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SHIELD OF FREEDOM Part 2: Captain America & The Avengers

by  in Comic News Comment
SHIELD OF FREEDOM Part 2: Captain America & The Avengers
“Captain America” #34 on sale this week (variant cover by Alex Ross)

When Captain America was murdered last year, the people of the Marvel Universe lost one of their greatest champions. But the members of The Avengers, both past and present, lost something more: a leader, a comrade and a friend. We spoke previously with "Captain America" editor Tom Brevoort about how the citizens of the Marvel Universe mourned the loss of Steve Rogers, and now in Part Two of SHIELD OF FREEDOM, our weeklong look at the legacy of the legendary hero, CBR News speaks with “New Avengers” and “Mighty Avengers” writer Brian Michael Bendis about Steve Rogers’ connection with Earth’s mightiest heroes and how the emergence of the new Cap, Bucky Barnes, will affect the team.

When the Avengers found the frozen Captain America way back in issue #4 of their eponymous title (that’s 1964 to us), they also found the element their group had been lacking. “The Avengers was sort of a cobbled together group of heroes because it was fate that brought them together,” Brian Michael Bendis told CBR News. “They came together but they weren’t really a team. Than they find Captain America and something changes. It feels like what they’re doing is important. Cap was the gel that brought and held them together. I talked a little bit about this in the ‘Avengers Finale’ one-shot that came after ‘Avengers Disassembled.’ The Wasp says to Cap, ‘When we found you, I knew this was the real deal.'”

The Avengers were held in equally high regard by Captain America. “You’ve got to remember Cap went through this thing that no one else went through, the suspended animation,” Bendis said. “He wakes up and the first faces he sees are the Avengers. They take him in and bring him into the new world. So they’re almost like his family or his parents. They helped birth him into this new world. So the team itself couldn’t be more important to him.

“Captain America” #34 cover by Steve Epting

“You’ve also got to remember as a soldier, Cap is also a team player,” Bendis continued. “As much as he is a great solo character, there’s an extra kick in his step when he’s training with, working with, or has the camaraderie of a little platoon of superheroes.”

In the wake of the tragic “Avengers Disassembled” storyline, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes split up, but Steve Rogers wasn’t about to let go of something that important to him, and the “New Avengers” team and series were established. “The New Avengers came together partly because of Cap feeling so gung-ho about putting the team back together,” Bendis explained. “It’s almost like he was looking for any excuse to reform the team. He just needed to sell it a little to Tony Stark to get him off his ass. After that Cap got the band back together even if it was in a new form.”

Few of the current New Avengers have a long history with the team, but when Steve Rogers was assassinated in the landmark “Captain America” #25, the team was galvanized and their status as Avengers became as important to them as it would be to any longtime member of the group. “When Captain America points at you almost like Uncle Sam, and goes, ‘You’re an Avenger.’ It’s a big deal,” Bendis remarked. “It’s not something a person with any depth would take lightly.  So when he dies, they feel like, ‘He wanted this. We know for a fact he wanted this team and this fight. Even if ‘Civil War’ is over he would not want us to buckle.’

Ronin as Captain America (page from “Fallen Son: Captain America")

“The most fun thing for me to explore post-Cap’s death is now that he’s gone what would his team be like?” Bendis continued. “You’ve got seven different people each with their own perspective. Some feel worthy of their place on the team while others feel they don’t deserve it and  feel like they need to earn their spot on the team or at least find that thing in themselves that Cap saw.”

Out of all the New Avengers, the one who knew Steve Rogers best is Clint Barton, the Avenger formerly known as Hawkeye and currently known as Ronin.  Barton is famous among the Avengers for speaking his mind and he’ll definitely be making his thoughts known about the new Sentinel of Liberty, who debuts this week in “Captain America” #34. “Clint and Steve had an almost older brother and younger brother relationship,” Bendis explained. “And they definitely had an antagonistic relationship based on nothing but respect.  Plus, Clint turned down the mantle of Captain America [In the “Fallen Son: Captain America” issue] and seeing someone else taking the mantle will be very interesting.”

Ronin’s fellow Avengers will also have very pronounced reactions to news of the new Captain America. “They’re all different people, so you’re going to see a range of reactions,” Bendis said. “From complete ambivalence to complete disgust to some who might feel a bit of relief and see it as what it is a respectful passing of the torch.”

Ronin saw a vision of himself as Captain America (page from “New Avengers” #34)

In the aftermath of “Civil War,” the New Avengers weren’t the only superteam making claim to the Avengers name. Iron Man, leader of the victorious pro-registration side, formed his own team of “Mighty Avengers.” And though the members of Iron Man’s team may have fought against Steve Rogers in “Civil War,” Captain America’s death had just as much impact on them as it did on the Captain’s team itself. “Many of [the Mighty Avengers] were long time [Captain America teammates] and a couple of them were original Avengers who were there when Captain America was unfrozen,” Bendis said. “For Tony Stark in particular, ‘Civil War’ was a bittersweet victory because of the death of Cap. Look what it cost him; it still weighs very heavily on him.”

The heroes are divided, the New Avengers dare not attend Steve Rogers’ funeral

It was that loss and Steve Rogers’ wish for the mantle of Captain America to continue after his death which lead Tony Stark to approach Rogers’ old partner Bucky Barnes about becoming the new Sentinel of Liberty.  In “Captain America” #34, readers will see one other Mighty Avenger who knows about the new Captain America, but given Stark’s recent discovery of the shapeshifting Skrulls’ invasion plans, he’s hesitant to share info about the new Cap with the rest of his team. “That’s the thing, who do you trust? And hence the tagline of ‘Secret Invasion,'” Bendis remarked. “Things are coming pretty quick and [Stark will] reveal things when the time comes. When the Skrull situation fully reveals itself people will be a little lenient on the trust issue.”

It was the conflict over Superhero Registration that split the Avengers in two separate teams, but the return of Captain America and the looming Skrull invasion might just lead to reconciliation. “In the face of the threat that’s coming, the concern over Registration changes a great deal,” Bendis said. “Over in ‘Mighty Avengers,’ you’ll even see Tony Stark going, ‘I don’t give a shit about the Registration Act.’  The Skrulls change everything. The whole dynamic changes and there just might be a unification of the Avengers like we’ve never seen before.”

The Skrull threat may be the catalyst for reuiniting the Avengers (page from “Mighty Avengers” #8)

If the people of Earth are to successfully repel the Skrulls’ “Secret Invasion,” they’ll need Captain America and what he represents to the Avengers and the rest of the Marvel U to inspire them. “When I was writing ‘House of M,’ I thought if you look at the Marvel Universe as a whole instead of looking at them as individuals, Cap represents completely uncompromised ideology,” Bendis said. “That’s what the rest of the Marvel Universe and the world responded to. That’s why it made the newspapers when he died.  Captain America represents non-compromised ideology and that’s very rare today.”

Maintain your Eternal Vigilance, because SHIELD OF FREEDOM continues tomorrow when we talk to “Captain America” series artist Steve Epting.

Now discuss this story in CBR’s Avengers forum.


The Mourning of Captain America with Tom Brevoort

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