SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for “Captain America: Steve Rogers” #12, which is on sale now.
With a twice-monthly schedule, new issues of “Captain America: Steve Rogers” are arriving at a fast pace, bringing with them more and more major reveals about Marvel’s highest profile double agent. The previous issue, “Captain America: Steve Rogers” #11, revealed the Hydra-affiliated Steve Rogers’ new Cosmic Cube-created origin story, and also revealed that the “hero’s” secret status as a Hydra mole has been compromised.
“Captain America: Steve Rogers” #12, from writer Nick Spencer and artists Javier Pina and Andres Guinaldo, continues the big reveals, teasing two potentially major plot points and concluding with a revelatory final page.
First is the revelation that the Super Soldier program didn’t begin and end with Steve Rogers in this new Cosmic Cube-altered reality. In the original Marvel reality, Dr. Abraham Erskine was assassinated immediately after Rogers emerged from Project Rebirth, taking all the secrets of the formula in his brain with him to the afterlife. As we learned last month, that’s no longer the case.
Instead of dying after Rogers’ transformation, Erskine now died before, having been assassinated by a young Baron Zemo (who stepped in when pre-Super Soldier Steve was being tested, but failed to pull the trigger fast enough). Instead of all that knowledge dying with Erskine, Zemo used a device to essentially suck the secrets out of the doctor’s brain as he slowly faded away. That knowledge was then given to Hydra scientist Arnim Zola.
Cut to “Captain America: Steve Rogers” #12, and we now know how this slight difference created a massive change in the Super Soldier program. In the issue, Captain America — now a decent stretch of time into his double agent career as the Allies’ star-spangled hero — asks Zemo how Zola’s Super Soldier program is coming along. Zemo reveals that, since last we saw the Hydra scientist, he has seemingly died of a heart attack while in American custody. That was, no doubt, a ruse to get Zola out of the hands of the Americans and back into Hydra proper; odds are Zola uploaded his consciousness into a robot body, making him into the Arnim Zola that longtime Captain America readers would recognize.
Zemo states that Zola is “struggling to replicate Erskine’s formula” — although they have created new Super Soldiers.
The new soldiers are, as Zemo says, “more aggressive” and don’t survive for very long. However, almost a dozen of them have, meaning that there are potentially still some Hydra Super Soldiers out there in the Marvel Universe today, depending on how thorough a job Kobik — the humanoid Cosmic Cube — did of recreating reality.
We get a tease of how extensive Kobik’s manipulations are a few pages later, as Hydra scientist Dr. Erik Selvig ponders the inner workings of Baron Zemo’s brain. Like Steve Rogers, Zemo also survived to the modern day and lived to torment Captain America and the Avengers. But recently, Zemo was placed in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s secret Pleasant Hill prison/suburb, where Kobik altered every prisoner’s reality to give them an idyllic existence.
As Selvig rightly wonders, just how deep did Kobik’s makeover of Zemo go? This is, after all, Captain America’s archenemy, yet he’s proven very susceptible to Hydra Steve’s pleas. Since the start of the current “Steve Rogers” series, Zemo has been held prisoner in Rogers’ secret base. There, Steve has tried to persuade Zemo to work alongside him, regaling him with tales of their Kobik-influenced childhood together. Whether or not Zemo remembers the events Steve describes has not yet been confirmed; Zemo has mostly remained silent, listening to Steve without comment. Could this be the same old, cunning Zemo merely taking advantage of his enemy’s suddenly altered state?
But Selvig points out in issue #12 that Zemo too was manipulated by Kobik, along with all the other prisoners in Pleasant Hill. “What if Kobik did something different this time? Something more profound?” Selvig writes in his notebook. “That might explain why a zealot like Zemo is predisposed to believe in the Captain’s tale — but what else could it mean for this world? For reality itself?”
The issue ends with possibly the biggest reveal of all: Kobik may have created a totally new being from scratch. The issue ends with Taskmaster and Black Ant — the two mid-level villains who uncovered Steve Rogers’ Hydra secret last issue — being approached by a new villain: Madame Hydra. However, this isn’t a Madame Hydra we’ve seen before, not Viper or Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. No, this is a new Madame Hydra — but she’s not a new character.
Elisa Sinclair debuted last year in “Captain America: Steve Rogers” #1 as the Hydra agent who recruited Steve Rogers’ mother into the organization back when Steve was a child. She was instrumental in recruiting Steve and placing him in the terrorist group’s clutches at a young age. Since Elisa was placed into Rogers’ origin by the Cosmic Cube Kobik, it’s been presumed that she didn’t really exist, or at least not in any way that would affect the current Marvel U reality. Up until now, it could have been assumed that she was merely a character created by the Cube to act as an agent of change in Steve’s memories. It was also possible that another one of Captain America’s villains was posing as Elisa, and that she may be another character, perhaps even the Red Skull’s daughter Sin.
This reveal changes all of that; not only is Elisa Sinclair real and not another character in disguise, she’s also active in the modern Marvel Universe. It’s still unclear if she has always existed or was created completely by the Cosmic Cube, but either way, it’s a certainty that she’s going to cause even more trouble for Marvel’s heroes in the coming months.
“Captain America: Steve Rogers” #13 arrives in stores March 8.
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