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: Random Geek: Legacy Hero (3) - Ghost of Dreams
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Feb 1st 2008
Captain America is a troubled concept.
On one hand, the character is a symbol for everything I like to think the US tries for on our best days - The Great Experiment and all that liberal progressive jazz.
The rule of law, equality, an inherent value in each person, and the notion of justice in its most innocent form. The best writers have used him as a mirror for this - a way to remind readers what we want to stand for in the US and how hard it is to make that stand. More so he shows how often we fall so short we can't even see the other side. He has told truth to power, and left for the road when the weight of corruption was too much. Hell, the man is even an artist.
In the other hand we have a jingoistic symbol of the United States own certainty in its own (self) righteousness and relic of an age where we were sure everything we did was just. An age not to different from now for some people I think. He wears a flag on his chest and throws the same flag into people's faces. He bares a name that presumes to speak for everyone on two continents. More so he is a blue-eyed blond man chemically made into the perfect soldier, which can be fairly creepy. A thing many writers have noticed with the amount of time the Red Skull ends up looking just like him. In the end, he is the authority of force and the symbol of American imperialism with feet.
And he is dead. Again really, its a common enough story. And there is a new Cap, another common story. But I think this story addresses the issues above like no other has.
We have Bucky, or to be exact Brubaker's Bucky, an character uncertain in his ideals, a character with no belief of the simplicity of right and wrong. It is Bucky's book now. Yet we still have Steve Rodgers - as important a character dead as he was alive. Thats different this time too, the dead figure is not off to the side, he looms large over the story.
Rodgers is now a ghost of an ideal. The best angels of what the old character stands for act to give drive the new Cap. A new Cap who is at once more troubled as a character and less troubled as a symbol. The costume is the still an image of "America", the shield still flies at people's heads - but the character is not presumed to be perfect. A flawed broken man in search of an ideal that vanishes like a ghost, but one he very much knows exists and he hopes he can live up too. That is the USA I so often love and so often hate. And so the symbol changes.
Brubaker has stripped out the faults and left the dream. Captain America is now a character seeking redemption both for himself and for that dream. Within Brubaker's new narrative
Captain American can live up to the reality of the ideal in a way the older character never could.
Its a defining run. And no matter what happens next I am damn happy to read it each month.
Edit: Clarity, typos and context. Allot in other words.
Feb 27th 2008
Very well said, J. I was always into the idea of Bucky becoming Cap, and as I understand it, Brubaker had this story planned since before Civil War forced his hand on killing Steve off.
As interested as I am in Bucky's new role and the immense dynamic that brings, I can't help but think that this is going to be short lived. Marvel is more of a company of licenses, and the comics are more a way to facilitate those licenses and keep them in the public eye between movies and cartoons. For this reason, I feel that Steve will be back, and probably during the Skrull Invasion. They do have an Avengers movie to promote in the next couple years.
The thing that I've always thought was interesting about Cap is the dynamism the right writer can bring to the character. Brubaker understands this very well--he brought a major conflict back into the character's life that recharged him into being interesting again, after years of punching terrorists and dicking around with The Falcon. The thing that I always stress when people criticize how corny and outdated the idea of having a 'Captain America' is that he represents the ideal of this nation--a nation based on the largest experiment of democracy, personal freedom and free trade that has existed up to this point. While those ideals are rarely if ever realities, they are still values that deserve to be represented. The brilliant thing of having a character that embodies that is he not only represents the ideals of the nation, but the will of people to believe in and defend those values. Complacency dissolves cultural values, Cap represents the strength and will of the people willing to preserve those things, and I find that immensely interesting in what could be him beating up Al Qaeda and existing only in trite, contrived stories of hollow patriotism.
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