The greatest weapon ever wielded by Captain America isn’t technically a weapon at all, and that’s what makes him such an incredible Marvel superhero. It takes a special kind of confidence to rush into a gunfight against alien shock troopers with nothing more than a miracle metal shield between you and certain death. But Steve Rogers is no mere soldier, and his shield is no mere hunk of metal.
Comprised of a vibranium-steel alloy, Cap’s shield can absorb massive impacts (such as Hulk’s fists) without transferring the recoil to its wielder. It can also bounce off of most flat surfaces without losing much momentum, allowing Steve to hit multiple targets with a single throw. But despite its amazing qualities, even Cap’s near indestructible Freedom Frisbee has been dented, chipped, and broken in half multiple times in Marvel comics. In fact, over a dozen characters have destroyed Cap’s shield over his career. But the real credit may go to the types of power and energy proven to be too much for even Cap’s signature shield.
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While it can easily shrug off most ballistics and even Wolverine’s legendary claws, the shield doesn’t seem to do too well against the godlike power of Asgardians. Not only did Thor once dent Steve’s iconic disc, but in an alternate timeline Thor obliterated the shield when he became infused with the power of the Odinforce. Thor’s mischievous brother Loki also broke Cap’s shield with the Odinforce in the Disney XD cartoon Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. The third Asgardian to break Cap’s red, white, and blue Nazi-smasher? Asgard’s god of fear, The Serpent. In the 2011 mini-series Fear Itself, Serpent flexed in the most villainous way possible by catching Cap’s shield, lifting it over his head, and ripping the thing in half like cardboard.
It’s not just Asgardians that can destroy the shield. If hit hard enough with any godlike energy the virtually indestructible metal becomes quite destructible. In the Secret Wars comic book mini-series, Doctor Doom steals the cosmic power of the divine entity known as the Beyonder and wiped out not only Captain America’s shield, but also Captain America. In The Infinity Gauntlet mini-series, the Mad Titan Thanos shattered Steve’s shield with a mighty backhand after acquiring all all of Marvel’s Infinity Gems.
But one does not need to be a celestial being from another galaxy in order to break Captain America’s favorite toy. In Avengers #215 the Earth-based supervillain, Molecule Man, simply disintegrates Cap’s shield along with Tony Stark’s armor, Thor’s hammer, and the Silver Surfer’s board. In the alternate timeline Earth-94831, Cap dies fighting to protect Mutantkind from an onslaught of genocidal Sentinels sent by the U.S. government. And in the mini-series Age of Ultron, Captain America is seen hunched in a corner next to a fragment of his broken shield, seemingly destroyed by the rogue A.I. (given a nod in the Age of Ultron movie). Who needs godlike power when killer robots are so readily available?
But one of the oddest things to destroy Cap’s near invincible shield is cancer–vibranium cancer. After being destroyed by Doctor Doom, Cap used the Beyonder’s power to put it back together again like Humpty Dumpty. Unfortunately, a single misplaced molecule led to the shield developing a type of cancer, which spread with each impact. Refusing to scrap his most prized possession, Cap taped the crumbling disc back together like a broken dinner plate and went on a quest to find a cure. His shield was eventually re-solidified after a battle with Ulysses Klaw forced it to absorb so much power that it reversed the effects of the vibranium cancer.
Steve Rogers’ shield is almost as iconic as the hero himself. Like King Arthur and Excalibur, Steve Rogers and his shield go hand-in-hand whenever justice needs to be painfully dished out. It is a defensive weapon, used to protect both its wielder and the lives of countless civilians. And while it may get destroyed from time to time, like its owner Captain America, it will inevitably come back as strong and unfailing as before.
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