Warning! Spoilers for “Captain America: Guardian of Freedom No. 1” are ahead!
Although Captain America may be one of the greatest heroes of the Marvel universe, in the modern era he is most often defined by loneliness.
Ever since he debuted in Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Avengers #4, Captain America has been a man out of time. Having gone under the ice during World War II, Cap shows up decades later and discovers that the world has completely changed and that most of the people he knew have long since died. Cap has been back in our world since the early 1960s, so it’s easy for creators and readers to overlook this, but this central loneliness is an important part of the character.
In the recent movie “Captain America: Freedom Guardian No. 1” by Collin Kelly, Jackson Lanzing and Carmen Carnero, Steve Rogers is trying to return to civilian life. After spending years with other superheroes and secret agents, he decides that it’s time to communicate with ordinary people. Rogers buys his family’s old apartment in New York, starts going to art classes and makes friends with ordinary people. By bringing Steve back to civilian life, the creators are well reminding readers that the Cap will always be something like a square peg that exists in the modern world, but is never part of it. As Rogers stated in the issue about his new friends: “They think they are wise— and they are in their own way- but the old man in me knows that there is a gulf between us that I will never be able to completely cross.”
Other creators have found ways to express Rogers’ eternal outsider status, such as when Rick Remender and John Romita Jr. were stuck with Captain America for years in the time travel epic “Shipwrecked in Dimension Z” during their run. But Kelly, Lanzing and Carnero find a simpler and more elegant way to bring this part of Steve Rogers’ character back to the fore. After all, superheroes must have vulnerabilities to truly resonate with the public. Sometimes this is due to material things, such as kryptonite, or the loss of their powers when exposed to fire, but most often it is better to express this vulnerability through the emotional shortcomings of the characters. This not only makes them more intimate, but also properly prepares them for the struggles they face along the way; giving them a point of view on situations that others may not have. As Rogers recounts in Sentinel of Liberty #1: “I know better than anyone that the past doesn’t stay in the past. That it repeats itself. That you can only see it properly with time.
Thus, Rogers’ central loneliness not only humanizes the character, but also gives him one of his greatest strengths. Having lived so long and seen the cycle of history, a character can be the hero he is; not only a person out of time, but also a person with perspective. “Captain America: Guardian of Freedom No. 1” went on sale from Marvel Comics.