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In the wake of a crushing defeat at Thanos' Infinity Stone-clad hands, the heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will face their greatest challenge yet in Avengers: Endgame. But, who is the greatest hero in the MCU? Over the next couple weeks, SYFY WIRE will be debating who deserves the title of The Most Important Avenger. Our next contender is Captain America, the Star-Spangled Man with a Plan.
Captain America, aka Steve Rogers, aka Capsicle, aka the "specimen," would be the first to argue that every member of the Avengers team is important. Vital, even. Every single character provides a near-intangible something to the Avengers lineup; a skill, a role, a piece of the universe-saving puzzle. Thor opened the Avengers up to more possibilities than ever before; Natasha Romanoff keeps them in line; and while Tony Stark might be vital to the cogs of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it's the First Avenger himself who's most important to the Avengers.
Not only is "The First Avenger" the title of Cap's inaugural MCU movie, Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), that's literally what he is: The first Avenger, the person who inspired Peggy Carter to found S.H.I.E.L.D. and the reason the Avengers exist at all. Sure, Nick Fury got the Avengers name from Captain Marvel and Tony Stark was the first superhero to declare his identity and "become part of a bigger universe," but there's no Avengers without S.H.I.E.L.D. and there's no S.H.I.E.L.D. without Steve Rogers.
Now, being first doesn't automatically equate importance. Chris Evans' Captain America has appeared in six MCU movies as a main character and in four more in cameos or post-credit scenes. Only Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark can boast a larger screentime percentage, as that's 10 movies over eight years, with the upcoming Avengers: Endgame being the 11th and perhaps final of the bunch. So he's also one of the most prolific.
In the midst of the madness will be a pillar, the moral center of the team, the one who can do this all day: Captain America.
Steven G. Rogers grew up poor, small, and sickly. Upon receiving the Super Soldier Serum from Dr. Erksine, he was at first relegated to being a nationalistic prop. But when he proved his moxie by saving POWs behind enemy lines, the name Captain America became synonymous with heroism — but his ego did not inflate with his body. Women adored him and men wanted to be him. Still, he stood up for the little guy, just as he had as a little guy himself. Even with all the reason in the world to be bitter or to give in to easy narcissism, he stayed true to his roots. And he has ever since.
Steve Rogers will always be the skinny kid who was willing to sacrifice himself to save his fellow soldiers. The other Avengers rely on this certainty, and it's why everything goes so wrong the moment Cap's morals hit an Iron Man-sized wall.
When Steve goes rogue to save his best friend Bucky Barnes from certain death (again) and remain autonomous, it incites a civil war amongst the Avengers; when Steve pivots away from the center, so do the others. Because Steve refuses to turn his back on what he believes to be right, the world is put at risk for a time, but the bigger systemic risk is averted. Once again, Steve is willing to sacrifice himself for the good of the team. He lays down his shield, saves his friends, and, despite everything, still manages to extend an olive branch.
Whether you were #TeamIronMan or #TeamCaptainAmerica for Captain America: Civil War (2016), the important thing to acknowledge is Cap's ability to set aside arguments and blame to leave a window open. At the end of the day, Steve is the most important Avenger because at the end of Civil War, Steve provides Tony with a way to reach him, just in case. Yes, this is proof of Steve's leadership qualities, but it's also proof that Cap is aware of his vital role as the one who can bring them all together again.
And isn't that what's most important to the Avengers, the ability to bring these heroes together to fight for a greater cause? Steve's relationships with the other Avengers, no matter how strained they can get, are vital to the team itself.
Steve has amused Natasha as much as he's respected her from the beginning of their relationship. That relationship was defined in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) as a partnership, a mutual trust that carried on into Avengers: Infinity War (2018). Trailers and early scenes from Avengers: Endgame have shown Steve and Nat working side by side, closer than ever as they look for a solution.
Steve's never tiptoed around Bruce Banner, respecting both his scientific knowledge and his power. When Bruce needed some girl advice in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), Steve was there to smile and encourage him to live a life that makes him happy. Even a one-off joke in The Avengers — "Hulk, smash" — shows how well Steve knows how to utilize Bruce's more volatile side. And when Thanos was on his way in Infinity War, Bruce encouraged Tony to call Steve — because they needed him.
Cap can keep up with a god of thunder as easily as he can a human (albeit supernaturally skilled) archer. And his love and respect for Tony Stark, whom he refers to as "Earth's greatest defender" in Infinity War, through differences and hardships is really the cherry on top. Tony might be Earth's greatest defender, but Steve is the most important Avenger.
Rumors of Cap's MCU finale have been in the ether for years, spurred on by Evans' often-vocal desire to leave the franchise behind, though he's recently changed his tune as the specter of a true end approaches. While just how Endgame really does go down is still up in the air, it's fair to say the Avengers will never be the same in its wake — no matter what happens.