Going into Avenger’s: Endgame, God’s Righteous Man, Captain America, is the #1 superhero of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
As Avengers: Endgames, the culmination of a 22-movie saga that began way back in 2008, draws near, it’s important to recognize the heroes we’ve come to know and love along the way. The Marvel Cinematic Universe houses a large, diverse roster of superb superheroes that we have grown to know so well over the past decade. From men in metal suits and wall-crawlers, to gods and magical wizards, there is a hero somewhere that satisfies you whatever your interests may be. Because Marvel has cultivated such an impressive, cohesive cast, it may be difficult to pick your favourites. You may as well be trying to choose which child you love the most. The truth is, deep down in our hearts, we all have our biases. In my opinion, there is only one hero that deserves the title of “Best Marvel Hero”, and that is none other than the Star-Spangled Man with a Plan himself, Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America.
1. A Born Fighter and Leader
Whether he’s gunning down Nazi soldiers or HYDRA goons in WWII Germany, or battling killer robots or aliens in the modern day, Steve Rogers has the situation dialed down at all times. Thanks to the super soldier serum enhancing his muscles and instincts to their fullest potential, Cap is literally the best of what the human race has to offer in terms of physicality, bordering on superhuman. Some amazing feats include punching through the tempered glass of a submarine while underwater, holding his own in a one-on-one fight against Ultron, and perhaps the most impressive of all, preventing a helicopter taking off through the sheer force of his boulder biceps. Cap’s fighting style really came into its own when the Russo Brothers figured out how a peak human would move in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Aside from his shield, Cap’s biggest weapon just might be his legs, as he’s proven many times when he kicks his enemies off of ships or into stone columns. A master of many martial arts, he has bested the Winter Soldier in combat, incapacitated Spider-Man while taking it easy, and mangled the Iron Man armour with his bare fists. And while many respect Cap on the field for his fighting prowess, they don’t follow him because he’s strong, but because they believe in him. Steve has this natural, magnetic charisma that inspires hope and bravery like the flag he represents. When New York was under siege by an army of Chitauri, it was Cap that pulled the team together and formed a concrete strategy. The Avengers had only just met, and they listened to his orders without question. This loyalty would remain consistent throughout the remaining films, even during Captain America: Civil War where he inspired others to stand with him against a law he believed was unjust. The list of people that respect him even extends to the spy of all spies, Nick Fury. Cap’s willingness to scrap HYDRA and SHIELD with it in order to secure freedom for the entire world managed to convince Fury that his life of secrecy had to come to an abrupt end.
2. The Shield
When Cap is chasing down terrorists and beating the crap out of monstrous aliens, there’s only one weapon he needs to do the job, and that’s his unbreakable shield. Made from an indestructible alloy called Vibranium, the shield has withstood incredible blows while only suffering mere scuffs on its red, white, and blue paint job. Completely vibration resistant, it has stopped gunfire, grenades, energy blasts, repulsor beams, the Winter Soldier’s left fist, and most amazing of all, a direct strike from Mjolnir. The shield’s defensive strength is matched only by Cap’s resolve to do good as a hero. In addition to being impervious to damage, it also has allowed Cap to take advantage of its unique properties to great effect. He has made some high-skill maneuvers through the metal’s reflective nature. He always seems to be able to toss the shield in a way that stops his opponents and still be able to flawlessly catch it every single time. When SHIELD initiated a manhunt for him, they sent a quinjet to take him down. Using just the shield, Cap single-handedly downed a fully-armed aircraft without even breaking a sweat. For all the flaws Avengers: Age of Ultron has, it nailed the team dynamic, and gave us the memorable Cap-Thor combo of deflecting Mjolnir’s energy off of the shield to decimate their enemies. Yes, it’s odd that a metal that supposedly absorbs all vibrations is able to redirect it so perfectly. As our friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man once put it, “That thing doesn’t obey the laws of physics at all!” The shield is Cap’s bread and butter, and has risen to such a symbol that even he himself believed he wasn’t worthy of it when he ended the fight with his friend Tony Stark.
3. From Boy Scout To Fugitive
A common criticism my boy in blue gets is that he has no clear cut arc, that he’s a “goodie two-shoes” and that’s all he is. By taking a minute to analyze his journey through his solo trilogy and the avengers movies, you can see the personal growth. Let’s look at his humble beginnings in Captain America: The First Avenger. Steve Rogers starts out as a kid just looking to do what’s right for his country. He doesn’t despise Nazi Germany in particular, but rather he hates all forms of bullies. We all know the rest. He joins the super soldier program, becomes Captain America, and is pivotal to the allies winning the war right up until the moment he ends up on ice. What to take away from this is that Steve believes the bullies are foreign to his country that he serves so proudly. In The Winter Soldier, he learns that the world isn’t so black and white, and that our greatest demons come from within our borders. Working for SHIELD introduced Steve to a grey area where things weren’t so clear cut. His own team kept secrets from him, and certain people suspiciously being found in certain places just didn’t add up. When he learned of Project INSIGHT, a plan to wipe out potential threats before they even know they’re threats, Steve uttered this timeless quote that I feel resonates perfectly with our modern era of technology and surveillance. “Yes, we compromised, but we did it so people can be free. This isn’t freedom, this is fear.” With the fall of SHIELD, Steve had his eyes opened to a dangerous world that is more than meets the eye. Finally, he goes from patriotic boy scout to a criminal on the run in Civil War. He openly disobeys direct orders from the American government by refusing to sign the Sokovia Accords to help his friend, Bucky. Though believing what he was doing was right, he was ready to accept the consequences of his betrayal and knowingly stepped down from being the Captain America we all know. This turn shows us that Steve is not a perfect man, but a good man that follows his own heart in order to do what’s right, and even still, his actions aren’t purely good. One can argue that supporting Bucky over the Avengers was selfish and jeopardized the safety of the world, which goes to show that Steve has come a long way from that bright-eyed boy in Brooklyn.
