This post contains a lot of spoilers for the last Captain America issue, so if you aren’t up to issue 42 you might want to skip it.
Sharon Carter in Cap…why has no one complained about the f***ed up story arc she’s had? She was brainwashed to kill her [baby's father], has no will of her own through what is essentially psychological “rape”, is tortured physically and constantly mentally degraded, loses her baby because of all of this (stabbed in the belly), and in the end is saved by Bucky, because she was “Cap’s girl” (in the search she was [referred] to as such).
This comment from last week’s post has been on my mind all week.
Partially because I know it’s not true. Someone has been complaining. Samantha used to write on this every month. (I suspect she’s stopped because she dropped the book, not because her concerns are at rest.) I’ve seen some discussion of Sharon’s treatment elsewhere too. Melissa wrote a decent piece defending the plotline a long time ago.
Mostly it’s been on my mind because I am really enjoying Captain America, and Sharon’s storyline along with the other character’s reactions to Sharon has made me cringe from time to time.
But I haven’t blogged about it because I don’t think Sharon’s storyline is finished.
It parallels Bucky’s a little too neatly for me to think this is all there is. When Brubaker’s run started, Sharon was brought in as a SHIELD liaison. She was his officially appointed partner. She was his friend and confidante. She was by his side in almost all of the action up to and including his death. This is all very much Bucky’s WWII role.
In the resolution of the Winter Soldier storyline, she’s the one telling Steve he might have to kill him. Steve actually has to talk her down from it. This is after some exposition where Steve reveals that Bucky would have said to kill him too. She’s a really obvious Bucky replacement in this way, which made what happened to her even more interesting.
When Steve was shot, Sharon got picked up by enemies and added to the organization under mind control. This is effectively what happened to Bucky after the plane exploded.
Yes, Sharon was under control earlier and actually shot Steve, but even that’s not unique because Bucky tried to kill Steve at the end of Winter Soldier (and he didn’t fail because he wasn’t trying hard enough). Sharon’s just a more successful mind-controlled assassin than Bucky was. Actually, I’d lay odds she’s a more successful mind-controlled assassin than he is because she managed to shoot Captain America in the middle of a crowd with a billion cameras on them and wasn’t caught.
Sharon’s also more successful at shaking mind control than Bucky was, because even the doctor didn’t expect her to drop him from the plane like that. Yes, she needed outside help to get out of it. So did he. Yes, she’s left with some dormant control and ties to a supervillain that will come back to get her at the least convenient moment. So was Bucky.
After receiving the help of a Deus Ex Machina and becoming mentally free the first thing she goes to do is goes to kill the bad guy. The exact same guy Bucky tried to kill when he got freed.
There are unequalizing differences, Sharon had friends looking for her and Bucky was presumed dead. Sharon had her memory still. Sharon ended up in the custody of the good guys when she got free, Bucky bolted and was on his own for a while. You could argue over who had the harder time with those.
But those are the little things. The big difference between the two plotlines is the baby plot, and that’s the most interesting one. It’s a difference that results not from incidental background differences between Sharon and Bucky but because of gender. That’s a plot that could not have happened with a male character. It’s also a plot that’s unresolved. Yes, she had a miscarriage, but it’s left unclear whether she plunged the knife in her own stomach or if Sin did it. (Sin is not and never will be a trustworthy witness no matter who she’s reporting to.) We’re still not clear on what Skull planned to do about that pregnancy. Hell, we’re still not clear on what Skull planned to do with her. It’s a loose plotline. I’m not sure if I hate it or not yet. I’m a bit disappointed that Sharon will not be trying to raise Captain America’s supersoldier daughter on the run from Red Skull and displaying her badass spy and mothering skills together, but I think I can get over that if there’s a good payoff here.
That aside, I’m keeping my judgment on Sharon’s treatment in the story overall until Brubaker shows us how Sharon deals with it. What we saw in the Death of Captain America storyline was Sharon in the middle of her own Winter Soldier-style story, up to her neck in in the same sort of shit they needed the Cosmic Cube to free Bucky from. A storyline flashing back to Bucky’s days of Winter Soldier would have the same trapped desperation and helpless misery to it even without the direct angst of still having your full memory. (And some of Bucky’s dialogue implied he empathized with her on this level.)
What I want to see is Sharon recover as well as Bucky did. I’d like to see her drag herself back to her two feet and start being a hero again like he did. I’m hoping that’s the next leg of her storyline. I’m hoping Brubaker doesn’t just place her on the shelf labeled “Discarded Captain America girlfriends” alongside Peggy and Bernie. Narrative neatness implies to me that she’ll be back, she mirrors Bucky too well. Hopefully she’ll mirror him enough for a successful recovery in the coming storylines.
That said, I have been meaning to address Bucky’s sexist attitude towards Sharon. He’s the one who kept stating he wanted to help “Cap’s girl.” It’s not really a problem with the writer in my eyes, this is just characterization. Bucky’s from the 1940s. He was raised on an all-male military training base in the 1930s. With that background his attitudes about women are probably just a bit more enlightened than those of Thag the Mammoth Hunter. And to be honest, he might not have been half as obsessed had he not seen the similarities in their situations. The good part of Bucky’s stupid statements is not Bucky characterization, though, it’s Natasha characterization. We get to see her correct him on it and talk about how impressive Sharon is. I love Brubaker’s Black Widow mainly because of the admiration she expresses towards Sharon. That’s seen too rarely between women in fiction and I think it’s an aspect of Ed Brubaker’s writing that should be commended.