Last month, Marvel Comics caused a social media firestorm with the release of Steve Rogers: Captain America #1. The Nick Spencer-penned issue ended with the reveal of Captain America himself, Steve Rogers, proclaiming “Hail Hydra” after apparently being revealed as having been a Hydra double agent for nearly his whole life. While many longtime comic book readers assumed the move was nothing more than a temporary story-twist that would be explained away rather quickly, the vernal public reacted relatively negatively leading to an outpouring of social media outrage and think-pieces. All the while, both parties awaited the second issue to see how the story would develop from there.
The issue begins with a bang right out of the gate, revealing that Red Skull has actually been influencing Kobik (the living embodiment of the Cosmic Cube who was introduced during the Standoff crossover) since her initial “birth,” leading her to believe that Hydra is the greatest source of good in the world. From there, the villain reveals through narration that he’s grown bored with the powers he stole from Professor X and is craving a greater challenge than simple conquest. He gets his wish when Kobik innocently reveals that she’s altered Dr. Selvig’s memories to make him believe he’s been a Hydra agent his whole life.
With that revelation, the Red Skull begins putting his own plan into motion. We quickly learn that it was his influence that lead to the Pleasant Hill prison in the first place. From there we learn that Father Patrick, a minor character from Standoff, was actually the villain in disguise. Furthermore, it was the Red Skull himself who had Kobik return Steve Rogers back to his correct age with the new implanted Hydra memories as a way to fully break him down from within.
“…or that when his youth was restored by Kobik she somehow altered his history”
The above quote is from my review for Steve Rogers: Captain America #1. I don’t include it here as any kind of “I told you so” or call for praise at “calling” the events of the story. Rather, I include it because it was such a predictable story-turn. If one looked past the drummed-up controversy around the first issue, it was obvious from the way its flashbacks were illustrated that Steve’s memories had been tampered with to make him believe he was a Hydra agent. The fact that Kobik had de-aged him combined with Red Skull’s previous infatuation with the Cosmic Cube made those elements seem blatant as well.
Predictability aside, I will say the issue works for the most part. Having the issue told from Red Skull’s perspective gives it an interesting flavor. His overall plan is somewhat hackneyed, but it should open some interesting story choices going forward as I expect Spencer to use it as a way to further explore Captain America’s meaning as a symbol. I particularly look forward to the reactions from others when Steve’s friends and allies discover his “secret.”
Jesus Saiz continues to impress as the series’ artist. I particularly enjoyed his Red Skull, as Saiz imbues the villain with a terrifying quality usually missing from modern interpretations. The scene where he uses his psychic powers to force his kitchen staff to kill themselves for his own amusement is particularly frightening.
Steve Rogers: Captain America #2 is sure to find a relatively large readership thanks to the reaction the first issue garnered. For the most part, I think those readers will be satisfied with the issue if no other reason than it shows that Steve Rogers hasn’t been a Nazi/Hydra Agent all along. That said, the predictable nature of the story weakened the overall issue for me and I would imagine others who saw the reveal coming.