Right wing provocateur Andrew Breitbart once said “Politics flows downstream from culture.”
Sun-Tzu said in “The Art of War,” “If you know the enemy and you know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”
With these sayings in mind and a dash of masochism in my heart, I started reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’ run* on “Captain America,” a seminal Marvel title I was sure he’d fuck up on some level.
I wasn’t alone in my worries. Coates even said in The Atlantic he wasn’t sure if he could tell a Cap story properly.
Spoiler alert. You can guess where this is headed.
Anyway, we start Volume 1 of the series with Captain America wondering if his country trusts him anymore. Someone named the Supreme Commander of HYDRA, the Marvel equivalent of Nazis, took his place, sullied the reputation of Cap’s shield, and took over America.
Now things are ostensibly better. HYDRA isn’t in control anymore but many of Marvel’s notorious villains now hold seats of power. Baron Von Strucker, once top HYDRA brass, runs a private prison. Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of Crime, is New York’s mayor.
And Steve Rogers finds himself without a team and the trust of the government, since General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross tells Cap to nix the vigilante act.
Fortunately for Steve, his team is now the “Daughters of Liberty,” a group of female superheroes including Captain America’s main squeeze, Sharon Carter, Sue Richards of the Fantastic Four, a ginger nose-ringed lesbian called “The Dryad,” and others.
What makes this so amusing is Coates attempted to create a feminist super-team to save Captain America consisting mostly of white women.
Oh, and the Dryad happens to be Sharon’s aunt, Peggy Carter, who was apparently supposed to be the love of Cap’s life until her mission ended. See, she was never really in love with Steve Rogers. Her job as a Daughter of Liberty was to keep Steve Rogers on the correct ideological path to become Captain America.
And all this falls apart when General Ross is apparently murdered. With Cap being a prime suspect since the murder weapon was a disk-shaped object, like a shield.
I began Volume 2 by writing on my notepad, “Is this a fetish thing now?”
Because we start the volume with Captain America behind bars, at a black-site prison run by Baron Von Strucker, who surprisingly still holds white supremacist views and runs psychological experiments on the prisoners.
With no trial date and no word from his lawyer, Cap enlists the aid of the other prisoners to stage a breakout, aided by the Daughters of Liberty. The purpose is ostensibly to clear Captain America’s name, but since the U.S. government doesn’t want Captain America operating in public, he becomes “Steve Rogers, American Hero.”
Exchanging his iconic shield for a Wakandan virtual one, Steve battles the forces of evil until the Daughters of Liberty deem him ready to reclaim the shield and become Captain America once more.
By now, friends, you’re probably wondering who the Big Bad is in this series. Is it Cap himself? Some other villain? A dominant terror cell?
If you answered “Russia,” congratulations! You win the gold star. One of the President’s top advisers is a Russian woman with hypnotic powers!
Her husband is, not surprisingly, the Red Skull, a premier villain in Captain America’s world. What sort of nefarious plan to advance the Aryan race does the Skull have this time?**
The Red Skull plans to exploit toxic masculinity!
You might have seen a certain Canadian professor get particularly butthurt over one panel in particular.
I could go on, but one can only beat a dead horse so much before the corpse starts to squeak. This one’s sounding pretty mousy, so let’s skip to the end.
Ta-Nehisi Coates’ version of Captain America is a weak, callow, ineffectual man constantly in need of rescue by White women. The world Captain America inhabits is fundamentally corrupt, rife with criminals and white supremacists comprising the “Power Elite.”
Continually falling upward, Cap as penned by Coates always seems to luck out at the last minute. Although he isn’t sure if he can live up to the mantle he’s borne for over a century, Captain America is cheered on my his friends and teammates.
One could almost accuse Coates of making his time with The First Avenger entirely, like his other works, about himself.
Fortunately for fans of the Star-Spangled Superhero, Coates is apparently set to end his run on the title within the next month or two. Hopefully, he’ll return to his insipid navel gazing in book form, sparing comics fans the butchering of another classic character.
It’s not like he’s going to make T’Challa of Wakanda, the Black Panther, a nameless slave to an intergalactic mining species, right?***
That’s enough shared misery for everyone. Happy Friday, everyone! Here’s to a great weekend, and come Scotch-o-Clock today you can raise the vessel of your choice to your lips and smile, knowing no matter how your week went, at least you didn’t trash a beloved American icon so badly a self-professed middle-aged crazy man on the Internet called you out for it.
See you next week!
*A “run” is the number of issues a writer pens for a comic book series.
**Astute readers will note the conflation between Russians and Nazis. Some might be ready to point out the disconnect in the comments. To those readers I offer a shrug and a reply of “I never said this made any sense!”
***He actually already did this in his first run with Marvel’s “Black Panther.”