4. The Friend We All Need, But Don’t Deserve
Time and time again, Steve Rogers has proven to not just be a powerful soldier, but a loyal and caring friend with a good heart. He’s often seen comforting his friends during moments of darkness. After Wanda Maximoff, AKA Scarlet Witch, accidentally causes the deaths of 12 Wakandans during a mission, she comes under fire from the media, and is under the heavy burden of tremendous guilt. Sensing the misery the teenage girl was experiencing, Steve talks to her in private and tries to share some of the blame in an effort to comfort her. Minutes later, General Thaddeus Ross is showing the Avengers the destruction they’ve caused over their careers, one incident being Wanda’s home Sokovia, and after seeing it visibly upsetting her, he demands the video to stop. The truest show of friendship he displays is his brotherly bond with James Buchanan Barnes, better known as Bucky. There is an undeniable amount of blood on Bucky’s hands that Steve has reconciled with, but all that carnage wasn’t enough for him to abandon his friend. While beating beaten within an inch from death by Bucky, Steve was ready to die by this quote, “I’m with you ‘till the end of the line”. Steve chose Bucky over the Sokovia Accords, over the Avengers, and over Tony Stark, though it broke Steve’s heart to do so. Steve wanted to spare Tony the pain of finding out the truth about his parents’ death, and so kept that secret to himself. This inevitably backfired on him and put the nail in the coffin of the Avengers disassembling. The fight tore them apart. Steve had the opportunity to kill Tony Stark. Pinned to the ground, Tony was at his mercy, but Steve ultimately chose to spare his life. Even when pushed that far, Steve offered a peace offering in the form of a phone Tony could use to get his help for when the world would need the Avengers next. He’s able to look past his personal grievances in order to see the bigger picture, and to still be the hero that the world, and Tony, needs him to be.
5. A Living Example of Truth and Liberty
Steve Rogers’ moral code and how strongly he sticks to that code is probably my main reason for why I believe he is the MCU’s best hero. In stark contrast (no pun intended) to Tony’s utilitarian worldview, where sacrifices must be made for the greater good, Steve is bound to a more deontological philosophy. There is morality attached to actions, and the consequences of such actions do not make them wrong or right, but it is the actions themselves that determine them. In short, the ends do not justify the means. This is best summed up in a speech that Cap makes before he takes down Project Insight, “The price of freedom is high, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay.” Worldwide surveillance could end threats before they even happen, but not at the cost of privacy. Similarly, the Sokovia Accords could have possibly prevented more collateral damage the Avengers were causing, but not at the cost of freedom. Steve believes in the right of free choice, and if they were they were to sign the Accords, he believes “we surrender the right to choose.” His moral code comes off as a grievance to many others, most obviously to Tony Stark, but even he can’t help but admit that his code is what makes Steve so annoyingly difficult to hate. He is what we should all aspire to be in this imperfect world. Every day, we as people often have to wonder whether what we are doing is right. When we scroll through our news feed, we are being fed all these stories of heinous crimes and terrible actions being committed by people around the world. It’s easy to forget that humans are also capable of tremendous good, and that people like Steve Rogers don’t have to be fictional.
At the end of the day, Steve is just another kid from Brooklyn. The serum didn’t make him a hero, it was inside of him the entire time. I believe these qualities are best exemplified during Avengers: Infinity War’s final minutes as Steve Rogers is the lone man standing between Thanos and the final infinity stone. Knowing that losing the stone meant total defeat, Steve recovered from a brutal attack to make one last push against evil. With only his hands, he dealt a couple of blows to the Mad Titan, and then held him off in one final, desperate effort. Let it be known that Thanos had easily blown through Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and the other avengers just prior. All the superpowers and technology in the world, yet you could see this intrigued expression on Thanos’ face as Steve Rogers, this lowly human, was able to hold him back on raw strength. Granted, Thanos was hardly putting in maximum effort, but it wasn’t Steve’s power that had Thanos wince. No, it was his resolve to stand in the face of defeat when his more powerful allies had all failed. I believe when Avengers: Endgame comes around, we will see a follow-up to this moment in the final showdown, this time with Steve Rogers back in red, white, and blue as the one and only Captain America.