Can ‘Avengers’ Survive Without Captain America?

Chris Evans is adopting a new moniker for ‘Infinity War,’ and plans to exit the Marvel Cinematic Universe altogether by 2019.

Captain America will be no more in Avengers: Infinity War, but don’t get too worried just yet.Directors Joe and Anthony Russo confirmed in an Instagram post this month that Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) will be spending this Avengers movie using the codename Nomad, an appropriately ominous name for a more rough-and-tumble version of Captain America.

Beyond the new, gritty on-screen look, the whole idea of Nomad carries with it historical weight in Captain America’s mythology — and reveals a few clues about the direction things might go for not just Steve, but for Marvel Cinematic Universe characters like Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) who have spent the last several films in Cap’s orbit.

Nomad’s original comics incarnation was an extremely brief endeavor. Lasting only four issues in total, Steve gave up the shield (for only the second time in Cap’s long history) in the ’70s following the thinly veiled Watergate allegory story arc known as Secret Empire. Steve uncovered a conspiracy in the U.S. government that reaches all the way to the Oval Office that forces him to confront the fact his idealism for the American Dream might not be all it’s cracked up to be. Despondent, he resolves to cast aside the identity of Captain America all together, shield and all, and become Nomad, the Man Without a Country.

On paper, that Nomad story sounds just as existentially fraught as Evans’ new, bearded look in Infinity War, but it really wasn’t. The original comics Nomad wasn’t really a mournful action hero questioning his purpose; he more closely resembled a cartoon character slipping on a banana peel. Steve made his own costume by hand (yes, including a deep, deep v-neck), and professed his long-held desires to have a uniform with a cape.

He then proceeded to trip himself on the cape almost immediately while trying to thwart some criminals. The local police got in his way, not understanding that Nomad was actually the new Captain America. By the end of his four-issue stint, Nomad was all but doing a Looney Toons bit.

The events that prompted Steve to return to his life as Captain America weren’t quite as goofy, however. In Cap’s absence, pretenders to the mantle began to trickle in. Fake Captain Americas started trying to do their best to fill the void Steve left behind and in the process, got themselves critically wounded — or, worse, killed. The guilt became too much for poor Nomad to bear … and the near constant humiliation of trying to make this new identity viable probably didn’t help, so Steve retook his shield and stepped back up to the plate.

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