WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Captain America #5 by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, Sunny Gho and Joe Caramagna, in stores now.
Marvel's 2017 summer epic, Secret Empire, may be over, but the events of the miniseries continue cast a long shadow across Steve Rogers' life.
At the time, Captain America's reality and history had been rewritten by a sentient cosmic cube. Steve Rogers was revealed to have been a secret Hydra agent from the start, and after murdering the Red Skull, assumed leadership of the villainous organization. With Steve as its Supreme Leader, Hydra launched a full-scale attack on the United States, ruling it with an iron fist before being overthrown by the return of the real Steve Rogers.
But the damage was done. People no longer believe in the star-spangled superhero, and the latest Captain America series has been examining the political and personal fallout of such an event. Now, just as the government is slowly turning its back on Steve Rogers, his biggest villain has returned.
Yes, the Red Skull is alive once again. And to make matters worse, his resurrection comes courtesy of Aleksander Lukin.
Throughout this run, Lukin's wife Alexa's plan has been slowly teased. Now, in Captain America #5, he scheme is finally revealed; she sought to bring her husband back to life, a feat that she accomplishes thanks to highly-advanced technology and what appears to be a mysterious rock with special abilities. But when the newly returned Lukin looks at himself in the mirror, we see the real horrifying truth -- the Red Skull is there, staring back at him.
Fans of writer Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting's Captain America run know that the two villains have been linked this way for years. Before being killed by the Winter Soldier, the Red Skull actually used the Cosmic Cube to transfer his mind into Lukin. Now, thanks to his wife, Aleksander Lukin is now back, and he appears to have the Red Skull with him -- but how? After all, Lukin was gunned down by Sharon Carter moments after Arnim Zola had managed to transfer the mind of the Skull into a robotic body. Was there a part of the iconic Nazi villain left behind, or did the Skull find some other way to come back?
Either way, the Red Skull, who has evaded death more than once, is back once more. Whether he knows about the events of Secret Empire remains to be seen, but one thing's for sure -- as far as he is concerned, Captain America is the one that killed him, and that certainly can't bode well for Steve Rogers.