Tag Archives: Nick Spencer

Civil War II: The Oath

“Does this world look saved?”

Welcome, this is D.C. back for a throwdown on a book that really left an impression in spite of its preceding event: Marvel’s Civil War II: The Oath.

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The Oath?

The Oath picks up after the events of Civil War II–which, honestly, I didn’t finish because the story, for all its good art, just wasn’t satisfying in terms of story. I gave up on issue #5 because of the lack of logic in events, and how you really needed to read the various tie-ins just to understand why the other characters chose the faction they chose.

This story also picks up after some key events in the Captain America: Steve Rogers series. That, I’ll write a comprehensive review of later.

Impressions?

Writer Nick Spencer appears to get a lot of flack regarding the political undertones of his scripts, and for his recent takes on both Sam Wilson and Steve Rogers. However, in The Oath, Spencer pulls out the stops when he takes the reader on a monological tour of Steve Roger’s feelings and thoughts on recent events. One of the most powerful moments already started at the beginning, when Steve beside a comatose Tony Stark and says, simply: “What a waste.”

Those simple words already lets the reader know just how this Steve thinks of Tony. From there, Steve damns not only Tony  and Captain Marvel, but the superhero community in general. It is a sentiment felt by Ms. Marvel, the Champions, and Clint Barton, but Spencer lets Steve turn what appeared to be a story similar to Civil War: The Confession into a truly damning and, worse, mocking account by Steve.

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I was left disturbed throughout the story as Steve pointed out Tony’s hubris and failure as both a hero and a man. If you know anything about the rocky road between Iron Man and Captain America, reading Cap’s opinions of Tony aren’t necessarily new. But under Nick Spencer, the altered Steve is particularly scathing–almost violent, as if he is telling Tony, “Serves you right.”

The most meaningful part of The Oath is it is hard to disagree with Steve’s sentiments. Spencer seems to take note of social media views of current Marvel and superheroes in general, as well as current social issues, and weaves it in such a way that makes Steve 100% right in his opinion. His solution to the problem, though? That is where cognitive dissonance happens.

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As if Steve’s damning and mocking of everyone he knows and how easily he rises to the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. with even more power than any director before weren’t enough, Steve ends his talk with Tony by sharing what he truly saw from Ulysses’ vision. What we see see if truly  a taste of things to come. I was simply mind-blown by Steve’s “future,” and how he saw this as a return to America’s greatness, America’s utopia. From the outside looking in, it rings too true of all horrors from history…or heroism, depending on where your loyalties lie. That is what Spencer hammers home.

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We are also left with a key comment by Steve: “I am not the man you think I am.” Is this metaphorical, or literal? Is this really a Steve Rogers whose history was altered by Kobik, or is this an alternate Steve Rogers inhabiting the 616-Steve’s body? How will Nick Spencer answer this? Rather, how well will Spencer answer this? Will this be a repeat of Captain America: Reborn, or will this be something with a little more spice?

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The beautiful pencils and vibrant colors rendered by Rod Reis (and many others) help to give this one-shot a very disturbing feel at times, while lending to the shifting flashbacks and feelings of Steve. You can’t have a disturbing voice without a disturbing face, and Spencer and work in perfect synergy to give us what Spencer has pushed since Steve Rogers #1: a subversive and conniving Rogers with the same moral fiber and convictions as the Cap everyone remembers, only twisted.

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Verdict

Civil War: The Oath contains possibly the best writing I’ve read from Nick Spencer thus far. He lays out a morally twisted Steve Rogers’ feelings and opinions bare for the reader to absorb, and what he leaves us with is dread cloaked in optimism. It was an engrossing and terrifying story made all the more disturbing by Rod Reis’ captivating art style. If Civil War II left a bad taste in your mouth, this story really turns that around in time for Marvel’s next event: Secret Empire.

HAIL HYDRA!

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The Steve Rogers/Hydra Issue

Welcome, all. This is D.C. here to throwdown on what everyone seems to be throwing down on. I thought it was time I wrote my own take on this.

As many of you know, read, or heard, Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 came out this week. The end of the issue featured a single page, and a single sentence that seems to be throwing this whole country for a loop.

Dun dun dun…

 

 

What a visceral reaction this generated. What a visceral reaction it generated before people even got to read the issue.

True to my nature, I took the news with intrigue, I took the new articles with a grain of salt, and I disregarded the overwhelming rage sweeping the web and nerdom. I bought Issue #1 to see how this call came about, and how I would feel about it, taking into account my feelings towards Steve Rogers the character, and my almost 30-year experience with him.

How was Issue #1?

First off, let me say that I thought the first issue was okay. Steve’s costume, like anyone’s that changes, will always take time to get accustomed to. I have no malice towards the design, but I think the coloring on the costume wasn’t consistent with that on Jesus Saiz’s cover art it in general.

The dialogue of Cap’s supporting cast really needs work. I think writer Nick Spencer needs to take more time to read up on and to understand the psychology and the idiosyncracies of each character beyond Sharon Carter and Steve Rogers (both of whom were done well, in my eyes).

What pleased me was Nick Spencer’s internal dialogue of Steve Rogers. It showed that this twist in Cap’s association still appears to be rooted in the same values Rogers always had: nobility, altruism, and the belief that one person to change the world.

