CAPTAIN AMERICA #702 / Writer: Mark Waid / Artists: Leonardo Romero with Rod Reis & Howard Chaykin / Color Artists: Jordie Bellaire with Rod Reis & Jesus Aburtov / Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna / Cover Art: Michael Cho / Graphic Designer: Carlos Lao / Publisher: Marvel / May 16, 2018
What kind of hero is needed in a world where the ills of disease, war, and poverty seem to have been cured? If you’d asked me before this arc started what kind of Cap I’d see three hundred years in the future, I would have envisioned a techy, tricked-out supersoldier, ready and capable to meet any task or villain.
Thankfully, I do not write for Marvel.
Captain America 702 offers up a markedly different kind of hero: a historian. Yes, Jack Rogers is a descendant of Captain America himself, but he’s also just a regular man trying to do the right thing. I know we are only a few issues in this arc but I’m thoroughly enjoying the idea that the mantle of Cap, his shield, and the history that he represents can—and should—be carried on by future generations.
We pick up from last issue with Jack on the run. He’s broken into the White House to sneak out info General Pursur’s kept hidden. It seems like there’s an ongoing eugenics program turning humans into sleeper cells for the Kree. That program is, in part, fueled by a variation on the serum found in original Steve Rogers’s blood. Of course the consequence of Jack discovering this is being pursued by Pursur’s troops.
Remember last time I wrote about the Timelenses, nifty little monocles powered by flecks of the Time Stone (yes, that Time Stone) and how they help Jack see the past? This week we learn those Timelenses are also the key to enter the secret history club called the Guild of Historians. I love when little tech or plot devices keep the story fresh and fun. Once inside Jack works to find a solution to his problem, including dealing with Time Diving and a rather ill-timed influx of Pursur’s goons. The back half of the issue details Jack’s descent underneath New Washington to find the truth.
I’m charmed and intrigued by Waid’s choice to make the hero of this story a historian three hundred years in the future. As a comics fan, parent, woman, American, and active tweeter, I see daily proof of why knowing your history matters. The sheer amount of revisionist garbage floated around as fact staggers me. It’s not just online. It’s on TV. It’s on the radio. It’s at family dinners. Trashy talking points are mimicked and disseminated by people either too ignorant to know better or too lazy to learn. Suddenly slaves chose to be slaves. Actually, the 1950s were super amazing and perfect and Betty Freidan was just some hack writing about being a bored housewife. Comics have never been political. And so on.
I could say I have no words but obviously that’s not true.
It’s worth contemplating a hero who can very clearly see how choices made by our ancestors got us to where we are today. Jack knows. The other historians know. Very few people alive in the 24th century remember how Cap actually died or how New Washington even came to be. That’s a dangerous way to live, not really knowing (or, worse, not caring to know) how we got to where we are and where we might be headed.
So I applaud Waid and the creative team for putting forth a hero whose actual existence reminds us that our history matters, that the facts of what actually happened to people matter. Spinning the facts, or not calling out lies, blurs the hard truth that the choices we make today have lasting impact on generations ahead, even if we choose to ignore it and even if our descendants choose to never learn it. The truth still matters, and keeping the truth in the light is even more important when the lies are easier and more comfortable to live with.
The two major flashbacks in this issue seem to back that up. The first takes us to war-torn France of 1943. Captain America is down and something that he’s learned is vital to winning the war. His team steps up to protect him and clear a path to safety. Once again the flashbacks have their own visual style. I was particularly drawn to one panel in the first flashback. A Nazi soldier is down but still alive, he takes a bead on an unconscious Cap. The contrasting blue-gray of the brick work well with the bloody red soldier and his injuries. The way the art team, led by Romero, used just a few stray lines to convey the last chance of a fatally wounded man to take out one of the greatest heroes at a moment of weakness. One second more, one step too late, and every thing changes. Their use of line and color in this panel developed that sense of urgency in me as a reader, to stop this anonymous killer before it was too late for Cap.
By far, however, my favorite panel is connected to Jack’s use of the Timelenses. While meeting with a character named Old Vic, Jack is forced to look at history through Vic’s cracked Timelens. Can what Jack sees be trusted? We see the scene beginning to emerge from the blur of the past, through the cracks in the lens. It’s almost like looking at a slowly loading browser page through the cracked screen of your cell phone. Except this is beautiful and captivating, not annoying and slow. The scene, as it emerges, is more than blurry. It’s like a double print, pixelated and jumbled. We get glimpses of important heroes, seemingly dead, under the boot of Red Skull. The creative team uses the next panel to bring everything into deeper focus and lets the rest of the flashback play out.
This week’s issue does an admirable job setting up bigger conflicts to come. Let’s be honest: an entire human population lulled into complacency because they think they’ve solved the ills of the past all the while being unwitting pawns in an impeding Kree battle or invasion can’t be anything but entertaining. Waid and Romero (and crew of five other artists) have a compelling tale to tell that’s definitely worth adding to your pull list.
Verdict: 5 out 5 stars
I’m a curious, creative, comic(al) woman. I am unapologetically Team Cap, but not HydraCap because there is a line in the moral sands of the universe and that whole thing is on the other side of it. I teach high school students all about the joys of mythology through comic books, graphic novels, and films. I wandered into the comic book world in 2015 and is a proud member of the #DoYouEvenComicBook gang.