say that though, "Mother Russia has lost it's heroes, but we still have our winter," As they walk through a portal with their Hydra prisoner— leaving the Hydra envoy in complete destruction.
Created by Chris Claremont and Steve Buscema in 1983, Selene Gallio is a Central European vampire that was born about 17,000 years ago who also happens to be a mutant and a sorcerer. Among her powers are life absorption, Superhuman strength, endurance and reflexes among other abilities. Many other abilities. I can't go over the character's publication history because there is just too much of it to go through in one post. But at least now you know who she is and what her abilities are going forward.
Before we continue on with the story, you should know who Nuke is. Similar to Selene, Nuke's publication history is just too extensive for me to cover in this post. Frank Simpson was created by Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli, and was originally created as a Daredevil villain. Essentially, Simpson was part of the Weapon Plus program, the same government program responsible for creating Wolverine and Captain America among others. Simpson was created to be a new type of super-soldier inspired by Captain America. However, the conditioning process went wrong and he became unstable and insane. Essentially, he becomes an extremist patriot who believes whatever he does is for the good of his country. He gets his powers from pills, of which there are three kinds that he takes. The most prominent type are red pills, which he fondly refers to as "reds." The second type is white, which keeps him relatively stable in between missions without going on murderous rampage. And blue pills are used to immobilize him if necessary. However, he also has cybernetics within his body that give him super-human strength and endurance.
Captain of Nothing
After Alexa and Selene make their exit, we are taken to the present day in National Mall, Washington D.C, where an armada of Nukes is attacking civilians screaming about making sure that these people "Never forget our boys." And that's when Captain America rushes to stop the Nuke squad from firing at the civilians, creating a distraction so that his friend, Bucky Barnes (also known as the Winter Soldier) can fire at the Nuke soldiers. The sight of Captain America angers the squad of Nukes because in their eyes he sold out their country to Hydra. Of course, we know that wasn't the real Captain America because of the events of Secret Empire. Seeing that he is unable to communicate with these Nukes, he decides to continue fighting them with some support from Bucky. As the fight continues to ensue, Sharon Carter, Steve's girlfriend arrives in a med-evac chopper. Behind her are attack choppers that have StarkTech Field Guns, which sets of Micro-EMPs, which Steve explains is ideal against cyborgs. So it turns out that this small armada of Nukes isn't a group of clones of the original Nuke, or even a group of people that take the same performance enhancing drugs as Nuke. It's just a bunch of robots with programming given human skin.
Appearances, Son. They Matter.
After the conflict ends, General Thunderbolt Ross (AKA Red Hulk, but has since lost his powers after a confrontation with Doc Green, another form of the Incredible Hulk) approaches Captain America and Sharon Carter saying that he needs Sharon to be at his office at 6 AM the next day. Captain, surprised that he wasn't the one asked to complete whatever this mission is, asks Thunderbolt Ross if this is because of the events of Secret Empire. Thunderbolt doesn't say yes, but says that this mission requires more delicate hands, and him running around is probably one hell of a bad idea considering that there are people that are running around with American flags tattooed on their faces. And the way it would look if the man who took over the United States and wears the same flag that the Nuke 'borgs could lead to some detrimental consequences.
Dinner With Sharon
The reason why I like Coates' writing in this issue is largely due to the fact that he shows not just how hard the events of Secret Empire have been on Steve Rogers, but on those around him too. We pick up with Steve and Sharon having dinner together, where Steve implies that he doesn't want to stand idly by when the country he is sworn to protect is in disarray, and asks Sharon to give him government intel, which obviously, she cannot do. Sharon, being Captain America's girlfriend for a while, knows that the reason Steve is acting like this is because of the events of Secret Empire. And that's when Sharon says that having a Hydra Captain America running around and taking over the United States under S.H.I.E.L.D's, The American Government's, and the entire superhero community's noses is just as hard on her as it is on him. Steve forgets that he wasn't there to see the events unfold, he sort of just showed up out of the blue near the end and defeated Hydra Captain America. Sharon, on the other hand, believed that that evil version of Captain America was the man she loved, but that man was a different man altogether, masquerading as the man she loved. She was taken advantage of by this evil Captain, and her reputation is just as tarnished as Steve's because of the fact that she was romantically involved with this evil Hydra Captain America (though she didn't know it).
Hydra Is Dead.
Towards the end of the issue, we are taken back to Russia in Samara, a city liberated by anti-Hydra partisans, with Alexa and Selene entering through the portal they left the mountain pass with. With them is a Hydra operative, and the two ladies are shown to be standing in front of a crowd. Selene grabs the Hydra Agent's neck and absorbs his life force, killing him. The issue ends with her saying that, "Hydra is dead. The future belongs to us."
The Captain's Motivations
Throughout the entire issue, Captain America is narrating and presenting his thoughts to the reader, and one interesting thing seems to be the motivations behind Captain America. Apart from the fact that there was a fake Captain America that was aligned with Hydra, the country he was sworn to protect is in shambles. The entire country is in political and social disarray after the events of Secret Wars, and he is a man that swore to protect his country, and he wasn't there. And not only was he not there, but some of his closest friends died, his partner was taken advantage of, and he wasn't there to stop any of it. He feels that he is responsible for cleaning up the world that was ruined using his name and face. He also has a philosophical dilemma about the concept of freedom. What does that mean? Who is Captain America trying to free? What kind of freedom is he trying to give people, to inspire people to stand up for, to take? Who are we trying to free and from who are we trying to free them? But also why? Why fight for freedom? I guess somewhere along the line he is going to figure out who and what he fights for. Considering the fact that this run is part of Marvel's Fresh Start Initiative, we are likely going to see Captain America brought back to his most important elements, like him being a symbol for the American people, or even more narrative elements like his original sidekick, Bucky Barnes.
That concludes this post. I have a Weapon H post I'm writing up. I've gone over the first three issues of Amazing Spider-Man by Nick Spencer. I'm also going to be going over the most recent Weapon X issue. I am also going to finish up with all of the Hunt for Wolverine tie-ins, and go over the new X-23 title. So until then, see you in the next post!