The fandom world is still reeling from the latest controversial twist to hit the pages of Marvel Comics, wherein it was seemingly revealed that Steve Rogers — the original Captain America — has been a sleeper agent of the terrorist organization Hydra for the entirety of his superhero career. While Marvel is sticking to its guns that this A) is not a joke and B) will make sense in time, the storyline has already resulted in a groundswell of negative backlash; with many readers feeling betrayed and some going so far as to accuse the comics publishing giant of antisemitism for associating a character originated by Jewish creators Jack Kirby and Joe Simon with an organization historically associated with the Nazis.
Now, the dissenting voices have been joined by Hayley Atwell, who portrays the Marvel heroine Agent Peggy Carter — a onetime love-interest of Captain America.
Atwell’s comments came as part of a wide-ranging interview with IGN, wherein the actress also expressed the opinion that her character (who appeared in Captain America: The First Avenger and two seasons of Agent Carter) would be none too happy to discover that the film Captain America: Civil War sets up a romance between the Captain and Emily VanCamp’s “Agent 13;” who is revealed in the film to be Peggy Carter’s niece, Sharon. Offered Atwell:
“Now with this whole ‘Hail Hydra’ business, I don’t know if Steve’s good enough for her. So on all levels, it’s just a big fat no.”
Atwell is also not alone in raising an eyebrow at Civil War’s unusual romantic implications, the scope of which thus far extend to a single kiss and a handful of intentionally awkward dialogue scenes. In the 1960s Captain America comics (where Steve Rogers had initially “only” been frozen for just under 20 years), Sharon Carter was originally presented as Peggy Carter’s younger sister — a scenario that was gradually retconned to “niece” as Marvel’s sliding-timescale of continuity progressed forward.
The “Hail Hydra!” twist (which has also received support from no less than Stan Lee) continues to generate fervor and fan outrage on the web, sparking multiple petitions and a popular social media meme wherein other famous characters make similarly out-of-character declarations (Batman: “I shot my parents!” John Cena: “You can see me!”) More troublingly, the writers and editors of the comic have reported multiple instances of harassment and even having received death threats. However, Marvel has committed to playing out the planned storyline, which thus far encompasses only a single (debut) issue of the new series Steve Rogers: Captain America.
Atwell will next be seen in the upcoming ABC Network legal drama Conviction, which received a green light shortly after Agent Carter completed its second season. While ABC subsequently declined to renew Carter for a third year, the actress has expressed a strong desire to see the character revived elsewhere — possibly as part of Marvel’s growing library of Netflix original series.
Captain America: Civil War is in theaters now. Doctor Strange opens November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man: Homecoming – July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019; Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on July 12, 2019, and on May 1, July 10, and November 6 in 2020.