Okay gang…let’s take a spoiler-filled dive into a scene in Avengers: Endgame that had audiences cheering. There were a lot of those, as well as scenes that made people cry. Some scenes made you do both. But one specific moment was something fans of the MCU have been waiting to happen for at least four years: Captain America lifting Thor’s hammer.
When Thor goes back to 2013 to recover the Aether, he takes the opportunity to borrow his trusty hammer Mjolnir, which was destroyed by his sister Hela early on in 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok. He arrives at the final battle with both the hammer and his new axe Stormbreaker.
Even though he’s let himself go a little bit in the last five years, one would think that a God of Thunder dual-wielding his magic weapons would be too much for Thanos to handle. Not so, it turns out even without the power-boosting qualities of any of the Infinity Stones, the Mad Titan easily gained the upper hand, stripping Thor of both his weapons.
But just when it appeared that our favorite Asgardian was getting ready to be unceremoniously dispatched to Valhalla, the scene cut to Mjolnir being recovered by someone and the reveal of that someone being none other than Captain America had moviegoers on their feet.
You may remember that Cap had been the only Avenger capable of even budging the hammer during the lively party near the opening of 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. All of a sudden, here was Steve Rogers as Captain Thor, calling down lightning strikes and using Mjolnir in conjunction with his shield to give Thanos a serious headache.
As we all know, whosoever holds Mjolnir, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor — and Rogers’ ability to wield the mighty weapon at a most opportune moment raises a couple of questions.
In the comics, the first time Cap was seen to be worthy of Mjolnir was way back in 1988, in Thor #390. It was during Rogers’ stint as “The Captain” after he’d had his more famous codename stripped from him by the U.S. Government.
During a visit by Thor to the Avengers’ base, he’s ambushed by the evil god Seth and his minions, becoming separated from his hammer and he’s shocked when “The Captain” is able to briefly wield it, smashing a few enemies before returning Mjolnir to its rightful owner. After prevailing in the fight, Thor was revealed to be totally psyched that his friend had proven himself worthy, telling Cap, “A sacred bond unites all those who have ever been privileged to wield Mjolnir, a bond which stretches far into infinity.”
Cap was also seen making use of the weapon on several other occasions, including a What If? alternate universe scenario involving the Age of Apocalypse storyline in 2006, and later in the Fear Itself arc. which featured a splash page of Cap calling down lightning much like he does in Endgame.
Even when his body was purged of the Super Soldier Serum in the Secret Empire series, he was still able to hoist Mjolnir suggesting that even when physically unable to throw down properly, Rogers still has a warrior’s heart.
So: what does this mean for the MCU version of Cap? The moment in which he was able to lift the weapon ever-so-slightly in Age of Ultron was played mostly for laughs, as evidenced by the look on Thor’s face, which is not so much “I knew it!” as it is “Oh, crap”.
But, think about it: no other Avenger, despite all of them being heroes, could make Mjolnir move even a millimeter suggesting that it takes much more than merely being a hero in order to be deemed worthy.
Consider the Vision, who, despite being an android, was probably the most benevolent, pure-hearted Avenger. He was shown to be able to pick up Mjolnir and toss it around as if it were nothing. This is the same Vision who explicitly insisted on sacrificing himself for the good of the universe during the events of Avengers: Infinity War. His example may bring us closer to the real reason why Rogers is worthy of wielding the hammer too.
Remember that way back in 2011’s Thor, Odinson himself was unable to hoist Mjolnir for a good portion of the film, as he had become lost in his single-minded quest to become King of Asgard, resulting in Odin banishing him to Earth. It was only when Thor set aside his ego and displayed a willingness to face death for the good of others that he was again able to call the weapon to him.
Now, remember the incident in that same year’s Captain America: The First Avenger which cemented Dr. Abraham Erskine’s decision to infuse Rogers with the Super Soldier Serum. Tommy Lee Jones’ Colonel Phillips tossed a dummy grenade into the middle of a crowded training exercise — and watched Rogers, the smallest and weakest of the bunch by a mile, be the only soldier not to scatter. Instead, he fell on the grenade, displaying an unhesitating willingness to give his life for his fellow soldiers before even setting foot on a battlefield.
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