SPOILER WARNING: This article contains spoilers for "Captain America: Steve Rogers" #7, which is on sale now.
Since it's launch earlier this year, "Captain America: Steve Rogers" has taken readers on a rollercoaster ride of reveals all stemming from the one shocking truth: the Steve Rogers that exists in the Marvel Universe right now is a Steve Rogers that's had his past manipulated by HYDRA and the reality-warping Cosmic Cube. With the help of the all-powerful artifact, the Red Skull inserted a HYDRA agent into Steve's recollection of his past, one that recruited him into the terrorist organization's fold as a child. But Cap isn't the Red Skull's puppet. "Captain America: Steve Rogers" revealed that while his archenemy remade the Avenger into a HYDRA agent, the new Steve still has autonomy -- and he plans on using that to assassinate the Red Skull (for the good of HYDRA).
The latest issue of Nick Spencer and Jesus Saiz's run, "Captain America: Steve Rogers" #7, sees Captain America slowly working to put his plan into action. While the Red Skull invades the foreign nation of Sokovia, Captain America and Black Widow (unaware of Steve's new allegiance) do their part to break out an imprisoned Sokovian freedom fighter so he can build up a resistance army. But that's only one of the stories in "Steve Rogers" #7.
The other narrative that unfolds in the issue takes place deep in Steve Rogers' newly overhauled HYDRA past. The flashbacks focus on the year 1935, as a teenage Steve Rogers excels at the HYDRA academy, impressing his teacher Doctor Fenhoff and earning young Rogers a spot on the orientation team for new students. But an American excelling and getting this spot doesn't sit well with the other students, and they plot their revenge. Later, they corner Steve as he sits alone, drawing. They take his sketch pad and beat him up, punching and kicking him. It's at that moment that a figure in the shadows emerges and leaps into the fray.
That character is then revealed to be none other than a young Helmut Zemo -- the man that will grow up to be Baron Zemo, one of Captain America's greatest enemies.
Flashforward to the present day back in Steve's hidden HYDRA base. There, his assistant Dr. Erik Selvig worries about how Cap can possibly take on S.H.I.E.L.D., the Avengers, HYDRA and the Red Skull all at once. Selvig suggests enlisting the aide of some supervillains and criminals, but Steve replies that his plans are too sensitive to enlist just any old mercenary. No, there's someone else he wants to bring into the fold.
Yep, Helmut Zemo. Baron Zemo, a character that was once Cap's greatest enemy, is now his oldest ally and most trusted friend. Baron Zemo was last seen in continuity in "Captain America: Steve Rogers" #1, where he himself expressed anti-Red Skull views and a desire to take control of the organization and steer it in his own direction. Zemo kidnapped Selvig and was thwarted by Steve Rogers and Jack Flag (who Cap, revealing his loyalty to HYDRA, shoved out of the plane). Zemo's return here casts those events in a new light; whether or not Zemo and Rogers were working together to stage the events of "Captain America: Steve Rogers" #1 remains unknown; it's also unclear if Zemo's memories were also altered along with Steve's. Rogers considers Zemo to be his oldest friend, but is the feeling mutual?
"Captain America: Steve Rogers" #8 arrives in stores on December 14, 2016.