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Hank Johnson - Agent of Hydra 001-000


Let’s be clear about one thing before we begin: Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps will not be entered into the short list of comics that everyone needs to read. Just because it won PopFilter’s Battleworld Battleworld, that doesn’t mean it will be spoken in the same breath as Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, and Maus. But before it seems like we’re taking too many potshots at the title that beat 47 other Marvel Battleworld titles, let’s give it credit for doing two impressive things:


  1. It won every battle it was in, each battle written by varying PopFilter writers with wildly different tastes in comic books.
  2. It took all of the things that (most of) the Battleworld books were forced to do, and did them well.


That first one means that even if CMCC isn’t a classic, it can be enjoyed by a wide audience. The second one, however, is impressive on a whole different level. I don’t think that a spinoff title could win if it didn’t handle Secret Wars well AND stand alone as its own story. If you don’t know anything about Secret Wars, then there is going to be a couple of things in CMCC that don’t make sense. I think those hiccups will go mostly unnoticed to the uninitiated, and what they’ll be left with is a pretty dope story about a small group of pilots that take their military, their country, and eventually their god. That’s a lot to do in four issues.


Looking back over all of Battleworld Battleworld, one of the most interesting things about the whole shebang is Marvel’s handling of Doom-as-God, looking at it from a religious standpoint. It’s impossible to read the whole event and not think about themes of challenging authority and questioning the system, but the Doom-as-God makes it much more interesting than Doom-as-Dictator angle that most events would have stopped at. The writers even went so far as to replace the word “God” in colloquialisms, with characters saying “Oh my Doom” and “Doom dammit” and “Are You there Doom? It’s me, Margaret” and “Oh Doom: Book 2” every chance they got. This may not seem like a huge difference at first, but a bunch of heroes taking on an evil dictator is commonplace. A bunch of heroes realizing that there is no God, but instead just villains tricking us into thinking that there is is a little more than a little different, and each book handled this in wildly different ways. CMCC possibly handled this better than any book in the event, and it’s not a coincidence that it ended up winning the whole bracket.


It’s an incredibly dangerous topic, at least for the mainstreamiest of mainstream comics, and some of the books felt clunky when they even tried to approach a discussion about bigger things. But CMCC took the character of Doom completely out of the story, until the story demanded it. Either the Keepers of the Battleworld Checklist went easier on CMCC than they did on the rest of the books, or the people behind this comic were just better at integrating it into the story they wanted to tell.  


Creators Kelly Sue DeConnick, Kelly Thompson, and David Lopez threw villains and obstacles at their characters, instead of a God, and this keeps the story more grounded than many of the other books, actually making the stakes higher. It’s hard to really care about how this ends, because we know it’s all temporary. CMCC succeeds where other books failed because it was four parts of a four part story, instead of four parts of a 168 part story.  
This makes Hank Johnson: Agent of Hydra the silver place winner. Pound for pound, this one-shot may be stronger than the four issue CMCC. But it essentially has no relation to Secret Wars, other than the Secret Wars logo on its cover, while CMCC made Secret Wars like it was a good idea, if only every other creator had figured out how to do this as well as these creators. And Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps stuck the landing. Those of you who have been reading comics for a long time know just how rare that is.

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