1. “All the Ways of Power,” The Avengers #215 (01/82)
Easily Captain America’s most famous fashion accessory, his shield is (as our official Marvel sources tell us) a concave disk that’s 2.5 feet in diameter, weighs 12 pounds, and is made of “a unique vibranium-steel alloy that has never been duplicated” because of its creator’s inability “to identify a still unknown catalyst that played a role in the metal bonding.” Long story short: science-science-science here’s your indestructible shield. And while the shield’s extreme durability has helped Cap in a lot of sticky situations, his writers have also used the shield’s reputation for toughness as a way of showing readers how bad-ass their antagonist really is. One of the earliest examples is this 1982 Avengers story, in which the Molecule Man, master of all molecules, is inadvertently brought back to life by the Silver Surfer. Being slightly mad (he decides to out-Galactus Galactus after hearing the Surfer’s life story — God, just shut up, Norrin!), he builds a palace and impenetrable dome in the New Jersey countryside. When the Avengers show up to investigate, MM flicks a wrist and disintegrates Cap’s shield, Thor’s hammer, Iron Man’s armor and Silver Surfer’s board with the same effort that you or I would use to update our Netflix preferences.
How’d they fix it? After a punch in the nose(!) and some straight talk from Tigra, Molecule Man comes to his senses and agrees to skip destroying the Earth in favour of getting psychiatric help. He makes up for what he did to the heroes by using his powers to reassemble the lost objects (except Iron Man’s armor, which had circuitry too intricate for him to replicate), noting the molecular make-up of Cap’s shield makes it the “weirdest of all.”
Wow Rating: (because we get the message: anyone, especially a crazy guy, who can do that to four of the most powerful objects in the Marvel universe is someone you do not want to mess with)
2. “And Dust to Dust,” Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #11 (03/85)
Though it only existed to sell a line of action figures, Secret Wars was Marvel’s first big “event” mini-series, and writer/editor-in-chief Jim Shooter was determined to pull out all the stops. Drop an entire mountain on top of the Hulk? Done! Have Colossus fall in love with and then mourn the loss of someone we’ll never hear about again? Done! End every single statement in every speech balloon with an exclamation point? Done!!! Oh, and also Doctor Doom realized his dream of ultimate power by stealing the Beyonder’s omnipotence and smites all the super-heroes from afar while they plan their next move. But of course, the heroes come back to save the day, with Cap wielding a broken shield that’s still mighty effective as a weapon despite missing a few pieces from Doom’s attack.
How’d they fix it? Putting the deus in deus ex machina, the Beyonder steps into the story, reclaims his power and tells all the heroes they now have the ability to realize their fondest wishes before he sends them back to Earth. Cap’s only wish: to restore his shield.
Wow Rating: (mostly because even the 12-year-olds who first read this story back when it came out would have known this series had to end with a return to the status quo for our heroes, give or take a black costume)
3. “First Gleaming,” Captain America (vol. 3) #15 (03/99)
Shortly after Captain America and a few other heroes returned from the “pocket universe” (also known as “not one of Marvel’s better reboot plans“) they were consigned to in 1996, Cap lost his shield during a rescue mission in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. While he used a series of steel replicas, Tony Stark had a crew scour the ocean floor to retrieve the shield, and they succeeded — only to see it shatter into pieces the second it hit their ship’s deck. The reason? Apparently, the shield’s unique molecular composition had been corroded by the misalignment of a single molecule; with every blow the shield took, the vibranium within the shield absorbed more energy until the bonds within the shield’s molecules started to break down. Even worse, the energies released by the vibranium in the shield created a shock wave that spread like a “vibranium cancer” to other sources of vibranium in the world, to the point that the world would be literally shaken apart if the chain reaction wasn’t stopped.
How’d they fix it? Cap went to Wakanda, home of the world’s largest mound of the element, with the pieces of the shield taped together, hoping he could save the world by using the shield to absorb the shock wave. But (d’oh!) the sonic super-villain known as Klaw showed up to mess with his plans. As one Internet source put it, “When Cap reflexively raised his shattered shield in defense, the shards absorbed the energy and the ultra-powerful harmonics restored the vibranium nanostructure.” Sure, let’s go with that.
Wow Rating: (because seriously, do we really need to rely on a whole lot of chemistry techno-babble about a fictional metal to get to the end of a story that’s basically “Cap lost his shield and then he found it”…?)
4. “Even a God Can Die,” The Avengers #275 (01/87)
Finally figuring out that team-ups produce results, Baron Zemo assembles his Masters of Evil to storm Avengers Mansion, beating Hercules to within an inch of his life and taking Cap and Jarvis as hostages. When Mister Hyde isn’t busy beating up a proper English gentleman, he and Zemo try to break Cap’s spirit by destroying his property, like the “battered piece of tooled steel” that served as his first shield in the ’40s (fun fact: Cap took to toting a round shield after the publishers of the first patriotic superhero threatened a lawsuit against Marvel over the triangular shield’s resemblance to their own hero’s costume).
How’d they fix it? Well, they didn’t — that’s kind of the whole point. Besides, it wasn’t the real deal, just an earlier model Cap used before getting the circular model we all know and love.
