Thursday, June 2, 2016

Captain America: Civil War Follow-Up: Captain America's Shield

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This was originally included in last week’s article about the Mighty Avengers, but I realized that it needs to be separated out as its own thing.

After watching Captain America: Civil War, we now have a very good idea exactly where this thing is going to be going over the next few years as the MCU ramps up for the Infinity War in 2018 and 2019.  Each hero who appeared in Civil War received a satisfying arc, and at the end of the movie each of them had a definite trajectory of where their next appearances will come from.  So let’s talk about where these heroes will be going from here!

I’m going to break this down into three articles based on the teams that we see established by the end of the movie, with an additional two added to deal with extra concepts which deserve further consideration.  First I talked about the members of the “Secret Avengers.”  Last week’s subject was the members of the “Mighty Avengers.”  Next week I will discuss the heroes that don’t fit into either category.  The week after that we will conclude with Zemo.  But this week, we’re focusing in on something that deals with both the Secret Avengers and the Mighty Avengers:  Captain America’s shield.

Without further ado, let’s get started talking about Captain America!

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At the conclusion of Cap and Iron Man’s fight in Siberia, Steve started walking away from Tony with Bucky.  However, Tony called out that he didn’t deserve to carry the shield that Howard Stark had created.  Without turning around, Steve simply dropped the shield and left it there with Tony.  As such, Steve no longer has Captain America’s shield—he is not Captain America anymore.  Instead, I predicted 2 weeks ago that Black Panther will provide Steve with a temporary replacement shield (also vibranium but perhaps triangular instead of circular) and he will begin going by a new codename such as “The Captain” or “Nomad” (both of which he used in the comics).

But what’s going to happen to the “Captain America” mantle?

My best guess:  Tony’s going to give it to someone new.

As part of the recruiting process for the Mighty Avengers, Iron Man will probably be looking to newly-minted heroes such as Captain Marvel, but I think he will also try to create at least 1 new hero of his own.  He’s going to recruit a new Captain America.

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John Walker

In the comics, Steve Roger is not the only man to have worn the mantle of Captain America.  In recent memory both Bucky and Sam Wilson have taken up the shield while Steve was either dead or old.  However, after Steve Rogers was lost in the ice at the end of World War II, the U.S. government realized that they couldn’t just let Captain America go; they still needed him.  As such, the Presidents asked a string of minor patriotic heroes to serve as Captain America, starting with William Nasland, who was formerly the “Spirit of ‘76.”  Most of these Captains had at best mixed success.

One of the more recent of these was John Walker, who gave up his “Super-Patriot” identity to become Captain America while Steve Rogers was having a dispute with the government after discovering that the “Evil Empire” had infiltrated the highest levels of the government when Steve Rogers abandoned the identity rather than be forced to report directly to the government.  John Walker is a very socially-conservative character who is happy to give up the “Super-Patriot” identity as well as two of his three sidekicks in order to work for the government.  Walker’s primary antagonists are a resurrected Red Skull (in Steve Rogers’ body—go figure) and the right-wing domestic terrorist organization the Watchdogs (the guys that got turned into Alpha Primitives on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.).

This only lasts about 20 issues before Steve Rogers returns to the Captain America identity and Walker is given a new identity.  However, Walker continues as an Avenger with the codename “U.S. Agent” and using variations on the Captain America uniform and shield.  As U.S. Agent he works for the government’s Commission on Superhuman Activities and serves as something of a liaison between the Commission and the West Coast Avengers.

John Walker has similar abilities to Steve Rogers thanks to the Power Broker’s enhancements.

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MCU Adaptation

If Tony Stark does indeed go the route of recruiting his own Captain America for the Mighty Avengers, I could see it happening something like this:

John Walker is a U.S. Army officer assigned to the Special Operations Command (basically Thunderbolt Ross’ old unit).  Tony Stark and General Ross approach Walker about joining the Mighty Avengers as the new Captain America, a request which Ross turns into an order, having him reassigned to the U.N. Task Force charged with overseeing the Avengers.  Thanks to his access to both his father’s Super-Soldier research (alluded to in Civil War) and Ross’ biological enhancement process (showcased in The Incredible Hulk)—with a healthy dose of his perfected Extremis thrown in for good measure—Tony is able to replicate a version of the Super-Soldier Serum, which gives Walker superhuman abilities (though a degree weaker than Steve Rogers’ because the “Vita-Ray” procedure is still lost).