I was surprised by Sharon Carter’s appearance. When the hell did she get so old? There’s obviously something I missed in between the last books I read, so it’s time for me to do some backtracking.

Why all the hate?

Oh, we all know why there’s so much hate, but is it justified? I guess it depends on who you’re asking. I think critical assessment is what is missing in the discussion about Cap being a Hydra member. Common arguments are:

1. “That’s like saying Batman was responsible for his parents’ deaths!”

That comment has become trendy in the last couple of days. I don’t think I’m even going to dignify that incongruous comment with an analysis. It’s an asinine analogy. It’s illogical, and it’s nonsensical. Please don’t use this in an otherwise meaningful discussion.

2. So Steve’s a Nazi now? That’s stupid!

No. There was no indication that Steve Rogers is, or has ever been, a Nazi. Even if he were affiliated with Hydra from youth, those two points are not mutually inclusive. One does not become a Nazi by becoming a Hydra member, and vice-versa.

Why does that make sense?

Was there not a suicide bomber in issue #1 that wore a swastika and shacked up with white supremacists? Did that make him a white supremacist, or did he join up because he needed protection while in prison? Was it not stated that he had no problem with non-whites? Did that suicide bomber not have difficulty with his associates beating a non-white man to death?

It might be odd to say it, being a black man, but one does not need to wear a swastika to be a Nazi, neo-Nazi, supremacist, or whatever derivative that exists.

Does make the affiliation any less reprehensible? I want to see if that gets answered for Steve Rogers. 

But black-and-white is the way our world wants to work sometimes.

People forget that many, many people join a group or cause not because they believe in everything a group does, but because something in that cause resonates with their fear, anger, hate, love, and desires. One doesn’t need to agree with genocide or the horrific, ugly words; one only needs to agree with any number of beautiful, powerful or manipulative words that may come out of a speaker’s mouths.

(If anyone has seen “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas,” you understand my message. Beautiful and gripping film, by the way.)

So, no. Until further notice, I disagree with the argument that Rogers is a Nazi. They may have had leading members and done acts that one would liken to Nazism, but think about it like in the real world: does that mean EVERY member of a group do EVERYTHING good and bad related to that group?

3. “Steve Rogers stands up for [insert American value here], and this destroys everything about him/his core ideas!”

First off, we’re adults. Even if you’re not an adult, I would expect us all to argue points without ridiculous hyperbole. It makes you sound emotional, and emotional is a fast track to losing your point in any argument. It is the internet, and I’ll have to accept that people say very emotional things. But that doesn’t mean I’ll take anyone who uses hyperbole like “destroys everything” seriously in a debate.

I don’t like political debate, but I’ll tiptoe as best as I can. For anyone who says that Captain America stands for x, y, and z, and the values of America, I ask this:

If Cap is supposed to embody the ideas of America, which America are we talking about? Whose America? Because I can guarantee you that, from the past until now, people interpret what America was/is very differently. Some have seen America as utopia, but some have seen America as hell. It’s an uncomfortable thought, but that doesn’t make it any less probable.

But as for my view: America is imperfect. It has flaws, just as every person and nation does. Just as Captain America is. America is complex, and it should stand that Steve Rogers would be the same. Many “fans” and other outspoken opponents to this issue believe Cap should not have changed.

There have been times when Steve Rogers didn’t even know what America was anymore. The most recent example I can recall was in the Siege storyline, when Rogers allowed Bucky to keep the shield and identity of Captain America. What’s Rogers’ view of America been since then? Does anyone know for certain?

What is Captain America in an America that is constantly changing? What ARE America’s values now, as opposed to what they WERE?

Most importantly, how should those values and views of America be expressed? Should we damn or shy away from any expression that appears unfavorable to our sensibilities, no matter how possible it could be? Is that an American thing to do?

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4. “This is a crap/bad story!”

This goes right up there with my issues with hyperbole. I’ll make the argument against this type of comment very simple:

This is the first issue of a book, and the start of an arc. One issue does not make a crap book or arc. If you decide the entirety of a creative team’s run and the entirety of a character off of one page, then you are not a critical thinker at all. You are not properly vetting the book in any significant form, no matter how many issues of Captain America you’ve amassed, or how extensive you think your comic knowledge is.

Like I said before, Steve’s nobility and core values seem present to me still. Twisted, perhaps, but still. I hope he comes out of this better than now.

5. “This is liberal, destructive bulls#**!”

This is not an argument that has any sort of sense. But for the sake of argument…is a supportive view of Cap’s new status quo unpatriotic or “liberal?”

Well, I had a conversation with a coworker today about Cap’s new status. That coworker is a very proud former Navy man, and an extremely proud conservative. And yet, he explained to me the sensibility in Cap being a Hydra member. So…without going further, I think that fact alone would eliminate the “liberal” argument right there.

Nonetheless, I would expect intelligent people to take time to understand what is happening in this book, and no one can have complete understanding from one issue. I expect us to to do more than cry foul and spout purely subjective and nebulous reasons for why something is “uniformly” bad.

I think Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 had a very interesting and disconcerting twist on Steve’s life. If and when this status is reversed, I do hope there are lasting and real repercussions for Steve, his outlook on America, and how Americans see him.

What is your view of it?

END THROWNDOWN.