HYDRA has been one of the longest-lasting villains in the Marvel Universe, and its relevance was such that the organization was adapted in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well. While the MCU version was dangerous, there was a lot more going on in the comics.
With all these universes existing, there have been many HYDRA agents who have greatly impacted the continuities, and they’ve all been dangerous in their own right. In this list, we’ve excluded HYDRA characters like the Red Skull and Baron Wolfgang con Strucker, since they were leaders rather than agents. This leaves us with those characters who were instrumental in living up to HYDRA’s “parasite” reputation.
You don’t normally associate Kingpin with HYDRA, especially because he used to be an enemy of the organization; however, Kingpin was once an agent of the organization. This was revealed in Captain America #147, where Kingpin was shown to be running the Las Vegas sector of HYDRA.
For those who don’t know, Kingpin is the ultimate lord of the crime syndicate, whose mafia influence grants him control of New York City’s dealings. Having someone of the vast influence of Kingpin meant HYDRA had access to thousands of criminals to conduct their activities, as well as Kingpin’s cunning on their side. Kingpin is extremely strong, too, as he’s been shown to defeat Daredevil, Captain America, and Spider-Man in fights.
This guy didn’t last too long in the comics chronology, but he did do just enough damage for his impact to remain long-lasting. Hellfire was initially an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., in whom Nick Fury placed significant trust to infiltrate into HYDRA. Little did Fury know, Hellfire was actually a HYDRA double agent.
Hellfire’s abilities weren’t just limited to being a master manipulator; he had with him a chain that he could ignite. His super reflexes enabled Hellfire to maneuver the chain with deadly accuracy as the ignited chain was something like you see Ghost Rider wielding.
8 Senator Stern
We first saw him in Iron Man 2, where he seemed to be more of an annoyance to Iron Man than an actual antagonist. But Stern was later shown to have been a HYDRA agent in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and his actions were given retrospective context.
Being a senator, it meant that Stern had come inches close to inquiring the Iron Man technology for HYDRA. Influence of this level in the government also allowed HYDRA to gain insights into the world; having unquestioned power is something that’s more dangerous than just simple super abilities.
Can you imagine battling a foe whose identity you don’t know? Chameleon is one such enemy who can take the form of anyone he wants, which allows him to blend into any setting. Chameleon has worked for HYDRA directly before, with the most prominent instance being in The Incredible Hulk #154.
Here, he infiltrated into Hank Pym’s lab by posing as the man himself, and managed to shrink the Hulk into a small size to deliver to HYDRA. Whenever Chameleon is used as an antagonist, the story always has the superheroes lost and confused, as you never know who to trust and where Chameleon really is.
6 The Punisher
We are aware that the Punisher came into becoming his vigilante persona due to the death of his family, and if you want to know the extent to where he can reach in order to regain his loved ones, then look no further than when he joined HYDRA.
In this story, he was made to believe that the HYDRA Steve Rogers (read below to know more on this) could resurrect his family, which caused the Punisher to become loyal to HYDRA and act as their agent. The Punisher’s lethal methods are famous, and he’s been considered as among the most violent characters in the Marvel Universe due to him being open to torture and brutal killing.
Crossbones has been a constant thorn in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s side in the comics, but we’ll be using the example of the MCU version since this one almost caused the deaths of millions. Before he became Crossbones, Rumlow was a hidden agent who gathered enough intel for HYDRA that they were ready to strike down a few million targets at a time before Captain America intervened.
As Crossbones, he was influential enough to gain a buyer for a biological weapon that could’ve destroyed the planet. His super abilities were within his suit, as its capabilities allowed him to go one-on-one with Captain America for a certain time. If you’d pit Crossbones against S.H.I.E.L.D. agents who weren’t superpowered, then this guy would be able to end several of them by himself.
There are two realities where Wolverine became a HYDRA agent: one was a What If? Issue, where HYDRA brainwashed Wolverine into committing heinous deeds from them; the other was an alternate universe Wolverine (specifically from a reality called Earth-1720), who was loyal to HYDRA.
The brainwashed Wolverine was so powerful that he was able to kill Spider-Man, Magneto, and all of the Fantastic 4. As for the Earth-1720 version, he became a lover of Invisible Woman – who was the leader of HYDRA in this universe – and planned on conquering the main universe. We don’t need to list Wolverine’s abilities, especially when he was shown to have killed major characters.
3 Arnim Zola
In the MCU, the present day HYDRA would never have been able to exist had it not been for Arnim Zola. First of all, he was an agent for HYDRA throughout and after World War II, allowing him to nest the organisation within S.H.I.E.L.D. as a parasite.
He would then create an algorithm that could predict the future. Had Captain America not intervened, Zola’s computer form would’ve been able to take the lives of superheroes like Doctor Strange, and we all know Strange was the reason why the Avengers beat Thanos. Zola’s danger was such that the Earth itself would’ve been destroyed.
2 The Winter Soldier
His true personality wasn’t an agent of HYDRA, but the Winter Soldier got his name by being HYDRA’s brainwashed assassin. Bucky Barnes, in fact, spent the majority of his life as weapon that HYDRA used when they needed threats eliminated out of their way, and his powers are such that he can fight superheroes like Captain America, Iron Man, and Black Panther.
The Winter Soldier was vital for HYDRA’s plan to kill millions of potential threats to them in the MCU, and even in the comics, his deadly presence was felt when he took the life of Wolverine’s wife in 1946.
1 Captain America
In 2016, the comic book world was rocked when it was apparently revealed that Captain America had always been a HYDRA sleeper agent – we were even shown his memories as proof. Under the HYDRA banner, Steve Rogers completely fractured the Avengers; manipulating events that would drive the Avengers to take Bruce Banner’s life.
He would also seize control of S.H.I.E.L.D., and used an alien war as a cover to cement his control of the USA. Rogers didn’t stop there either, as he went forward with his plans to alter reality itself so that World War II’s result went in favor of HYDRA. Thankfully, all this as prevented when Rogers’ brainwashed mind was restored, although it meant extracting a new personality of Rogers into another body; thereby making two Steve Rogers.