Rick Remender’s latest run on Captain America may not be as epic as his last, but it is just as captivating.
Captain America (ongoing)
Writer: Rick Remender
Artists: John Romita Jr, Carlos Pacheco and Klaus Janson
HE may be the face of the Avengers (and the Invaders) and the natural leader in any Marvel mega-event, but the stark truth is that Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America is a man out of time. Be it the original Lee-Kirby version or the Hollywood one, Rogers’ time displacement from his original World War II surroundings to today’s hip, digital environment makes him stand out in a crowd.
In January, the situation was made even more glaring when Rick Remender (Punisher, Uncanny X-Force, Fear Agent) changed Cap’s status quo via the Marvel NOW relaunch.
Remender linked the past and present by injecting some depth into Rogers’ pre-Capdays, and throwing him into a totally alien environment – Dimension Z. As if taking away the “America” in “Captain America” wasn’t drastic enough, Remender also alienated Cap from his usual support system (S.H.I.E.L.D., Sharon Carter, Falcon, Bucky, etc) and gave him a new sidekick in the form of his arch-nemesis Arnim Zola’s genetically-engineered son Ian.
Readers were treated to a futuristic Lone Wolf & Cub-style journey as Cap braved the worst that Dimension Z has to offer while discovering the joy of fatherhood! This was definitely NOT something familiar to Cap, but it was a revolutionary departure that concluded with the usual hard-luck ending.
In case you missed out on this groundbreaking stint, here’s a recap. Steve and Sharon were about to take their relationship to the next (i.e. matrimonial) level, but before they did, he was abducted by Zola’s minions and taken to Dimension Z – a desert-like land inhabited by savage mutates known as the Phrox. With Cap in ... captivity, Zola attempted to unlock the secret of the Super Soldier serum DNA for his own genetic engineering experiments. As usual, there’s a grander scheme in place and for schemers like Zola, and here, it’s the customary plan of conquering the world.
In case you feel that the plot is predictable and the usual “hero saves the day” outcome is inevitable, Remender throws in a few unexpected twists, namely the Steve-Ian bonding, Jet Black (Zola’s genetically engineered daughter), the time difference between Dimension Z and Earth, and an intervention by Sharon.
Just like how Batman/Bruce Wayne struggled to be a father to Damian, Cap experiences similar challenges, albeit in an alien environment and for a longer time period (30 minutes of Earth time = 12 years in Dimension Z).
For more than a decade, Cap raises Ian according to his values and even imparts his fighting and survival skills to the boy.
While Ian grows up to be the spitting image of Steve, his “sister” Jet is the complete opposite, as Zola has infused her with a powerful hatred for human civilisation.
Anyway, all hell breaks loose when Zola succeeds in reclaiming Ian and kick-starts his invasion of Earth, prompting Cap to launch a direct assault on his nemesis. Things get even more complicated when Cap succeeds in turning Jet to his side and fights a brainwashed Ian, who would have killed him if not for Sharon.
When the fighting’s done, Ian and Sharon fail to survive – their deaths marring what would have been a successful turnaround for Cap (considering how uncertain these events are in comics these days).
Time flies in Dimension Z. Even for someone with an indomitable spirit like Steve, the years away from Earth do take their toll. From the peaceful moments he shares with Ian, it is evident that Steve has become contented and resigned to his fate.
But the emotional trauma he endures leaves him even more shattered than when he was revived after his post-WWII suspended animation. This setback is a double whammy, leaving him grieving over the dual loss. Captain America #11 and #12 are especially heart-rending issues as Steve miserably tries to adjust to life without Ian (mostly) and Sharon.
The emotional support offered by the “cold hearts” at S.H.I.E.L.D and the Falcon is eclipsed by the newly-acquired challenge of acclimatising another kindred soul – Jet, who is also somewhat displaced in time herself.
Recalling the last five decades of Cap tales, my benchmarks for epic ones are the Mark Waid-Ron Garney and Ed Brubaker-Steve Epting stints. While Remender’s revolutionary story arc has been fascinating to follow, it still doesn’t make the grade.
No doubt, the aftermath will be felt for a while (or at least till next summer’s movie sequel), but the inevitable resurrection of Ian (which is already in motion) and Sharon (she did fake/cheat death more than once before) should eclipse the trail of destruction left by this other-dimensional adventure.
Special mention to Remender trying to build on Steve Rogers’ pre-Cap years by giving prominence to his mother’s influence on his ideals and beliefs. While past origin tales have been confined to Steve’s army enlistment frustrations, the decision to delve further into his background provides an interesting perspective of the challenges Steve faced as a child, and how he applies this experience in raising Ian.
As for Steve and Sharon’s luckless relationship, it would be great if they eventually find that elusive happiness. While it may not sound trendy to have a “Mrs Captain America” in the Avengers Mansion, surely a three-decade long relationship deserves a happy ending!