WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Captain America #698
The Captain America of Marvel Comics just watched the United States die. That's not as shocking a headline as it used to be, thanks to Marvel's recent Secret Empire event in which Captain America led a HYDRA takeover of the United States. But in the end, the good old Captain America was restored to set things right (mostly right, anyway). After so long in the spotlight Captain America joined up with a new creative team to get back to his roots. The bad news for Cap? His 'roots' include getting frozen and sent decades into the future.
Under the leadership of acclaimed storytellers Mark Waid and Chris Samnee, the new Captain America series send Steve Rogers up against yet another secret organization. This time, it goes by the name of Rampart. We wish we could say the twist of the story was as original, but why mess with a classic? In Issue #697 Captain America is once again frozen into a block of ice, only to be thawed out far into the future. A future in which the American Dream seems to be dead... along with the rest of the United States.
Captain America #698 picks up immediately after Steve is bombarded by a Rampart freeze ray (immediately to his perception). Coming to in the back of a truck in total darkness, he comes out with feet and fists flying, expecting to be attacking his Rampart assailants and captors. What he finds instead is a truly odd gaggle of science fiction oddities. Mutated humans, humanoid dogs, and all manner of strange creatures await Cap's presence. But it seems they were expecting him to still be contained in a block of ice as a symbol of the America that was.
An America that has ceased to exist, Cap soon discovers. The group shows him that Washington D.C. has been completely reduced to rubble, and is patrolled by flying attack ships. The group that sprung Cap is part of the small group of people still trying to resist the Rampart forces who have taken over the country.The comic pulls no punches either, showing what happens to resistance fighters who get surrounded by America's new military (hint: they're not making the next meeting).
Steve Rogers is more than ready to save the day, until he realizes just how 'over' the fight already is. Waid and Samnee paint a bleak picture of America's destroyed future, in which nuclear strikes softened the USA up for takeover, leaving the wealthiest of the country (and Rampart's leadership) to cease what was left. Not to mention oppress, punish, and exploit anyone else who survived in the ruins of America. The irradiated survivors tell Cap that the leading theory suggests it was Rampart who led America to bomb itself into this apocalypse. When the dust settled, all that remained was the aptly-named 'King Baby' who rules Rampart with superpowers from the radiation, and the poorest of the poor used and abused by the top 1%.
As Steve Rogers looks on, the fact that his origin story has been repeated in an even bleaker fashion is soon cast aside. Even if nobody remembers what America once stood for before Rampart won, he does. And even if the average American is now either brutalizing the poor and hungry, or part of the latter group, Steve Rogers remembers the rights and freedoms promised to every citizen.
There's just one problem. Everyone else in Steve's newfound band of rebels also remembers what America used to be... because Steve has only traveled seven years into the future of Marvel's Universe.
It's a heck of a twist, but it's still hard to guess how Steve Rogers will ever make it back to his own time and place. Not to mention the fact that if he can't, all of Marvel's heroes will remain dead from the nuclear strikes. Despite the odds (and a glimpse of the temperamental King Baby turning an underling into dust) Captain america is unfazed by even this collapse of America. He concludes the issue in a fitting hero pose, promising that the time has come for him and his friends to "take the country back." And because he's Captain America, the odds are in his favor - no matter how microscopic they may seem for now.
The truly unexpected twist is a strong one, potentially. The contemporary inspirations and exploration of a wealthy elite wiping out America's middle class aren't hard to spot. And it's tempting to think that the leadership and crises of this collapsed America is also a commentary from Waid and Samnee on the uncertainty facing America in the real world. The conspiracies and nuclear deception remind readers they are still squarely in superhero world, but the resonance remains.
Will Captain America really be able to take his country back? What will happen when he does? And just what other bombshells and twists are headed Cap's way? For that, readers will need to look out for Captain America #699.
Captain America #698 is available now.