If you've been following Marvel's comics lately, you'll know that Steve Rogers hasn't been Captain America for a while now. He's been drained of his super-soldier serum and turned into an old man, while former Falcon Sam Wilson has taken up the mantle. As of today, that's no longer the case. Spoilers ahead for today's bumper issue of Sam Wilson: Captain America #7 — specifically the second half — by Nick Spencer and Daniel Acuña.
We've known for a while that Marvel were looking to reverse Steve's ageing process and return him to the role of Captain America. The publisher announced as much back in January, with Steve getting a new suit, shield and an ongoing comic series of his own to accompany Sam Wilson's Captain America book.
But we didn't know the how. Would Steve just get topped off with a dose of super-serum from out of nowhere? Would a new formula be developed to replace Doctor Erskine's long-lost one? Would it be the latest in a long line of comic book handwavium?
Well, now we have the answer — but first, there's a little bit of explanation is needed for those not currently knee-deep in Marvel comic books. Strap yourselves in, folks.
Steve; Sam; Bucky Barnes; the Uncanny Avengers; the All-New, All-Different Avengers and a bunch of other folks are currently engaged in a mini-event series called "Avengers: Standoff", which is actually surprisingly not about Avengers punching each other in the face like the title might suggest. Instead, it's about SHIELD screwing up, because that's what they do.
This time, they screwed up pretty terribly. Early in his career as Cap, Sam (and Steve) stopped Maria Hill from using a Cosmic Cube (you know, the reality-bending magical artefact that appeared in Captain America: The First Avenger as the Tesseract) to make alterations in the fabric of reality without public knowledge in the event of major disasters. The Cube fragments were ordered to be destroyed, but SHIELD being SHIELD, they lied about getting rid of them. They kept the fragments, and forged them into a godlike entity that took the form of a four-year-old girl named Kobik.
So far so terrible, right? Well, SHIELD then used Kobik' reality-bending powers to create a prison for supervillains named Pleasant Hill, an idyllic slice of Americana. The bad guys' minds were wiped, then they were given new identities and personas to live out the rest of their lives in 'rehabilitation' as citizens of Pleasant Hill. It's pretty morally problematic, and no one was happy with Maria Hill for doing it.
Naturally, it went lopsided very quickly, as villains started uncovering their true identities and revolted. Currently Steve, Sam, Bucky and Hill are all trapped right in the middle of Pleasant Hill, desperate to find Kobik and sort out SHIELD's latest screw-up.
Which finally brings us to today! Steve finds himself in a pretty rough spot in Captain America #7: he's surrounded by some of his most sinister (and very pissed off) foes, and Maria Hill is seriously wounded. While Steve can still fight, he's not exactly in the best situation to do so, aged or otherwise. Which is why when he tries to find Kobik in Pleasant Hill's bowling alley and he comes across Crossbones, Steve gets kicked about pretty brutally.
The near-death experience gives Steve time to reflect upon his legacy — his actions as Captain America, the friends and allies his made, and how that history has been continued by both Bucky Barnes and Sam Wilson taking on the Captain America name in his stead. It's a nice excuse for a quick retrospective of Cap's long history, especially since this is the issue celebrating the character's 75th anniversary.
But memories aren't going to help Steve beat Crossbones. The psychotic merc has Steve on the ropes, and just as Sam tosses in his shield to try and save Steve, Crossbones catches the shield to use as final, fitting weapon to kill the original Captain America... that is, until Kobik intervenes.
She doesn't just save Steve, she manipulates reality itself so he can save himself. Instead of being a beaten, bloodied old man about to take a deathblow, Steve grabs his shield, overpowers Crossbones, and beats him into a pulp. And just when Sam and Bucky show up to see what the hell's going on, they discover Old Man Rogers no longer exists.
They're looking at Captain America, back in action, and stronger than ever.