Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Party's Over, Your Lordship

Jack Kirby's bicentennial "madbomb" conspiracy story of course took place almost forty years ago in the pages of Captain America, so it would be understandable if any reader of the book failed to recall the reasons behind the conspiracy or just who set it in motion. It's easier to bring to mind the madbomb itself--a sonic device set to go off at the nation's 200th anniversary celebration and which would drive the population insane, making the country ripe for the Elite to move in and claim control. But exactly who are "the Elite," and what's their story?

Judging by the name they've given themselves as a group, we can assume the Elite regard station as a factor in how they view their standing in society, a sense of entitlement and breeding that translates into the right to regard others as their lessers, and, by extension, the right to do away with the concept of equality and determine the fate of those they consider beneath them. Put in more concise terms, the Elite in Kirby's story represented a return of the aristocracy, though, as we've seen, Kirby isn't content to let them rest on their satin pillows, spending their time in intellectual contemplation and social snobbery; rather, the Elite are ushering in a new order, and actively exercising control over their lessers with a tight fist as well as careful manipulation in order to keep them in line.

As for who exactly is behind the Elite, and what's prompted them to launch such an elaborate conspiracy, Kirby introduces us to Malcolm Taurey, the conspiracy's mastermind, fairly early in the story--and we learn that his reasons for doing what he has are two-fold. At first, his designs seem rooted in the desire to not only bring about the return of a class system he's romanticized thanks to his aristocratic ancestor, but also to ensure that this time it remains in place.

But Kirby goes on to stack this deck a little too high--because the true driving force of Taurey's plans amounts to nothing more than a vendetta against a revolutionary war fighter whose actions led to his ancestor's death. A fighter whose identity is more than coincidental, given the involvement of this book's principal character.

And to help validate Taurey's claim, Kirby shifts immediately to Cap, undergoing security treatment along with the Falcon at a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility, who tells his friend of a dream that would seem to give credence to Taurey's story of Captain Rogers.  (At least to a point.  Taurey's recollection of events naturally gives him a different perspective of the word "traitor.")

And so the madbomb story arc plays out. Eventually, Cap and the Falcon (along with U.S. armed forces) make headway in infiltrating and rooting out the conspiracy's personnel and several key players--including the madbomb's creator, Mason Harding, who decides to defect from Taurey's cause and provide the Feds with the locations of both Taurey and the final large-scale madbomb. Taurey (now called "William" Taurey in the story, with Kirby tagging him with his ancestor's name by mistake--though had Kirby caught this after the fact, he could have simply had Taurey take his ancestor's name out of either respect or delusion) continues to press on, despite his head general's warning that the Feds are closing in. Cap's forces have feared that Harding's capture might cause the Elite to detonate the bomb prematurely--and it looks like Taurey agrees that the time is right to do just that.

Meanwhile, Cap, Falc, and the Feds have acted quickly, launching a two-prong approach that's geared to invade both Taurey's estate as well as the location of the madbomb. And while the Falcon and his men meet heavy resistance trying to get to the madbomb, Cap and his team are able to move in on Taurey without a shot being fired. But as Cap will discover, there is one shot that waits to be fired regardless, as he finds out his link with both Taurey and, to an extent, this entire conspiracy.

It's unclear what Cap means when he refers to this contemporary duel as one between "the Continental and the turncoat," since William Taurey presumably fought for the British and was never aligned with the colonies, and therefore was never a deserter. In any case, Taurey's capture as well as the Falcon's destruction of the madbomb ensures the end of the Elite's conspiracy--as well as, it goes without saying, the premature end of what looked like a top-notch costume party.


Anonymous said...

So Taurey wants to bring back the elite to America - has he never heard of the Vanderbilts, Astors, Rockerfellers or Bushes ? They all seem like an elite to me. Perhaps he thinks elite means titles and silly wigs. And wasn't Steve Rogers re-imagined as the son of Irish immigrants from the early 20th Century which severed all his links to 1776 and the War of Independence.

Comicsfan said...

Colin, I think you're on the right track vis-a-vis Taurey thinking more in terms of the aristocracy. The modern-day elite you mention still had to live within the constraints of the law and the Constitution--whereas Taurey wanted to do away with the Constitution altogether and remove the concept of freedom from the new society.

As for Steve Rogers' revised origin (as "retold" by Fabian Nicieza), to my knowledge there's still no reconciliation between Nicieza's newer version and Steve growing up in Manhattan's lower east side--though that's not to say his parents couldn't have emigrated to the U.S. prior to his adolescence, I suppose. The only explanation I can think of for the Steven Rogers of the Revolutionary War would be if his offspring had left the U.S. for Ireland for some reason--but that seems overly convoluted even for comics.

Anonymous said...

The Bush family and the term "elite" together don't generally come to mind in my thinking.
Are they rich? Yeah, but...
We're tired of the whole bloody lot of them, and we would gladly ship them over to you guys, Colin.

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