When it was revealed last year that Captain America was secretly a Hydra double agent, longtime fans of the character thought that it was the most bizarre, ridiculous idea that had ever appeared in comics. The controversy brought in criticism from many vocal aspects of the comics community, as well as the wider Marvel fandom who were primarily familiar with Captain America from the movies.
At the time, it seemed like this story point was little more than a publicity stunt, and that it would resolve itself rather quickly in order to avoid tarnishing Captain America’s reputation. As it turned out, though, writer Nick Spencer had big plans for HydraCap, and intended to use him as a major villain for over a year.
Now, we’re approaching the Secret Empire crossover comic event, in which evil Steve Rogers’ plan comes to fruition as Hydra attempts to conquer the world. Along the road to this event, HydraCap has done some despicable things, that there’s been plenty of moments of controversy as fans have reacted negatively to some of the storylines, and even the marketing campaigns, that have appeared over time.
In order to help anyone interested in Secret Empire to catch up on what Captain America has been up to, here are some of the weirdest and most bizarre things that the character has been doing while secretly working as an agent of Hydra. Whether it involves befriending literal Nazis or murdering heroes and villains on both sides of the war, Cap’s got his hands dirty on plenty of occasions, and it seems that this is all about to catch up to him as Secret Empire brings the story to a head.
Here are the 15 Most WTF Things HydraCap Has Done.
15. Sets a Group of Dangerous Criminals Loose in New York
Captain America was initially corrupted by the Kobik, the Cosmic Cube in human form, that had been used by S.H.I.E.L.D. to rewrite supervillains by turning them into ordinary productive members of a small community called Pleasant Hill.
After Steve Rogers is turned into a Hydra agent using this same power, he decides that he needed to grow in influence and power in order to enforce Hydra’s rule upon the world. To do so, he takes the Emperor Palpatine approach to politics, by playing both sides of the conflict, orchestrating supervillain attacks while simultaneously cleaning up after them to help boost his public image.
The culmination of this comes when, in order to spread the Avengers as thinly as possible around the world, he lets a bunch of former Pleasant Hill residents – now reverted to their supervillain forms – loose on New York City. This isn’t a great thing for the heroes of the Marvel universe, and it’s a pretty awful thing to do in general.
14. Leaves Captain Marvel to Die in the Vacuum of Space
Part of HydraCap’s growing power and influence involves gaining control of a large, planet-wide force field that keeps all unwanted visitors locked away. Yes, it sounds like a borrowed idea from Spaceballs, but if it it’s good enough for Rogue One, it’s good enough for Marvel.
Throughout his time as a secret agent of Hydra, Steve Rogers manipulates the Avengers in order to secure more power for himself. Sometimes, in this process, members of the team outlive their usefulness, and Cap, knowing that he’s going to have to dispose of all the heroes eventually, isn’t against making things easier for himself by ditching dead weight when he thinks he can get away with it.
This leads to a particularly harsh move from Rogers when Captain Marvel, following an intense space battle, requests that he lowers the planetary shield so that she can return home. Instead, HydraCap keeps the shield up, despite Carol Danvers’ protests, and abandons her to die cold and alone in the empty blackness of space.
13. Manipulates Iron Man into Fighting Civil War II
Tony Stark learned a lot of important lessons from the first superhero Civil War. Chief among these is that superheroes fighting each other is a great way to make money if you’re a government contractor, but a terrible way to make friends.
As such, throughout Civil War II, Tony constantly questions whether he’s doing the right thing in opposing Captain Marvel on the subject of using the psychic Ulysses to lock up criminals before they’ve committed crimes.
The only reason Tony continues to fight is because of the gentle encouragement of his longtime friend, Captain America. Tony reasons that if the Star Spangled Man is on his side, he must be doing the right thing after all.
Little does Tony know that Cap wants him to fail, and is encouraging him so that he’ll overexert himself and tear the heroes apart. It’s a plan that works perfectly, and Iron Man pays the price for his trust in Steve Rogers.
12. Triggers a Chitauri Invasion of Earth
Nothing helps military forces gain additional power and resources quite like a good war, and with HydraCap eager to take advantage of his power and influence, all he needs is a good invasion of Earth in order to conquer the planet himself by stealth.
Heck, if the people of the Marvel universe will gladly make psychopath billionair Norman Osborn the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. if he manages to kill an alien queen, imagine what they’d do for Captain America if he stops a similar threat!
There’s just one problem – Earth isn’t being invaded by aliens. That’s not a problem for HydraCap, though, who’s happy to engineer his own invasion of Earth if it means furthering his own goals.
By manipulating the alien Chitauri race through the use of an Earth-grown Chitaur Queen egg, Cap is able to trigger an invasion of the planet that helps to further weaken the Avengers, all while making Steve Rogers look like even more of a hero.
