[Warning: Contains SPOILERS for Captain America: Steve Rogers #8.]
Nobody likes a turncoat. In fact, we would be willing to guess that in the deep, dark realm of Marvel's own version of Hell, there's a special place for them made with care by the fans themselves (somewhere between the frustrating Spider-Man story “One More Day” and the awful reboot Heroes Reborn). However, Nick Spencer’s traitorous twist in Captain America: Steve Rogers may be one of this year’s most fascinating and engrossing storylines.
Since being converted into an agent of Hydra – thanks to Red Skull tricking a little girl (who’s actually a Cosmic Cube) into thinking he was a nice man with nice values – Cap has given his all for the future of Hydra, especially if it's one without Red Skull. He’s deceived his one-time friends, set Bruce Banner up for a fall, and plotted to take down the Avengers. But his latest scheme could be, by far, his biggest and most insidious betrayal yet.
Steve Rogers, Hydra's Chosen One
The eighth chapter of "Captain America: Steve Rogers" continues the temporally interwoven story, flashing back to his formative years. Steve and his new friend Helmut Zemo play a prank on their professor – at the behest of their fellow students. However, as they scurry back to beat curfew, Steve crashes into an imposing figure – who happens to be Helmut’s father, Baron Zemo the 12th. The elder Zemo has arrived to confer with the Hydra heads at The Keep (the indoctrination camp where young Steve lives), including Elisa Sinclair, Dr. Sebastian Fenhoff, and The Kraken.
Steve and Helmut spy on the meeting, observing the debate over Red Skull’s decision to ally Hydra with the Nazis. Most of the group reluctantly accepts the move as fate – since certain prophecies have revealed Hydra's alignment with a rising military force, one which also dabbles in the occult. Despite the relatively uniform decision, Elisa, the woman who brought Steve Rogers into the fold, disagrees with their action and decides to pursue other alternate angles for the covert fascist organization. Before she departs, though, she suggests to the Kraken that her visions aren’t of Hitler leading Hydra to glory, but rather Steve Rogers.
Quasar Stops A Chitauri Attack (For Now)
Back in the present, Captain Marvel and Alpha Flight have been assailed by wave after wave of Chitauri warriors. Although the reason behind their attacks is unclear, the hive-minded species' instinctual drive and tenacity make them formidable opponents but not-too-challenging to beat in smaller numbers, as Carol Danvers and team defeat the latest wave, thanks to the help of Captain America – who stopped by Alpha Flight Station for a meeting. They discover that yet another Chitauri assault is on its way, though, one far larger than before. As a result, Steve, Carol, and Maria Hill of S.H.I.E.L.D. all scramble to secure some backup.
Tucked away at a covert S.H.I.E.L.D. base, the latest Quasar, Avril Kincaid, is training under the tutelage of former cosmic hero Wendell Vaughan. While exploring her powers, she taps into her Cosmic Awareness, sensing the approach of the substantial hostile force. Tapping into her powers, she zooms into space, managing to dissipate the entire Chitauri wave. While everyone else celebrates, Captain America stews in his juices, as he isn’t thrilled about their method of victory. He also feels that Avril’s powers were used before she was fully trained, putting her at risk.
Of course, Steve Rogers also has an ulterior motive for his concern. Losing his mentorship to Quasar would also mean losing her Cosmic Awareness, which would scuttle another means to track down Kobik, the child form of a Cosmic Cube.
Steve Sets Up the Planet for Hydra
After chastising Captain Marvel and Agent Hill, he asks the young Quasar-in-training for a favor: locate Bucky Barnes after his escape from a S.H.I.E.L.D. prison facility, and in particular the Thunderbolts' young ward, Kobik. Rogers not only understands the child's abilities but also her naive nature. At any point, her sympathies towards Hydra (thanks to Red Skull’s influence) could vanish thanks to the Thunderbolts goodwill. Attaining and using a powerful cosmic entity is one of his most pressing missions, but it's only one facet of Cap’s master plan.
In the latest twist, Cap scribe Nick Spencer reveals that Steve Rogers is also responsible for the Chitauri attack. He’s motivated the “dogged” alien forces to wage war on Earth hoping that it will destabilize the world's power base, giving him and Hydra a window of opportunity to take over. His method for motivating their assaults, though is simple; He's holding their queen captive on an unassuming Montana farm.
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Managing to survive the second Civil War seems to have only deepened Captain America’s drive to put his nefarious plans into action. Nick Spencer’s slow-burn of a plot (with a lot of payoff along the way) has consistently kept readers off-balance, rarely tipping his hand as to what dark corridor of Steve's Hydra-fied mind we'll head down next. Although by no fault of his own (per se), Cap has become one of Marvel’s most industrious and dangerous new menaces.
His incredible powers and keen mind have managed kept him alive and scheming, despite playing just about every side against each other. While one small slipped gear could slip and cause his chaos machine to collapse, he seems to have just about every contingency covered. The real reason for concern in the Marvel Universe is what would happen if Rogers actually succeeded. But that wouldn’t happen, right? We certainly hope not… but it sure would make things interesting.
Captain America: Steve Rogers #8 is available online and in stores.