Captain America is one of the most inspiring heroes in the Marvel Universe. He’s the moral center for the Avengers, acting as a beacon of hope for his fellow heroes. He'd never compromise on doing the right thing (brainwashing storylines aside). He believes in justice for all, and he’ll never stop fighting for it. You can always count on Cap to do the right thing.
That’s why his actions in Uncanny Avengers #3 (written by Gerry Duggan and penciled by Emilio Laiso) are so bizarre. When his mutant allies become worldwide pariahs, Cap takes a bold stand to sway public opinion. Unfortunately, some of Cap’s actions seemed uncharacteristically unhelpful, and possibly tone-deaf.
Did Captain America cross a line, or were his words justified?
Warning: Spoilers ahead for Uncanny Avengers #3!
What did Captain America do in Uncanny Avengers #3?
The X-Men are going through a rough time. While the group has always faced oppression, it’s nothing compared to what they’re facing now. A group called Orchis has framed mutants for an attack on the United States Capitol, an assault at Krakoa’s Hellfire Gala, and contaminating essential medications. On top of that, Orchis has unleashed deadly Stark Sentinels, which are large mutant-hunting robots powered by Tony Stark’s technology. (Tony had nothing to do with it. This came from a corporate raider named Feilong.)
In order to counter the anti-mutant backlash, Captain America formed a new Avengers Unity Squad. The roster includes Captain America, Quicksilver, Rogue, Deadpool, Penance, and Psylocke. In addition to helping human/mutant relations, the Unity Squad is investigating Orchis in hopes they can expose the organization and clear the X-Men’s name.
Fighting Orchis is one thing, but fighting public sentiment is another matter. Uncanny Avengers #3 finds Cap fighting back with one of his greatest weapons – his voice. Cap calls a press conference outside of the X-Men’s abandoned treehouse headquarters, but he also does something strange - He activates an emergency distress signal, tricking his Unity Squad teammates into coming to the press conference.
At the conference, Cap speaks to the crowd, telling them that mutants mean them no harm, and Orchis is not to be trusted. His speech highlights the plight of the mutants, and why America needs to come together and reject hate. On the surface, it seems like an inspiring Captain America moment. So, what’s wrong with it?
Why Cap’s actions are so strange
As I read the press conference scene, I was surprised to find myself feeling disturbed by Captain America’s actions. Disturbed is not a word I usually associate with Captain America, but a few things he did during the press conference didn’t sit right with me.
Let’s start with how he gathered the Unity Squad. Shortly before the press conference, Rogue rushes to her teammates, telling them Cap is in danger. “Steve’s in trouble, y’all – he just sent another distress code,” Rogue announces. When the team arrives at the site of Cap’s distress signal, they’re surprised to see it’s a press conference. I found Cap’s explanation less than satisfactory.
“I just did something I have always told my fellow Avengers would get them kicked off the team. I sent a distress signal to make them think I was in mortal danger. I did it for a good reason. I wanted you all to meet the heroes who are willing to rush headfirst into danger to save me,” Cap says.
Off the bat, Cap is admitting to breaking an Avengers rule, and one that he would expel other members for breaking. Beyond that, he used deception to gather the Unity Squad. As a team leader, this is not a good way to foster trust among your group. This move is also blindsiding the mutant members, as they’re being tricked into appearing before a group of people who want them dead.
If we’re using mutants as a metaphor for marginalized groups, then let’s apply that comparison. If you have a friend who is part of a marginalized group, they would likely be less than appreciative if you tricked them into appearing before a crowd of people who hate them simply for existing. In fact, they might even feel ambushed. Yes, these are superheroes who can handle themselves, but that doesn’t mean they love appearing before a group of people working to remove their rights.
But that's not all - Captain America gives his speech about the mutant experience, all while his mutant teammates stand behind him silently. This would be the perfect time for a mutant voice to be heard, but Cap never invites them to speak. It’s almost as if they are serving as props for his presentation. On the one hand, I get what Cap was doing here. He knew the crowd valued his opinion, so he used his privilege and platform to speak for mutant rights. However, he still missed an opportunity to have an actual mutant speak about the mutant experience.
To his credit, Cap then gives a speech about how America failed mutants, and the country needs to be better. However, once his speech is done, an elderly lady approaches Cap. “I’m sorry I threw my malt at you, but I’ve always hated the X-Men. Can I give you dry-cleaning money,” she says. “No need, ma’am. I understand your anger, and no, you may not. Thank you for apologizing,” Cap answers.
This interaction didn’t sit right with me. Cap thanks her for apologizing, but she only apologized to him, not to the mutants. In fact, her apology mentions how much she hates mutants, and Cap responds by saying he understands her anger. I get Cap wanting to deescalate the conflict, but this is not how you respond to racism or xenophobia.
Could this be an imposter?
Is it possible that Captain America is acting out of character because he’s an imposter? Has Cap been brainwashed again, or is this an agent of HYDRA? Probably not. Reading the issue, this doesn’t seem to be the story Marvel is telling. In fact, Orchis watches Cap’s speech on television, and they’re very upset about it. The narrative frames Cap’s press conference as a positive development, not a carefully crafted move from an imposter. Unless writer Gerry Duggan has a surprise up his sleeves, this was the genuine Captain America.
I’ve been a little hard on Cap in this write-up, but I don’t want to ignore the larger message. Cap had nothing but good intentions when he called the press conference. His speech called for unity, and denounced hatred, something we can all agree on. Cap made some mistakes in the process, but I don’t believe they were consciously malicious.
Likewise, I want to make it clear that this isn’t a repudiation of Gerry Duggan. His titles have been firing on all cylinders. The press conference scene didn’t work for me, but that’s the way it goes with comics sometimes.
Popverse readers, what is your take on how Cap handled the press conference? Am I off base? Is it possible that there is an angle I haven’t considered? If you have another perspective that you would like to share, feel free to leave a comment.