11. Enrolls in Hydra Academy
One of the biggest surprises awaiting comic readers as events push towards Secret Empire is the notion that Captain America isn’t just brainwashed – the Cosmic Cube has literally rewritten Earth’s history so that the Nazi’s won World War II, and within this new timeline, Cap has always been a secret Hydra agent all along.
This, of course, makes the Marvel timeline very confusing, and there are a lot of big gaps in readers’ understanding of how everything fits together. The story involves a second, man-made Cosmic Cube that the Allied forces use following World War II to “fix” Hitler’s victory, which is designed to explain why Steve has been a hero for years.
Before this second cube is deployed, though, a young, indoctrinated Steve Rogers enrolls in an academy that was run by Hydra agents. There, he learned a series of espionage skills, in addition to being further brainwashed by Hydra ideology, before being sent as a spy to infiltrate America’s Super Soldier experiments, leading to him becoming Captain America.
10. Becomes Best Friends with Baron Zemo
Fans of Captain America: Civil War (the movie) will remember Zemo, a simply, ordinary man, who uses an incredibly convoluted scheme to get Steve Rogers and Tony Stark tearing at each other’s throats, as revenge for Stark’s invention of Ultron and subsequent destruction of Sokovia.
In the comics, though, Baron Zemo is a longtime leader of Hydra, who has historically opposed Captain America. The pair have been sworn enemies for decades, as their clashing world views place them on opposite sides of plenty of battles.
In this new timeline, though, it’s revealed that Baron Zemo is secretly Captain America’s best friend. Having met at school, the pair trust each other completely, and Baron Zemo acts out a lot of Steve Rogers’ secret evil plans. It’s a real change from the traditional Marvel canon, and something that has left a lot of readers scratching their heads.
9. Kills the Red Skull
Comics fans who haven’t been keeping up with the many twists and turns of Captain America’s time as a Hydra agent may be surprised to hear that Steve Rogers kills off the group’s supreme leader, the Red Skull. After all, as the Red Skull was instrumental in turning Cap to the dark Side, it would make sense that Steve Rogers would be loyal to him.
But within the modern Hydra there are two separate, warring factions. On the one side is the Red Skull’s traditional, uniformed evil that still looks to all the world like a relic of World War II. The other side is the sneakier, more hidden secret organization of racists and zealots who stay hidden in the shadows until they’re needed.
Cap figures that for Hydra to succeed, the Red Skull needs to be deposed as the leader of the organization. This makes room for a new High Council, which supports a more subtle approach to world domination.
8. Attempts to Confiscate Professor X’s Psychic Brain
Just so we’re clear, comic books make no sense. In a comic book, it’s completely logical for a supervillain like the Red Skull to steal the brain of the world’s most powerful telepath (who died during the events of Avengers vs X-Men), and have part of it inserted into his own head in order to gain psychic powers for himself.
After the Red Skull is defeated, it’s also logical that performing some simply surgery can remove this part of the brain, along with its psychic powers, so that the Red Skull can return to normal, and the X-Men can keep Professor X’s long dead powers safe from those who’d want to steal them.
It’s also apparently logical for Captain America to try and grab the brain for himself, attempting to persuade Rogue, the current leader of the X-Men, to hand over Professor X’s grey matter.
Thankfully, Rogue instead escapes with the brain, and Cap doesn’t get his hands on it. This all does serve as a perfect reminder that any weird concept can be written into comics without any of the creators batting an eye.
7. Uses a Dimensional Portal to Trap New York in Darkness
In addition to every other nefarious plot that HydraCap has used to further his own goals and weaken his superhero opponents, the secret supervillain has taken inspiration from Joss Whedon’s Angel by plunging New York City into permanent, inescapable darkness in order to keep the city’s heroes on their toes.
But because this is a comic book, this process involves more than just a major blackout by turning off the city’s electricity. Instead, Captain America orders Baron Zemo to let a dangerous supervillain named Blackout pull dark energy out of an alternate dimension in order to drown New York in darkness.
This is bad news for the whole city, but particularly dangerous for the various superheroes still active within New York, especially as Steve Rogers wants them all out of the way so they can’t mess with Hydra’s plans.
6. Murders Bucky by Strapping Him to a Rocket
Part of the problem with an altered timeline that makes Captain America best friends with Baron Zemo is that Steve Rogers’ former best friend, Bucky, is still kicking around, making things more difficult for Hydra’s nefarious plans.
The solution? Cap simply lets Baron Zemo remove the problem, by simplifying the BFF love triangle through a good old fashioned murder, albeit one that involves an enormous missile.
Bucky having proven hard to kill in the past, Zemo ties the Winter Soldier to a large bomb before launching it in an effort to murder Bucky. This parallels the death of Zemo’s father, who was killed when Bucky tied him to a missile years previously.
