Welcome to Captain America, Nebraska. Yes, it’s a place, and the first stop on Steve Rogers’ post-Secret Empire cross-country road trip. You see, the original Sentinel of Liberty -- or at least the version that Kobik brought back from her memories -- is having a bit of an identity crisis. After defeating the Hydra Cap version of himself in the pages of Secret Empire, he's criss-crossing on the nation’s highways and byways as he finds the way back to himself.
Mark Waid and Chris Samnee have quite the road ahead of them. Captain America #695 launches the first full-fledged Steve Rogers adventure to follow the Hydra takeover. It is also the first time he’s really been himself in a while. Even before Kobik altered his past to make him a Hydra double agent in the pages of Avengers: Standoff, Rogers was not operating at full capacity. Having been drained of the Super Soldier Serum, he’d aged, and had ceded his title and shield to his one-time partner, Sam Wilson.
Steve Rogers' Legacy
However, it is not the particulars of Rogers’ biography that are really at issue here. It is Captain America’s standing as an icon, and as a symbol of liberty, both within the fictional narrative of the Marvel Universe, as well as in the pop culture landscape. To put it mildly, Nick Spencer broke Captain America. He disassembled the Avenger and made him the bad guy. He then asked readers to question the very notion of heroism, and to ponder what happens when the symbols we hold dear are corrupted.
When Spencer put Rogers back together again, it was the idea of the man that returned. The unsullied Captain America, who now exists in the pages of Marvel Comics, emerged from the mind of a very powerful “child” who finally recognized the lies of the Nazi villain who had raised her. Like so many abused children who struggle to reconstruct their psyches and their lives after escaping from their tormentors, Kobik built a Steve Rogers out of good memories. But Hydra Cap is still out there. The Red Skull has scarred the sentient Cosmic Cube and the world, and the consequences of his actions continue to resonate.
"Home of the Brave Part 1" is, necessarily, a departure from Secret Empire. It is also a continuation of Spencer’s storyline, and a further exploration of the questions he asked over the course of his Captain America runs. To be fair, Captain America has always served as a barometer for the nation’s politics. He was conceived as such by Simon and Kirby. Through the years, Rogers has held up a mirror to America, and the reflection hasn’t always been flattering. Despite the tonal shift in Waid and Samnee’s first issue, that mirror image is not entirely positive, but it is hopeful.
Briefly, Captain America #695 has Rogers revisiting the former Burlington, Nebraska, a town he saved from the a horde of costumed white supremacists ten years ago. To honor his heroics, the town not only changed its name, but also holds an annual Captain America festival that feels very much like an open-air comic book convention, complete with merchandise and a cosplay contest.