SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for "Captain America: Steve Rogers" #2, on sale now.
"Captain American is a terrorist."
The cliffhanger to Nick Spencer and Jesus Saiz's "Captain America: Steve Rogers" #1 last month shocked numerous superhero fans and casual observers alike, with Steve Rogers proclaiming his allegiance to the terrorist organization Hydra. And with headlines like the one above being some of the more subdued responses, it's safe to say that the attention-grabbing strategy worked. But rather than drag the suspense out, Spencer and Saiz use "Captain America: Steve Rogers" #2 to explain how the twist no one saw coming came to be.
Spencer's story doesn't deal with the immediate aftermath of Issue #1's cliffhanger. It actually goes all the way back to the Mark Waid and Ron Garney run on "Captain America," when the duo had Cap tangle with the Red Skull over the usage of a Cosmic Cube. Spencer and Saiz replay the moment where Captain America simultaneously destroyed the Cube and maimed the Red Skull. Only this time, we follow the shards of the Cube, and the eventual creation of the being known as Kobik who was at the center of the "Avengers: Standoff" event.
For those who missed the storyline, Kobik is an individual that evolved from the shards of the Cosmic Cube, appears in the form of a young girl, and has an eager and slightly naÃ¯ve personality to match her looks. Kobik was used by S.H.I.E.L.D. and Dr. Erik Selvig to transform supervillains into model citizens within the idyllic town of Pleasant Hill. And while she was directly responsible for the chaos that ultimately erupted in S.H.I.E.L.D.'s re-education facility, Spencer and Saiz are revealing here that her reach has gone much further than readers might have expected.
"Captain America: Steve Rogers" #2 makes it crystal clear: Kobik has been interacting regularly with the Red Skull ever since her first manifestation, feeling a bond with him due to his usage of her as a Cosmic Cube. (It's also in that first meeting of Kobik and the Red Skull that Sin's face was restored by Kobik to a human-looking appearance instead of her own skull visage.) And so, even as Kobik was working with Selvig and the rest of his team at S.H.I.E.L.D. to best determine Kobik's powers, she was also visiting her good friend the Red Skull. There's something chilling about seeing the Red Skull reading Kobik a bedtime story, even as she clutches a stuffed doll version of the Gorgon.
It's around the two-thirds mark that Spencer and Saiz lay out the inadvertent part of the Red Skull's plan snapping into action. Kobik, thoroughly trusting the Red Skull and by association Hydra, "fixed" Selvig to make him happier by erasing his memories and replacing them with ones to make him forever loyal to Hydra. And so, knowing that Kobik's idea of helping people is to make them part of Hydra, we learn that the Red Skull's real plan for Pleasant Hill was solely to lure Steve Rogers into a situation where Kobik would heal him after approaching death. And in doing so, rewrite the original Captain America's mind so that he, too, would be a Hydra agent. The sepia-colored flashbacks from the first issue are the Kobik-implanted memories that have erased Steve's recollection of his real childhood. In many ways, it's a counterpoint to the Winter Soldier, who had his own memories wiped while serving the Soviets until Captain America used a Cosmic Cube to restore Bucky's mind. Here, it's the power of a Cube that's flipped Captain America over to the bad guys, instead of the reverse.
Fans of Steve Rogers will be delighted with the news that their hero hasn't always been a secret Hydra agent. If anything, the fact that it's his memories being rewritten makes an eventual restoration of Captain America not that difficult. Kobik eventually fixing Steve's head is certainly the easiest solution, but by no means non-exclusive. The bad news, though, is that until the Red Skull's plans are revealed, many other characters will almost certainly be flipped over to Hydra. And considering that Captain America just tried to kill Jack Flag to keep his Hydra status a secret (and possibly succeeded, although we haven't yet seen Jack's body hit the ground), we can almost certainly bet on the deaths of more heroes before long. Steve Rogers may now be a Hydra agent, but as Spencer and Saiz have shown us, a fix is still possible.
What do you think of the latest twist in the saga of Hydra Cap? Let us know in the comments!