Captain America's shield is a classic emblem, a near-indestructible aspect of the suspect that may well survive the Captain himself. It's been broken in the past, though, and it could be broken in the Marvel movies of the near future. The only question is: Just who is powerful enough to break the Captain's shield?
We won't see Steve Rogers on the big screen until next year's Avengers: Age of Ultron, but that hasn't stopped the rumor mill from its endless churning thanks to leaked material from Marvel. Last month, rumors emerged that leaked footage from Age of Ultron showed a host of battered Avengers laying dead at the feet of Tony Stark. Amid the wreckage was also Captain America's shield, "battle-damaged and broken."
That little snippet of information has some people speculating that Steve Rogers could bite the big one during the course of Age of Ultron, because how could the Captain survive something powerful enough to destroy his shield and still live?
It's hard to say whether Captain America will survive through to the end of Age of Ultron. Just because his shield gets broken, though, doesn't mean that Captain America has to die. In fact, his shield has been broken at least six times in the past. Trust us, we went ahead and looked it up.
The first time Captain America's shield saw major damage with consequences was actually not at the hands of a Marvel villain. Instead, it was mighty Thor, the God of Thunder, who "put the hammer down" on the good Captain's trusted insignia once when he was enraged and suped up with the Odinforce. Thor's blow managed to actually dent Captain America's shield, but the two later reconciled and Thor pounded out the small dent.
During the Super-Heroes Secret Wars – don't ask, but this is basically where we got Spider-Man's Venom from – Fantastic Four villain Doctor Doom managed to destroy Captain America's shield. That's quite an accomplishment, and Doom wouldn't have been able to do it himself. Doom had absorbed the powers of the Beyonder, a godlike being with a Jheri Curl, and those powers and that hair were enough to allow Doom to crush Captain America's shield like a piece of tin foil.
Of course, since omnipotence was in play, omnipotence was used to bring the shield back. Once Doom had been defeated and the Beyonder had spritzed his Jheri Curl some more, the Beyonder gave out wishes. Captain America's wish wasn't to stop Hitler or provide free energy to earthlings or even to save Bucky. Instead, he wished for his shield back.
The Molecule Man
The Molecule Man is one of the more dangerous characters in the Marvel Universe, as evidenced by the fact that he was able to destroy not only Captain America's shield, but also Thor's hammer, Iron Man's armor, and the Silver Surfer's board, all with a wave of his hand. Truthfully, the heroes were kind of screwed at that point, but, fortunately for the Captain, the Molecule Man eventually came to his senses and restored the shield to its previous state.
Upon fixing Captain America's shield, the Molecule Man remarked that its molecular makeup made it the "weirdest of all" of the artifacts he'd destroyed. Weirder than Thor's Mjolnir, even.
Captain America's shield got cancer once. True story.
So you know how the Molecule Man said that the Captain's shield was "weird"? Yeah, that's because it's made of vibranium, a fictional metal that absorbs any and all vibrations. The shield is the only one of its kind and it can disperse just about any force directed at it. That's why Cap wasn't liquified when Thor "put the hammer down" on him in the first Avengers movie.
Apparently, though, even vibranium has its limits. Once, Captain America had pushed his shield to that limit, and the energy it absorbed had caused a molecular abnormality in the vibranium. That abnormality spread, destabilizing the entire shield to the point that it shattered.
It got fixed, though, when the sonically powered supervillain Klaw blasted it with some sound waves or something. Klaw's attack, apparently, was just what Captain America's shield needed to realign itself and get back to its... umm... indestructisomethingness. Because comics.
So there's an unspoken rule at Marvel: If somebody's making a play for omnipotence, you can bet Captain America's shield is going to get broken. Such was the case with Thanos and his quest to complete the Infinity Gauntlet. As these things tend to go, Thanos did actually complete his plan, becoming omnipotent thanks to having gathered all six Infinity Gems and the Gauntlet.
In the process, Captain America steps to Thanos to fight, because super athleticism and a solid moral center are like kryptonite for a guy that can control the nature of reality, apparently. Or not, because Thanos shatters the Captain's shield with just a wave of his hand.
We feel it necessary to point out that, before shattering Captain America's shield, Thanos had wiped out half the life in the universe. We don't know exactly what the Captain was thinking at that point, but we're betting that, if Cap's shield does actually wind up shattered in the movies, Thanos might have something to do with it.
This is one of the more recent shatterings, and it came in the course of a big crossover called Fear Itself. An ancient Asgardian evil had arisen from his prison and blah blah blah take over remake creation blah blah something time to fight him.
So the heroes charge off to go after the Serpent, and Captain America throws his shield, actually telling the Serpent to "Catch!" as he throws it, because warning someone you're throwing a discus at their head is key to the element of surprise.
In any case, the Serpent actually does take Captain America's advice and catch the shield. He then shatters it, screaming "Ggrrrrrrrahhhl!" as he does it. The thing goes to pieces, and we can only assume that good ol' Cap learned a lesson that day.
So how did the shield get repaired? Asgardian dwarves went to work on it once the Serpent had been defeated. With Iron Man's help, they even added some enhancements to the shield, making it even stronger.
There are other times that Captain America's shield has been broken, but a lot of those involve parallel worlds and alternate universes and other such nonsense. We're sticking with the canon here.
Are we any closer to figuring out how Captain America's shield gets broken in Age of Ultron? Nah, not really, we think the leaked footage might well be Tony Stark seeing the future somehow, and not so much a direct vision of a thing that actually happens in the movie.
If the shield does break, though, we can't think of a better time for it to happen than in Avengers 3, when we think that Thanos will finally show up alongside the Guardians of the Galaxy. Until then, though, we're looking forward to seeing Captain America tossing about his famous emblem, and maybe we'll even find out sometime how he always gets it to come back to him.
[H/T: Comicbook Resources, The Weekly Crisis, and Geekshizzle.]