By WhitOro 2 Comments
How can a guy from the dreary old continent like me can write the absolute champion of the USA, Captain America, Steve Rogers, one of MARVEL’s best? Well, let me explain a little.
More Gruenwald Less Brubaker
When Brubaker stepped in as new writer of the Captain America’s title in 2004, he broke all the rules and played with the mythos in a way so daring that ended up becoming a classic. Everyone agrees that Brubaker’s run is one of the best, if not the best, the character has ever had. He turned Steve into more of a secret agent than a real superhero, he brought realism and deep narrative, real world threats and espionage. In his first issue he resurrected Bucky and killed the Red Skull. It was a success, great reviews, great sells, and a long solid run.
Yeah, I don’t like that much… I’m sorry, the same reasons (good reasons) that brought people to like Brubaker’s version are the same that bore me. He wrote great stories, he brought back Crossbones and made him a great villain, he made Bucky a central piece of the MU, he did a great job really… but when I think about my favorites Steve Rogers stories, I look at another run: Mark Gruenwald ten years long tenure.
No realism, no hard spy fiction, just adventure, adventure, adventure. Exotic places, action packed stories, colorful characters, Captain America fighting with mummies. No seriously, Captain America fighting with MUMMIES. In such a long rune we had hit and miss arcs, but overall, it was fun, entertaining and engaging superhero action for all the family.
This is the way I want to go: find a balance between the fantasy action simplicity of Gruenwald and the most realistic approach of Brubaker. But my main target is not Steve. His characterization is perfect as it is now. I want to reorganize his rogue gallery.
Probably the greatest addiction to Steve rogues gallery since the Red Skull, Crossbones has always been juts “the henchmen” “the muscle”. And there’s nothing wrong with that, the guy is the prototypical right-hand, the most perfect example in the entire industry. Under me, Crossbones become a tragic villain, almost a hero in a contorted kind of way. He suffers from an inferiority complex against Captain America and the Red Skull, two guys he wants to be like. He wants to be the big, strong, charismatic figure that gives orders and directions, he wants to be the boss and stop living in the shadow of other people, and to do this, he’s ready to commit every sort of crime, putting together his own band of henchmen
The New Skeleton Crew
The original Red Skull’s kill-squad, his most trusted soldiers. Crossbones pulls together a new generation of the group as his personal army. His objective is to become a new major player in the world events, to destroy Captain America and the Avengers. He assembles a band of villains that either work simply for money, but also as part of a vendetta against the Avengers.
But to fight against the likes of the Avengers, you need some big technological guns and weapons… who can provide them?
Head Case: directly from the MARVEL Universe's wardrobe of obscure characters, this guy was created and then never used again. He comes back as Crossbones secret ally, leader of a small but intelligent fraction of AIM, who provides the former henchmen with all sorts of incase superweapons. Finally…
The Skull Academy
The name is just temporary (I know it sounds stupid). Crossbones organizes a “school” where he turns his apprentice in killing machines. His students are young boys and girls of which parents were personally killed by Crossbones. He then proceeded to brainwash and torture them, much in the same way he did while trying to make Sin herself again, and trains them in any sort of weapon and strategy. In the end he forces the children to kill each other to determinate who’s most deserving of becoming his “son/daughter”. The first graduate is a fifteen years old girl who starts working inside the Skeletron Crew, wearing the same uniform as Brock, but instead of a mask, she paints her face.
But Crossbones is not the only one expanding his ranks…
The Flag-Smasher Army
A great character turned into a z-list punching-bag, a running gag. The Flag-Smasher wants a world without nations and states, a world where people are united and global peace reigns supreme. And he’s ready to beat the crap out of anybody who wants to stop him. But just one guy is too little, and as I said, the man got shafted by most writers after Gruenwald introduced him in his run. He does have an organization, ULTIMATUM, which is pretty much moving the character objectives forward. But let’s move it even further: let’s revamp this guy and turn him into an army. All around the world there’re thousands of people who lost everything for war and hate. Burned out soldiers, orphans, victims of racism, disillusioned fighters. The original Flag-Smasher offers them a new way to look at life and at the world, a new symbol, a new mission. All around the world the Flag-Smashers starts their mission.
Instead of the ULTIMATUM organization, a classic clichéd evil-group, we have entire battalions of character sharing the same name. Instead of pointless cannon-fodder, we have an army of supervillains. You can play with the stories and the events of different individuals, making every battle between the Captain and the Smasher different, peculiar, unique. One can be a psychotic anarchic that only wants death, another a former child soldier grow bitter, another an American soldier who remained mutilated and lost all hope and respect for his country.
The Malik Cartel
Hey, remember Albert Malik? The Third Red Skull? No? Well who cares, he’s dead, and if I can resurrect a Red Skull sure as hell it isn’t this one. But, this communist spy wasn’t an underdog... he was responsible for the death of Spider-Man parent and has under his command a pretty impressive organization with headquarters in Europe and Africa. What happened to all this? The money, the henchmen, the whole organization? Since when taking away the boss makes an entire organization crumble?
