Welcome to November! Fall is officially turning into the beginnings of winter for many of us in the northern hemisphere, and I for one am looking forward to the holiday season. But for this week, at least, I get to read a comic I’ve been waiting to read for quite some time now—that’s right, folks, Captain Marvel 17 has finally dropped! We’ll also be looking at Captain America 13, Cataclysm: The Ultimates’ Last Stand 1, Iron Man 18, and Mighty Avengers 3.
Captain America 13
If I’m being entirely honest, I haven’t made much of an effort to keep how I feel about Rick Remender’s run on Captain America a secret. For those of you who may be new to my reviews, here’s a quick sum-up: he’s obsessed with Steve Rogers’ man-pain, declared his father to be an abusive alcoholic, gave Steve an adopted son to raise who he believes was killed (but is lost to him forever), killed Sharon Carter, made Steve suffer from PTSD and repeatedly refuse any treatment or help, and also turned his apartment into some sort of odd WWII museum (the contents of which he decided to burn. My inner historian was not pleased).
Issue 12 did not proffer much hope for the improvement of the run, as in it Remender created a new stereotypical “Oriental” dragon-man type villain, with all the stereotypical costuming and desire to take down the Western pigs and “drive a nail into the heart of the west.” (Psst, Remender: It’s not the 1960s anymore. We left the “Oriental supervillain bent on destroying the West” behind a while ago. Or at least I hope we did.) This vague dragon-man is controlling Nuke, a crazed, drugged-up failure of a super soldier who Cap wrangled with quite a while back, and is sending Nuke out to decimate civilian and military areas in Eastern Europe. In New York, Steve finally opens up about his experiences in Dimension Z to Sam Wilson (Falcon), and shares that Ian’s loss has caused him to feel like the world holds no meaning for him anymore. (Progress! Talking about things is good. Now let’s see if we can stop treating PTSD as something that’s shameful and should be internalized. I don’t have much hope.)
The issue begins in 1969, where Ran Shen (who is apparently also calling himself Iron Nail) is being interrogated by the original Nick Fury and Dum Dum Dugan. It turns out he was embedded in China to join Mao’s party, but hasn’t reported for two years, leading them to believe him a traitor. He ends up knocking both of them out with his powers in order to copy Nick Fury’s eyeball, and tries to use it to get into an area designated “Weapon Minus,” seemingly looking for someone. Before he can, he’s attacked by the Winter Soldier, who reveals that Ran Shen himself is his target, but the assassination attempt is foiled by SHIELD attacking the both of them and both leave without success.
In the present, Sam Wilson questions Jet Black Zola about Steve’s destruction of his WWII items, and she claims he did it to be free of the shackles and burdens his old life imposed on him. Sam recognizes this as a sign of trouble, but is interrupted by a call from Maria Hill, who warns Sam about Jet, but quickly moves on to say that there’s trouble that requires Cap’s intervention. Sam disagrees—vehemently—as he knows Steve’s dealing with more than the loss of Sharon, but Hill tells him that Nuke (a former cyborg-super-soldier with extreme mental illness due to the combination of the serum and hyper-amphetamines) has been reopening an old conflict in Nrosvekistan by decimating cities and planting American flags in the rubble, and they need Steve to capture him alive to figure out who’s giving him orders. They’ve blacked out the media for now, but Hill says when it does go live, it needs to be of Nuke being taken out by Cap. SHIELD brings Steve, Sam, and Redwing (Sam’s avian counterpart) into the conflict zone to take on Nuke, who proves to be almost too much for them, and continues slaughtering people even as they fight. They get a mild reprieve when Redwing tosses one of Nuke’s grenades back at him, but it barely fazes him, as he’s determined to finish his “mission” no matter what.
I’m thrilled to see someone being the voice of reason in this comic—thank goodness for Sam Wilson, even if nobody listens to him. No one else in this comic seems to realize just how devastated Steve was by the events in Dimension Z, and no one else seems to know that someone undergoing that much grief and pain should probably not be part of an active battlefield. And, thankfully, Sam’s seeming to start to understand just how much of a bad idea having Jet be around Steve is (which I really wish someone would have realized earlier). She’s a Zola, through and through, and her influence on Steve is poisonous at best, toxic and self-destructive at worst. (Also, I know she’s the super-macho “I can kill you with my pinky” female character, but can she be shown doing something other than working out in nothing but her underwear? Does she eat? Sleep? Anything?) It was Jet who goaded Steve into destroying all his WWII items as a way to free himself from his past, and disregarding the fact that Steve having a mini WWII museum in his home is wildly out of character, this idea of complete disassociation with one’s past is not healthy. Humans learn from and are shaped by their pasts. Just because someone’s past may be painful doesn’t mean it isn’t important or valuable. Jet’s actions seem to have caused Steve to think about his life in terms of “before” and “after,” when in reality one’s past and present are continuous streams that can’t be broken apart. Dealing with two catastrophic personal losses by ignoring one’s own personal history and legacies, both in terms of a profession and in terms of lost loved ones, is extremely unhealthy. I’m glad Sam realizes that this is clearly a sign of trouble, and would very much like to see Sam removing Jet’s poisonous influence from Steve’s life and getting him some help.
I still have no idea what to think of Ran Shen (and Iron Nail? Really? You couldn’t come up with a better name? Okay then), but it seems as if there’s a person in the Weapon Minus program that he was trying to rescue back in 1969 that he believed was betrayed by SHIELD. Although not introduced yet in the comics, the Weapon Minus program has been stated by Remender to be SHIELD’s attempts at countermeasures to the Weapon Plus program, which is the experimental program that resulted (at different points in time) in Captain America, Wolverine, Nuke, and many others. I’ll be interested to see how this plays out, but let’s be honest—my idea of a great issue of Captain America at this point would be getting Steve some grief counseling and therapy and having him stop isolating himself from the people who care about him. I’m sure Remender disagrees.