Thursday, June 14, 2012
Captain America: Hail Hydra
To provide a brief overview of the plot, during the dark days of World War II Captain America and his sidekick Bucky break into a German research facility run by the Thule Society and headed by the sinister Dr. Geist. Cap and Bucky quickly discover that the Thule Society is simply one of countless fronts for Hydra and their Infinitas Agenda, Hydra's attempt to not only achieve immortality but gain total control over life and death. Cap thought he had defeated Hydra in World War II but when the Avengers revive him from the Arctic ice he discovers that Geist, Hydra, and his Resurrection Corps managed to escape the fall of Nazi Germany. With the Avengers and other new allies, Cap manages to defeat Hydra time and time again but somehow the bad guys always seem to be one step ahead. Will Cap be able to stop Hydra once and for all?
The one thing that I really liked about this story was its sense of depth. The Captain America: Hail Hydra! trade paperback collects five issues of the same story arc, all of which were made by different artists. Sergio Cariello, Tom Scioli, Phil Winslade, Kyle Hotz, and Graham Nolan all brought their artistic talents to this story and gave each issue within the trade a unique look and feel while keeping it part of an overarching story. (Also, special mention goes to Tom Scioli, I feel like he really captured the 1960's feel in the issue he illustrated.) In addition the comics really help convey a sense of time to Cap's ongoing struggle with Hydra. We see Cap fight Hydra in the closing days of World War II, only to discover them stronger than ever in the 1960's when the Avengers rescue him from the ice. Even when Steve Rogers's disagreements with the American Government force him to abandon his previous mantle and become simply, "The Captain", Dr. Geist and Hydra remain one of his chief concerns. Cap's war with Hydra continues into the modern day after the Marvel Civil War. Steve Rogers may have passed his shield onto James Barnes, but as commander of S.H.I.E.L.D. he isn't finished trying to foil Hydra's plans. Included in Cap's own story arc are glimpses of Hydra's efforts on the quest to immortality. Hydra's history spans from ancient Mesopotamia and the days of Gilgamesh to the dark torture chambers of the Spanish Inquisition. Although it's a little unbelievable for an evil organization to be thousands of years old, we're dealing with a story that includes literal gods, mutants, and zombies so I shouldn't be surprised at all.
I ended up liking how they chose to tell the overall story, as I mentioned, in five separate comics made by five different artists that span five different time periods. The end result is a sense of an on-again off-again war between Captain America and Hydra which rarely comes out into the open but is always lingering in the shadows. Even when Cap and S.H.I.E.L.D. manage to defeat Dr. Geist and the Infinitas Agenda, it's stated that this was just one aspect of Hydra and there will be many more struggles for Cap in the future. It really helped convey that this was a long-running struggle which may not have been the focus of Cap's efforts but definitely a major concern.
I will admit that I'm still very, very new to being a Captain America fan so I wasn't exactly familiar with some of the more specific aspects of Cap's history, for example when Steve Rogers had his disagreement with the U.S. government and became just The Captain. However each issue provided interesting glimpses into Cap's publication history and gave me a better understanding of the character's development over the years.
Overall I would recommend this book for Captain America fans. Characters like Iron Man, Nick Furey, and Thor are prominent guest-stars, but they're really not the focus of the story. I felt like this really was a story about Steve Rogers and his quest to defeat Hydra more than anything else. But for any fan of Captain America this is a great look at Cap's history and an excellent story with plenty of zombie-smashing action. Definitely a must-read for Captain America fans of all ages. (Well, above fourteen at least. There's some pretty serious stuff in there.)