Wednesday, September 26, 2007

New Work: Captain America and the Red Skull

I'll admit it, I have been pretty ambivalent about the Captain America character for a lot of years, especially when he's been divorced from politics, which isn't terribly appropriate for a character created by two Jews who was punching out Hitler before the United States declared war upon Japan and Germany. The character, supposedly a representative of "American Ideals" (and I put the quotes around that phrase for a reason), is not only steeped in the current political climate, but also in your own personal version of what those "Ideals" mean.

N one has actually excited me about the character since Steve Englehart had his Cap watch Nixon commit suicide pretty much on camera back in 1973 (wish fulfillment for that generation). And all that being said, Brubaker has absolutely made the character relevant and interesting with his run of Cap, currently collected in the the Winter Soldier trades, as well as the follow ups (which I've not finished reading yet). Which is why I found myself putting together a Cap piece for the local comic shop that I go to: Blue Moon Comics in Novato, CA.

And for someone who actually found the Red Skull scary when Kirby drew him, that craggy brow, the madman mouth, for someone who didn't seem to see through his mania that activating the next generation of the Sleeper probably wasn't in his best interests long term, the Skull is pure hate masquerading as a reasonable villian, which makes him all the worse. Doom thinks that he's a reasonable dictator, rationalizing himself as a positive force in Latveria, but the Skull is pure hate, pure evil, pure calculating evil. Brubaker recognizes this, and makes the best addition to the canon that we've seen in 30 years: that those who use the Cosmic Cube do so at their own risk: the Cube never promises happiness, never delivers either. The Cube is pure Genie of the Lamp without Robin Williams, it will always bring the worse of endings to user. The motto, that Kirby may have never intended: Be careful what you wish for, you may get it.

Thanos at least had an abstract reason for obtaining the Cube: to become a God. But the Skull is pure meglomania. You can't reason with him, you can't logic your way around him, you simply are stuck with a human that would never deny the holocaust, but would rejoice in the genecide of 6 million humans, and would simply fret that they didn't finish the job.

Captain America rides a thin line between the unwavering patriotism of idealism and realism, which definitely makes him a victim of the current writer's biases. If you 're in tune with that writer, then you'll enjoy his take on the character: i.e. he'll represent your America. There is the America that wants to invade Iraq, and his no qualms about being there, and then there is the America that thinks that invading Iraq is like watching japan bomb Pearl Harbor and deciding the invade Spain: it simply makes no sense. My Captain America would never have to worry about hanging chad, and would never have seen the logic of going to Iraq. Brubaker has made his Captain America the idealist on the tightrope: he understands the politics that exist, he's not stupid, but occasionaly he wants to do thing the old fashioned way: by force, by moral imperative, by his moral imperative. Steve Rogers would have no problem acknowledging this truth: history is written by the winners. The Cap in the main book, as well as the one in the Ultimates, would not have a problem with this: both of them want, expect, to be the winners.

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