Cap’s adventures in the world of Earth X defending his seemingly outdated values while losing friends and fighting frightening new enemies.
Like most of Marvel’s characters, Captain America has had various different interpretations and alternate reality counterparts over the years. Almost all of these have represented the United States of America at its finest, making Steve Rogers the physical embodiment of the ideals that shaped the United States. This has been showcased recently in Marvel’s What If?… TV series, where Steve Rogers has been changed to uphold the principles that define him in a drastically different way.
There’s one version of the Captain, however, whose twilight had a particularly grim last gleaming. Alex Ross, Jim Krueger and John Paul Leon’s Earth X was a dark Marvel timeline that saw an empowered world with no freedom and rudderless former heroes. Cap’s adventures in the world of Earth X saw him defending his seemingly outdated values while losing friends and fighting frightening new enemies in a way that made him more tragic than ever before.
Captain America in Earth X
The life of Steve Rogers on Earth-9977 was mostly similar to what it was in the main Marvel Universe up to a point, with his having been the Super-Soldier hero known as Captain America. It started to diverge for the worst, however, when he was briefly captured and mentally tortured by the Red Skull. The Red Skull claimed that Project: Rebirth was actually a Nazi experiment held under the guise of helping the allies, and that Captain America was thus Hitler’s one true son. The Red Skull would follow this up by attacking and even killing those who he saw as unfit of being in Captain America’s life. After a former flame of his met just this fate, Captain America responded by beheading the Red Skull with his shield.
The world of Earth-X was soon massively shifted by the release of Terrigen Mists, which mutated almost all of humanity beyond recognition and plunging the world into anarchy. Captain America, who had taken to simply calling himself Cap, had long since quit the Avengers, and many of his former teammates being killed afterward. Norman Osborn became the President of the United States, using his resources and even those of former ally Iron Man and his Iron Avengers to hunt down the wayward Cap.
Cap and his new partner Red Wing — Marvel stalwart Wyatt Wingfoot in a Falcon-like costume — later came together to fight the Hydra, a collective of consciousness caused by parasites that control their host. Red Wing, however, soon came under the control of the Skull, a psychic teenager with immense mind control abilities who wore a black shirt with a red version of the Punisher’s emblem. This fascist controller of the masses was essentially the Red Skull reborn, and the initial onslaught of his mental abilities caused a telepathic backlash that killed almost all of Marvel’s other telepaths, including Professor X. Together with several other now much older heroes from yesteryear, Cap led an assault against the Skull, eventually being forced to sneak up on and kill the young boy.
Captain America in Universe X
This incident had a harsh effect on Cap’s already waning resolve, especially as the Skull had theretofore taunted Rogers as an outdated old man. The irony of the Red Skull reborn being a blond individual being killed by another such man was not lost on Cap, either. In honor of the mentally unhinged and lost young man, Cap posthumously named him James, in honor of his former sidekick James « Bucky » Buchannan Barnes.
Captain America would later become the guardian of the reincarnated child Mar-Vell, touring the mortal realm to prepare the living for a war with the Realm of the Dead. In order to help Mar-Vell escape long enough for help to come, Cap sacrifices himself by allowing a mob of attackers to focus on him and a decoy Mar-Vell. He later joins the Realm of the Dead, still believing that he was actually alive.
In the final part of the trilogy, Paradise X, Cap’s spirit became one of the Avenging Host of angels made up of the spirits of former heroes, as well as that of others like the Punisher and his family. Though he initially worked with the restored Mar-Vell, he soon saw how tyrannical he had become and fought against him before living out the rest of his eternity in paradise with his family.
All in all, this was an incredibly sad life for Cap, as his loyalties and truths were tested at every corner. His former friends and allies were either killed off with ease or even worse, turned against their normal inhibitions to become the mindless drones of either the Hydra or the Skull. This was the ultimate manifestation of the loss of freedom in the country which he had once served so well, especially with Norman Osborn’s rise to power. Nevertheless, this Steve Rogers still fought valiantly to the end, even if each turned corner was an increasingly harrowing challenge.
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