Capital Thoughts:

Captain America #10

Last time, we explored the death of Cap’s son, Ian, and its emotional fallout. We wondered, for example, how Ian’s death would affect his relation with Sharon, who killed the boy. At least some of those questions were answered in Captain America #10, wherein Sharon dies—at least for now. After all, if Bucky – and, indeed, Cap! – can come back from the dead, then why not Sharon? Or is Marvel clearing house and ridding itself of one of the ugliest and oddest aspects of the Cap mythos? I refer to Sharon’s older sister, Peggy.

Back in the 60’s, when Cap was revived, Stan Lee and the guys decided to add some pathos to the character by hooking him up with his old World War II girlfriend Peggy Carter, who, despite being now old enough to be Cap’s mom, was still shapely. Nick Fury and Peggy had a thing going until Cap thawed out. Fury acted like an angry school boy, but they became friends again when Cap fell for the more age-appropriate Sharon, who was (and is) like her sister, an agent of SHIELD. This white-trash aspect, Cap having his way with both sisters, was best left unexplored. But it was there, and it was (and is) gross. So maybe Sharon isn’t coming back, especially since the series seems determined to age Cap, who was in Dimension Z for what initially seemed to be a decade. However, according to Captain America writer Rick Remender, Steve “has spent more time in Dimension Z than in the current era on Earth” (“Letters” page).

So let’s do the math: Cap was revived in 1964 (49 years ago). He has been in Dimension Z longer than that, so let’s assume he has been there for roughly 60 years; further, let’s also assume that Cap was 18 years old when he was injected with the super-solder serum in 1939. That means he was frozen when he was 25. Add to that 60 years and our Cap is now roughly 85 years old. If Peggy was also a twenty-something in 1945, that would make her about the same age. We haven’t seen Peggy in many years, but if Nick is still around, why not Peggy?

True, Cap doesn’t look 85; he’s still chiseled, but his face is heavily lined. He certainly no longer looks to be 25. He looks to be about as old as Fury, who must be pushing 90.

The death of Sharon is now logical. It’s the Peggy problem in reverse: Steve is now too old for her! But he’s no longer too young for Peggy.

Further, we already know that this older Cap is more sensitive. Right on cue, we see Cap crying over the death of Sharon—odd for Cap, who usually promises grim payback, as for example, when the Falcon was killed by Neo-Nazis. No worries, it was dream.  But this is no dream, and what we have here are soap opera-like tears, rivers of them.

This is not to intimate that Cap is any less of a man. When MacDuff’s family is killed in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, he cries. Those around him tell him to seek revenge:

Be comforted.
Let’s make us medicines of our great revenge,
To cure this deadly grief. Dispute it like a man.

I shall do so;
But I must also feel it as a man…

And that means manly tears. It also means that Cap has no one left from Dimension Z, except Ian’s sister, Jet (Zola’s biological daughter). Will Cap now raise her, just as he raised Ian? Or are we setting the stage for a new supervillain team-up? Jet and the Red Skull’s daughter Sin would make a great team! Or will Jet hook up with Zemo’s son, the villain turned Thunderbolts hero?

And as for Cap, he need not grieve too much over Ian, for it seems that the boy survived, albeit in Dimension Z, where he takes the name Nomad. That twist is, at least to this reader, particularly offensive. Nomad was Steve Rogers’ identity for a brief period in the Post-Watergate era. It’s a bit complicated, but, in essence, Cap no longer felt comfortable representing America, which he deemed to be politically corrupt, but still wanted to fight crime. Nomad, then, was a hero who no longer believed in symbols, or, indeed, in principles beyond good and evil. Upon Steve’s return as Cap, Marvel didn’t know what to do with the Nomad character. In Cap #261, the Red Skull trains Edward Ferbel to be Nomad, but the story doesn’t holdup; Jack Monroe, the 50’s Bucky, was Nomad for about two years before he too faded away. What these Nomad-incarnations have in common is a lack of allegiance, which in part might explain why comic book readers have never felt much commitment to the character. But we now find out that Ian is the new Nomad, and that he is a symbol of hope for freedom fighters in Dimension Z. Ideologically, that’s a massive break from the essence of the Nomad character. But the larger point is that he’s alive. If Ian can survive a gunshot wound in Dimension Z, then Sharon can survive the explosion that seemingly blew her to bits.

And what of Ian/Nomad? In the last issue, we discussed the idea that Zola would be immortal because he implanted his consciousness in his super-soldiers. Those same solders also have Steve’s DNA. So Ian is fighting a triple Oedipal war:

(1) he assumes his father’s Nomad identity;

(2) he fights his biological father’s mind/consciousness;

(3) he fights his step-father’s biologically-infused clones.

But Oedipus does more than kill his father; he also marries his mother. Since Ian grows up to be Nomad, is it implausible to imagine that Sharon and Ian eventually hookup? Or are we to blink and now find that Sharon, like Cap, has now aged 60 years in Dimension Z? Perhaps she can come back as a matronly partner for Steve? But that leaves Peggy. If Nick is ageless, then why not Peggy? Now that they are roughly the same age, perhaps Cap can reestablish a relationship with her. If Sharon and Ian somehow return from Dimension Z, it will make for an uncomfortable Thanksgiving Day meal around the Rogers homestead.

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Jeffrey Kahan is a is a well-established Shakespeare scholar with about two dozen books and editions to his name. He is also the co-author of Caped Crusaders 101 (MacFarland, 2nd ed., 2010), and is a co-editor of The Dark Man, a journal dedicated to the works of Robert E. Howard, and an associate editor of The New Ray Bradbury Review. He teaches a class on superhero comics and has twice appeared as a speaker at Comic-Con, as well as at New York’s Big Apple and other comic conventions. His newest book, Shakespeare and Superheroes, will be published in 2018 by ARC Press. He works in California but lives in his own world.

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