Tony introduces Walker as the new “official” Captain America at a press conference.  He wears an updated version of the Captain America uniform and carries the Captain America shield.

Of course John Walker will not remain as Captain America permanently; in the comics (as stated above) it lasted about 20 issues before Steve Rogers was back in the fold.  In the MCU, I expect that Steve Rogers will become Captain America again in one of the two Avengers: Infinity War movies.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that John Walker will be killed to leave the position open; he could just as easily recognize that he’s not cut out to be the “guy in charge” (which is what Captain America represents to the Avengers) and personally ask Steve to take the shield back.

That being said, I find it unlikely that John Walker would actually survive Avengers: Infinity War; he could very easily be one of the hero casualties of the war.

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The Timeline

It’s really hard to nail down exactly how this could play out when we look at the movie release schedule for Phase 3.  There isn’t an Iron Man 4 on the schedule—that would have been a good follow-up to Civil War in which these kinds of things could take place.  Consequently, this would need to be a minor point through the rest of Phase 3 in the background of the other movies.

If I were Kevin Feige, I would probably start the ball rolling on this with a small bit in Spider-Man: Homecoming.  Peter Parker (who is working as a part-time intern at Stark Industries) walks into Tony’s office and finds Captain America’s shield sitting on the desk beside a stack of military files (William Nasland, Jeffrey Mace, William Burnside, Roscoe Simons, and John Walker—all replacement Caps in the comics).  That’s really all that would be necessary to get this ball rolling.

Following this, 2018’s Black Panther movie would show (in the background) a press conference with Tony Stark introducing someone in a Captain America uniform who is carrying the Captain America shield.  If Bucky or Steve appears in this movie (not an unreasonable guess), they could make some comment about Tony and his “Mighty Avengers” moving on without them—just to make sure it’s clear that Steve’s not the one in the uniform.  But this wouldn’t be a major part of the movie.

Assuming that the Mighty Avengers appear in Avengers: Infinity War Part 1, that movie would officially introduce John Walker.  A clever way to introduce him would be in battle alongside Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Vision.  The fight doesn’t go their way, Walker gets frustrated, and Tony needs to talk him down after the fight.  Tony talking to him actually gives us a natural opportunity to learn what it was that caused Tony to pick him for his “official Captain America” in the first place.

In Avengers: Infinity War Part 2, all the heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have to band together to fight Thanos, so Steve Rogers and John Walker meet for the first time.  They struggle to work together at first (of course), but eventually come to respect each other’s differing abilities.  Before the climactic battle Walker realizes that everyone is looking to him to lead because he has the shield, and at the same time he realizes that he’s not the best one to lead the final assault.  Just before they leave, Walker and Tony both go to Steve and offer him the shield back, telling him that he is the one to lead the Avengers.  Steve Rogers resumes the Captain America mantle and shield, and John Walker adopts the U.S. Agent codename and accepts Steve’s alternative shield.

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So how much of this do I really expect to see in Phase 3 of the MCU?  It’s hard to say.  I do expect Tony’s possession of the shield to become significant at some point, though it may not become significant until Avengers: Infinity War.  It’s possible that there will be no replacement Captain America—Tony could just give the shield back to Steve symbolizing their reconciliation when it looks like the world is about to end—but I don’t think that would be quite as interesting as introducing a replacement Captain America who is loyal to Stark and the Mighty Avengers.  Especially based on the comic history of Steve Rogers having disagreements with the government and abandoning the Captain America identity, and the government giving the shield to someone else, it seems like a safe bet that someone other than Steve Rogers will carry the shield.  At least for a while.

Who do you think should be the next Captain America?  Do you think Tony Stark is going to find a replacement for Steve?  Let me know in the comments!

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