In a prerecorded goodbye message to his former bestie, Cap explains that Zemo is his real best friend, making Bucky’s situation all the more dire as he sees his idol betray him in the worst possible way.
5. Orchestrates a Suicide Bombing
During Captain America’s staged Chitauri invasion of Earth, one big thing gets in the way of the alien forces actually posing a threat. As the planet has a fully active, very effect (and also Captain Marvel-proof) force field, HydraCap’s invasion force can’t actually get to Earth to start wrecking the joint.
This is when a Hydra terrorist, dispatched by Captain America himself, heads to the force field’s government base, in order to try and destroy it. The suicide bomber blows himself up, and the shield fails, allowing the Chitauri to descend onto the planet below.
The worse part of this, though, is that the bomber was purely for show. In reality, Captain America shut the planetary defense shield down himself, using the terrorist attack as an excuse to push for more emergency powers, ostensibly to fight Hydra forces, which are then used for the exact opposite purpose.
4. Convinces Magneto to Join Hydra
While this point is only tangentially related to Captain America’s own actions, it does play a large part in understanding why the Secret Empire event is being so poorly received by comic fans across the globe.
One promotional variant cover for an upcoming issue of Secret Empire shows X-Men villain/antihero Magneto siding with Captain America’s Hydra forces. This has caused outrage throughout the comics community, simply because, as with Steve Rogers joining Hydra, this action is completely out of character for Magneto.
The master of magnetism has long been portrayed as both Jewish, and a victim of Nazi oppression. The most famous version of his backstory (as seen in the X-Men movies) involves a young Erik being held at Auschwitz, leading him to hate the Nazi regime and all those who brand themselves similarly, including Hydra.
Secret Empire writer Nick Spencer appears to have claimed on Twitter that this comic cover doesn’t actually reflect the story within the comic itself, but either way, this is one element of Captain America’s evil world domination plan that has left a lot of fans with a poor taste in their mouths.
3. Gets Deadpool to Kill Phil Coulson
Poor Phil Coulson – this is one character who simply can’t catch a break. having died in the MCU film canon and been resurrected in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Phil’s life simply seems to get more complicated in the show, even while the movies refuse to acknowledge his return from the dead.
Meanwhile, in the comics, poor old Phil is one of the only people on Earth to have discovered Captain America’s dark secret, and this of course makes him a target for all of Hydra. An early preview comic shows Phil’s beloved flying car, Lola, being shot out of the sky by Deadpool of all people, as he races to regroup with trusted allies.
Readers will have to wait patiently to see the resolution of this story, but it seems that Coulson might be a key player in bringing down HydraCap – if only he can convince Deadpool to spare his life.
2. Holds Mjolnir
A lot has been made in recent comics about the power of Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, and the people who are worthy to hold it. Only one who is worthy can use the hammer to gain the power of Thor, and while Captain America has proven worthy in the past, it would seem strange that at this time, when Odinson himself isn’t worthy to wield his most famous weapon, an evil version of Steve Rogers would be able to do so.
One of this year’s Free Comic Book Day offerings from Marvel will be a short Secret Empire story which sees Captain America holding Thor’s hammer aloft, proving himself worthy, despite his nefarious evil schemes.
While we don’t yet know how this story will be addressed in the comic, it certainly is a strange twist on the hammer’s classic lore, and, according to writer Nick Spencer, is bizarre enough to make one early reader scream out loud. Whatever Cap plans to do with the hammer, it’s going to be big.
1. Tries to Turn Real Life Comic Shops into Hydra Bases
Another tangential element of the entire HydraCap debacle is Marvel’s controversial attempts to market Supervillain Steve Rogers to comics fans by turning real world locations into Hydra bases.
As part of this plan, Marvel has been trying to convince real world brick and mortar comic shops to wear all new uniforms and even replace their store logos with the Hydra symbol, in order to show just how far Captain America’s reach extends.
Needless to say, comic store owners across the country are less than thrilled to see Marvel trying to convince them to dress up as Nazis. The move has generated plenty of hate from the comic community, with many stores expressing their outrage at this bizarre move, and some even going so far as to pull their orders for Secret Empire entirely, refusing to stock the book at all.
There’s been a lot of weird goings on during Captain America’s short stint as a supervillain, and while it’s unlikely that he’ll continue being an evil Hydra agent after Secret Empire concludes, there’s every chance that things are going to get even more bizarre before the end of the current major comics event.
HydraCap is a perfect example of the kind of temporary weirdness that comes from comic writers’ desperate need to constantly produce new, compelling stories based around characters that have been floating around in the public consciousness for over half a century.
One day, HydraCap will simply be a brief footnote on the history of Captain America’s wider legacy. Until then, fans of the character can only watch and wait to see just how strange the Secret Empire event will turn out to be.