My idea is: Malik had a son. Let’s call him Robert Malik. The guy inherited his father’s fortune and group and started moving away from the high terrorism business of the father and turned the entire organization in a more simple criminal cartel. Drug, weapons, slaves, from Africa to Europe. The Malik Cartel is the biggest criminal group of all Europe, with agents in each of the zone governments.
WORLD WAR HYDRA
While some groups gain strength, other gets weaker… but not less dangerous. Hydra, the tentacular super terrorist organization, is broken. Three different agendas, three different leader, three different sections. And of course, only one wants to prevail. Through the entire run, a war is going on all around the world between the HYDRA factions. One under Viper, in America, allied with the remains of HAMMER and AIM. A second is in Asia, under Gorgon leadership with the help of the Hand. The guy who started the conflict, a new big villain, it’s in control of the last one in Europe. Robert Malik and the Cartel are his main allies. When I say War, I mean it: the entire world is a battlefield, the HYDRA soldiers fight over the control of key sector and facilities, and entire nations, organizing coup-d’états against each other’s allies. It’s international anarchy, and SHIELD plans to use this chaos to destroy the dreaded enemy once more… but something doesn’t go as planned.
The cruel and ruthless terrorist is on the losing side in WWH… while her slice of HYDRA is the biggest, it’s also the less stable and more fractured, with cells like HAMMER and AIM frequently defining her rule over the organization, their own agendas at work. Afraid of losing, Viper force herself to find an ally: Steve Rogers. She’s the one who informs of the situation Cap, early on, emphasizing that if somebody doesn’t win this war, then it’s going to drag forever, with unspeakable losses and devastation all through the world. The two of them start fighting side by side. They hate each other, don’t waste any second to fire insults. But at some point, battling together, watching each other back, bring the two to form a different opinion on the other. It’s not a building romance (thought it creates some friction with Sharon), more a twisted and dark friendship-rivalry.
The Red Skull
The original, the greatest villain of MARVEL. I won’t get into much details, but a lot of idea have floated my head on how to bring him back from the grave for the… seventh time. Yes, I’ve counted. Here, briefly, four of them (not my favourites). Some are serious, some are semi-serious, the others are just pure comic-book insanity:
1) Dell Rusk: during Geoff Johns’ run on the Avengers, we discovered that Johann has been for quite a long time masked under the disguise of Dell Rusk, minister of the defense of the USA. In that position, he could have made any sort of secret project to be sure to always have the upper hand against the heroes. One of this project could involve clone bodies, immortality, memory replication, ecce cc, in other words, a way to come back to this world.
2) Ghost-Skull: Right after his death at the end of Captain America: Reborn, thanks to the years in which he has been in contact with the Cosmic Cube, Red Skull soul remained anchored in our world. After months, the Skull is able to obtain a spiritual form which he uses to posses people much like a demon.
3) Escape from Hell: The nazi died and went straight to hell, but he comes back to life after fighting his way out to the surface thanks of sheer force of will and evilness. Alternative, he takes over the places and comes back with an army of demons at his command.
4) The Super-Skull Retcon: the man that Captain America fought since he first arrived in our time was never THE Red Skull. It was just a decoy that the REAL Red Skull from World War 2 used to keep him busy, while he was planning right from 1945, in a secret location, an Ultimate infallible plan to take over the world. This would mean that every single plan, scheme, and insanity Captain America has ever stopped would be completely pointless: it was all a diversion, the Fake-Skull was meant to lose, while Real Skull was operating in the shadows, planting seeds of his return.
Since I don’t wanna get skinned alive by raging fans, I don’t think the last idea will ever come in pages.
Some Story Arcs
Drums of War: We open with a six issue story where we follow two different storylines, one lighthearted adventure, the other a darker tale. In the main one, we have the start of WWHYDRA, as Viper herself confronts Captain America. Before the two of them have any chance to talk, bio-mechanical invisible monstrosities known only as the FIENDS attacks them both and kidnap them. Sharon Carter together with Falcon, tries to identify the monster and save the two prisoners. Soon, the truth is revealed, as the FIENDS are new weapons created by the European HYDRA. The knowledge of the HYDRA war hits Rogers as Viper tries to convince him to help her defeat the other contenders in this conflict.
In the other storyline, just a couple of scenes every issue, a mystery man assembles a group of supervillains to join his effort in destroying Captain America, SHIELD and the Avengers. Surprise! Is Crossbones!
World War HYDRA Act I: in the second story arcs, Captain America brings together a trusted team of allies to deal with WWHYDRA. Sharon Carter, Falcon, Black Widow, Bucky Barnes and even Viper. None of Steve’s companions is happy of “helping” her, and the team shows violent friction. But this grudge must wait: the first battlegrounds are Moscow, Beirut and Beijing, as Gorgon decides to launch his offensive around the world.
The Crew Reborn: in the third arc, Crossbones launches his first attack, destroying a SHIELD facility and killing two hundreds of his soldiers. Steve starts to hunt him down and Viper is forced to help him in return of what he’s doing for her.
We are at the end. Next week: The Marvelous Ms. Marvel, volume 3.