Wow Rating: (mostly because, like I said, not the real deal… plus I was more choked up by the scene showing Cap among his ripped-up photographs and other mementos that couldn’t be replaced as easily as a hunk of steel)
5. “Cosmic Battle on the Edge of the Universe,” The Infinity Gauntlet #4 (10/91)
There’s a whole lot of back story to this 1991 mini-series, but all you need to know is this: Thanos, a cosmic-level baddie in love with Death (like, literally in love with Death), gains control of six “infinity gems” that together give him control of all known space and time. First item on the agenda? The sudden disappearance of one-half of all sentient beings in the universe. Yes, it’s one of those stories again, and once again only the heroes of Earth can save the day. So off they go with little more of a plan than “Let’s get ‘im!” — with predictable results. Here we see Cap being his usual noble self, spouting his patented as-long-as-one-man-stands-up-to-evil speech while Thanos casually shatters his shield with his fist.
How’d they fix it? Thanos’ granddaughter ends up with the Infinity Gauntlet containing the gems and uses it to Ctrl-Z all the bad stuff that Thanos did during his brief godhood, including un-shattering Cap’s shield.
Wow Rating: (because after someone has been shown to be powerful enough to wipe out half of all life in the known universe, it’s not that shocking to learn he can smash a piece of metal)
6. “Standoff,” The Avengers (Vol. 3) #63 (o3/2003)
“Standoff” was a three-part crossover story with chapters in issues of Iron Man, Thor and The Avengers; it’s your basic slugfest that pits the three Avengers teammates against each other amid a geopolitical quagmire while Doctor Doom sips wine and pulls strings behind the scenes. Captain America is able to break up a fierce battle between Thor and Iron Man and after taking a bit of a beating by Thor (including a dent in his shield made by Thor’s hammer), he convinces Thor to see reason and stand down.
How’d they fix it? Same way it got busted, with Thor and his Odinforce powers hammering the dent out of the shield.
Wow Rating: (mostly because that was an unexpected show of force, even for someone as powerful and hot-tempered as Thor)
7. “The Reigning,” Thor (Vol. 2) #73 (03/2004)
Yep, it’s Thor and his all-powerful Odinforce again. It’s the year 2170, and Earth has become New Asgard, with Thor as supreme ruler and dissenters to Asgardian rule relocated to Loki’s “reconditioning centers.” The scene shown above is from a nightmare in which Thor relives the battle that saw Earth’s few remaining heroes almost defeat him and rob him of his throne.
How’d they fix it? Same way most everything else gets fixed in comic books: someone yells “wizard did it!” or something close to it and erases the timeline.
Wow Rating: (only because we had already seen Thor go Old Testament — or whatever the equivalent of “going Old Testament” is in ancient Norse mythology — on Cap’s shield before)
8+. Various stories, Exiles (2001-2008)
Given Cap’s role as the symbol of liberty, freedom and the American spirit, it’s no surprise to see writers and artists display his broken or battered shield — typically amid the remnants of a great battle — as a shorthand way of showing us times and places where the ideals that Cap upholds are absent. Exiles was an inventive series in the 2000s best described as “X-Men meets Sliders,” with a team of adventurers hopping dimensions to fix broken realities. In one reality where a power-mad Tony Stark took over the world, Cap’s shield is shown to have been melted through as a result of a battle involving mutants; in another reality where Sentinels killed the X-Men and leveled Xavier’s mansion, we can see Cap’s shield missing a sizable piece after a fierce battle on the White House lawn.
How’d they fix it? They didn’t.
Wow Rating: N/A
9. “Brawl,” Fear Itself #5 (10/2011)
All together, gang: “An all-powerful adversary rises up to rule the world/destroy the world/rule the universe/destroy the universe and only the heroes of Earth can stop him.” In this variation on a theme, the Big Bad is the Serpent, the self-proclaimed true All-Father of Asgard who has awakened from his prison beneath the ocean to do what all gods so: mess up our weekends. His particular M.O. is fear: the more of it he spreads, the stronger he gets. So while the heroes deal with the fear-inducing chaos spreading across the Earth, they also have to figure out how to shut down this nigh-omnipotent god for good. Hey, I know! Let’s send the slightly-stronger-than-average dude with the fancy Frisbee to go fight him! Admittedly, it looks like it took the Serpent some effort (“GGRRRRRRRAHH!!”) to get the job done, but no one should be surprised he did it.
How’d they fix it? With Asgardian dwarves, of course! After the battle, they and Tony Stark work together to repair the shield by adding uru-infused enhancements to make it stronger. Their efforts leave a noticeable scar on the surface which they offer to take off, but Cap says don’t bother, as it , which Captain America elects to keep it as it gives “the old girl a little bit of character.”
Wow Rating: (I might have added an extra one if the guy wasn’t so “GGRRRRRRRAHH!!” about it; at least Thanos was able to keep monologuing while he smashed the shield to pieces)
+1. “The Light That Failed,” Avengers #35 (12/66)
And the one time an illustration of Cap’s shield’s destruction didn’t count? That would be this one. As you can see here, Cap and Hawkeye are caught in a diabolical death-trap involving “deadly laser bolts” when Cap decides to “hurl his mangled shield at the nearby control panel” in a last-ditch effort to short out the machine… only things didn’t work out as planned. The two are saved when their teammate, Goliath, arrives and shuts off the machine, but sadly he showed up too late to save Cap’s beloved —
Wait a second. Here we are, eight pages later, sneaking around the bad guy’s jungle lair. Where did that shield come from? Not only did writer Roy Thomas forget that Cap’s shield is supposed to be indestructible (certainly tough enough to stand up to a bunch of lasers), he also returned Cap’s shield to him a few scenes later with no explanation for where it came from.
How’d they fix it? Wizard did it. Next question!
Wow Rating: N/A