Captain America. Specifically the MCU one, since I don’t read comics.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I grew up with the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited cartoons, I love me some DC. Batman’s friggen awesome, and Superman is just too good not to like. However, I believe Captain America occupies a middle ground between the two that overall just makes him more awesome.
Steve Rogers started out as a mopey, weak kid with no combat ability whatsoever. After seeing him in his first movie, many speculated that he had survived Polio, which was why he was so sickly and scrawny looking.
However, despite all of that he applied to join the military four separate times (i think – don’t remember the exact number) because he wanted to stop a country run by bullies. He didn’t want to kill Nazis, he didn’t want to ‘serve america’ or go off to win some glory for himself. He wanted to go and put a stop to a world-conquering bully, and that’s… just perfect. That’s exactly what I want to see in a superhero.
This is a guy who will throw himself onto a grenade (admittedly kind of dumb considering no one was in any danger from it anymore) to save the people around him without the super-soldier serum. Steve Rogers would behave like a hero even if he didn’t gain superpowers, and that’s what made him the perfect candidate for the super soldier serum.
I like Batman’s dark vengeance shtick and all, but it’s nice to have a guy who’s just plain good. And yes, Superman is ‘just plain good’, but he’s also invincible. Captain America strikes a fine balance between the two – someone who’s vulnerable enough for there to be tension, but good enough to be someone you want to idolize and imitate… okay maybe not imitate, but you get the idea. Superman in Batman’s body.
There’s also one particular even in one of the few comics I know anything about: Ultimatum. It’s a terrible comic, but there are some good moments in it. Partway through the story, Thor and Captain America are fighting an undead army led by Hel to retrieve the former’s lover. Hel has agreed to give up the soul of Valkyrie for revival, but only in trade for another soul. Cap decides that he should do it, since Thor went in there to save Valkyrie and, as he points out, it doesn’t make sense for Thor to stay if he came to bring her back in the first place.
Compassionate, logical, and perfectly willing to make that kind of sacrifice. THAT, my friends, is a fucking superhero.
And, less importantly, I like that Cap is a sort of timeless American hero. I mean sure, he’s named after the country and he’s got the flag on his chest, it’s not like you can avoid being political about this kind of hero, but that’s not what I mean. I mean that ultimately, Cap represents the American ideal over its reality. And let’s be honest – most of the time, an ideal that a country strives for is something most definitely worth fighting for, even if its reality doesn’t always match up. Captain America is a freedom-loving patriot who wants nothing more than to ensure your freedom and to do the right thing.
Oh, and we can’t forget the shield. It’s a great piece of symbolism that Cap’s most important and iconic weapon is also one invented for defense. He uses it beautifully as a weapon of attack, and no one in their right mind would call his shield anything but a weapon, but it’s still a shield, a tool made to defend the user. That’s great symbolism right there.
And sure, the MCU hasn’t given him much of an arc, but personally I don’t think he really needs one. The guy’s a compassionate hero that does everything in his power to be good. The external conflict of Nazis and people that might as well be named ‘McBadguy’ is good enough. Captain America is compassionate, intelligent, strong, and everything good about the place he’s named after. I’m sure there’s something more you could ask of a superhero, but I can’t think of anything.