We’ve got some ill conceived names, the idea that Freedom Force was ever a draw o audiences, and the day being saved by Ronald Reagan in… What If Steve Rogers Refused to Give Up Being Captain America!
And that title is a bit of a mouthful, and isn’t… really very descriptive. Anyway, after kicking off with a man in media’s rez opening that’s contradicted a bit by later events in the story (Cap fights his way through the entire White House security staff because the President declares him a traitor) we get some context from Uatu about Recent Marvel Canon.
it seems that, owing to some documents he signed when he applied to Project REBIRTH back in the 40s, Steve Rogers was duty bound to serve as an agent of the US Government until officially relieved of duty by the president, and also since the Super Soldier Serum, as well as the shield and even his outfit were furnished by government spending, Cap is legally obligated to serve the US at the government orders.
Canonically, Cap responded to this by abandoning the Captain America name all together and started Avenging under the name Nomad while the Government wound up making their own ersatz Cap with The US Agent. Which wound up being it’s own whole mess.
But this time, Cap gives a much more emphatic “No… no I won’t abandon the identity I spent half a century cultivating because of poorly worded war time documents” and decides to throw hands instead.
This leads him to needing to resign from the Avengers, as they were technically government employees at the time (this doesn’t affect the story much, beyond getting the Avengers into a fight with the Freedom Force, the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants after they realized their branding was a mess, to try to coerce Caps location out of them).
More directly it also inspires federal commision chairman Douglas Rockwell, and his boss, a shadowy man named Smith, to quickly shift gears into a plan to discredit Steve Rogers by any means possible; including charging him with sedition, and training up some extra replacement Captains America who look different enough from Steve that nobody would confuse the two of them.
Taskmaster shows up briefly, as a training coach but I think it’s because I think Taskmaster is a cool villain and I’m always happy to see show up and Jim Valentino wanted to give me a little treat 35 years later.
Anyway the discrediting plan completely fails since the public is much more inclined to assume that anything Captain America does is morally correct and nothing the Reagan administration does is; and eventually a rally that Cap is holding to tell his side of the story is attacked by…
Super Patriot and The Buckies! Which… is a bad name for a super team. These are, of course, the ersatz Captains America that Task Master was training earlier, and now they have to fight the real Cap, and also some of his buddies (Falcon, Nomad, Vagabond and, err… D-Man), and before the fight can get too rowdy it’s interrupted by SHIELD, who has unilaterally decided to throw their support behind Captain America…
And that would be a real escalation of hostilities until the day is saved by the very embodiment of peace, the most rational and calming presense the world has ever known, Americas Delirious Grandpa President Ronald Reagan appears and solves the problem; declaring that Steve can keep right on being Captain America and working with the Avengers and SHIELD and have all charges against dropped and The Super Patriot can be the clandestine government agent working without a shred of autonomy for the glory of the president.
Except the shadowy Mr. Smith, who says “Frick! Plan B then!” And commands Douglas Rockwell to up and shoot Captain America in the back of the brain while he’s distracted by Ronald Reagan’s confused rambling speech.
This plan works much better and Cap dies, and Rockwell is immediately gunned down by, like, so many SHIELD and Secret Service agents.
The Super Patriot, not having any competition for the role anymore, takes on Caps mantle and vows to live up to his legacy… and immediately fails because “John Walker absolutely sucks at being a good guy” Is his entire deal and he winds up tarnishing the Captain America legacy until he’s eventually sent off to the supervillain prison of The Vault and President Reagan says “Gee, I guess the guy wearing the costume is more important than the costume. Ah well.”
And we also learn that John Smith was actually Johan Schmidt; The Red Skull in disguise! And since “Kill And/Or Discredit Captain America” is basically what gets him out of bed in the morning, managing to do both at the same time is a real boost to his self esteem, and now he goes to the Steve Rogers Memorial every day to laugh at an effigy of his greatest enemy, and… I guess that’s about it?
BUT DID IT HAPPEN?!?
Basically yes; the Civil War storyline was all about the Government trying to discredit Cap when they wanted him to only do his Superheroing with judicious oversight and, at the end of it, he was gunned down. Though he got better and The Red Skull wasn’t involved.
And there’s still a couple of pages left so we also peer through the winding paths of the Multiverse and see What if Peter Parker was Galactus
Man, all for want of a mail, huh?
BUT DID IT HAPPEN?
Pete did acquire the overwhelming cosmic power of the Enigma Force at least once, so… I mean… kinda?!?