SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Captain America #4 by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, Sunny Gho and Joe Caramagna, on sale now.
The new Captain America series finds Steve Rogers trying to repair the damage his doppelgänger did to his reputation in Secret Empire, but as the hero goes about this, he's realizing the world has become an even more untrustworthy place. The U.S. government is at odds with him, and a seedy group known as the Power Elite has weaved its way into the American political system, becoming a legitimized version of Hydra.
As Steve begins to investigate Hydra's new incarnation, the group kidnaps Sharon Carter as part of some mysterious scheme. In Issue #4, we learn the person leading this torture session actually has ties to a major villain from Marvel's 2008 Captain America run in the wake of Civil War. And it's someone who has a very, very good reason to ruin both Sharon and Steve's lives.
Sharon's sent to Alberia, outside of Russia, as part of an investigation by General Thaddeus Ross, now reporting directly to the U.S. president. In this issue, it's revealed this was a set up, that Ross may have offered her up as a favor to the Power Elite (which includes the likes of the Kingpin, Baron von Strucker and the vampire Selene), who are helping America wipe out the remnants of Hydra. Black Panther and Okoye quickly help a strangely overpowered Steve locate Sharon, but before he can get to her, he's attacked by an even more brutal Taskmaster. While this happens, one of the Power Elite heads reveals her true identity -- She's Alexa Lukin, wife of Aleksander Lukin.
10 years ago, her husband, a prominent Russian businessman, was a key villain who went up against Steve and actually controlled the Winter Soldier. The Red Skull (Aleksander's enemy) also had his mind lodged in Aleksander's body, leaving both fighting for control. They eventually made a truce, with Skull wanting Cap dead in exchange for leaving Aleksander's physical vessel. They succeeded in killing the hero but Skull continued to use Aleksander's resources to try to put his essence in a carbon copy of Steve's body. Sharon was the main pawn for this because Skull/Lukin tried to extract her DNA (after she lost Steve's baby) to make a clone of Cap, and they then used her to try to pull Steve out from being displaced in time.
Both plans failed, although Arnim Zola did extract Skull's mind and place it in a robot body. However, before Aleksander could really celebrate his freedom, an injured Sharon shot and killed him. She didn't hesitate because they brainwashed her and made her kill Steve in Civil War, and it's this lack of mercy which drives Alexa to conspire in the present-day. It's a big reveal because we only heard of Aleksander's family in the 2008 stories from Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting and Luke Ross. Now, we fully understand why she hates Cap, Sharon and Hydra (who terrorized Aleksander by occupying his hometown in World War II).
Basically, she's exacting revenge on all her husband's enemies, as she thinks he was a victim of Red Skull, not a collaborator with the villain. That's why she kept Sharon in her mind for so long, finally culminating here in a torture session with Selene. They both know Steve is coming for the love of his life too, offering a chance to kill two birds with one stone.
It remains to be seen which other enemies Alexa has and if she's really using the Power Elite selfishly. Their businesses are doing well and they're buddying up with big officials in the U.S., so it seems everything is coming together for this secretive group. Hopefully, Sharon survives the session but from the looks of it, Alexa may have something far worse than death planned. It's yet to be revealed but given the chip on her shoulder, expect the worst for the soldier formerly known as Agent 13.