As Marvel Comics readers are well aware, Steve Rogers is back in prime form, as youthful and strong as ever. At least, physically speaking. When it comes to his mental state, that's another issue entirely since Mr. Rogers is now a sleeper agent serving Hydra.
That shocking revelation, that the original Captain America was a "bad guy" all along came at the end of Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 and was quickly explained in issue #2. In the following two issues since, namely today's release of #4 by writer Nick Spencer with art by Javier Pina, the story of Steve Rogers has taken a few additional twists and turns while setting up a larger story and connections to Marvel's Civil War II.
*Warning: Spoilers ahead for Captain America: Steve Rogers #1-4*
First, let's recap. In issue #1 the original Captain America returned to fighting form with a new costume and weaponized shield. He's back thanks to the sentient Cosmic Cube named Kobik who takes the form and personality of a little girl. By the end of the issue, Rogers kicks his loyal ally Jack Flag out of a Quinjet where he seemingly fell to his death, all so Steve could rescue Eric Selvig. Both Selvig and Rogers are revealed to be secretly serving the Red Skull, with Selvig being the leading mind on studying the Cosmic Cube.
Issue #2 reveals that Kobik looks up to Red Skull and his Hydra plans as a way towards peace and good in the world, and that Red Skull's subtle and patient manipulation of her inadvertently saw her change Selvig into a loyal servant of Hydra. Realizing how useful an asset she can truly be now, albeit a difficult to control one, Skull sets up something similar for his oldest arch nemesis, Cap. Knowing that the girl’s personality would force her to save old man Steve in a fight against Crossbones during the Pleasant Hill conflict and not only return him to his youth, but imbue him with the "peaceful" ways of Hydra - the Red Skull's master plan is revealed. The result was Kobik having altered reality, rewriting the history of Steve Rogers which explained how and why he's been a long time Hydra sleeper agent.
Throughout the present day story, the Captain America: Steve Rogers issues also include flashbacks to Steve as a child in the 1920s, detailing exactly how his history is being rewritten by Kobik. Steve's father is abusive, and Steve's mother Sarah gets help from a seemingly wealthy, caring woman named Elisa Sinclair who we learn is recruiting for Hydra. Issues #3 and #4 take a dark turn on the backstory, first showing Sarah succeeding as part of Elisa's group of community helpers and then showing Elisa kill Sarah's abusive husband before coming to her apartment where things don't go according to plan. Elisa has big plans for Steve with no parental interference.
Meanwhile, present day super soldier Steve reports to Red Skull revealing that his mission didn't go according to plan either - that Jack Flag actually survived his fall and must be eliminated since he knows Steve's true allegiance. Steve had crashed the Quinjet, seemingly killing Selvig as per Red Skull's orders to eliminate him - but in another twist, Steve's own agenda is revealed. Cap is definitely Hydra, but in typical Hydra fashion, he has his own idea for what that means and it directly conflicts with the Red Skull's ideas.
Now the hunt is on for Kobik who's working with Bucky Barnes and the Thunderbolts. Cap knows this and wants to get her back but she may not want to join Steve, even though she's responsible for who he now is. Throughout issue #4 we start to also see how Steve's story intertwines with Civil War II. Thanos for instance, when he came to Earth during the Civil War II intro, was actually after Kobik and Steve's now employing any method necessary to locate her.
Issue #4 also begins to setup future storylines by including Quasar and her mentor, Wendell Vaughn, but the most notable highlight is seeing Captain America display just how lethal he can be when unleashed from his traditional morals. We won't go into spoilers on that stuff but let's just say that Steve Rogers is in a position to be one of the most dangerous villains of the Marvel Universe should he continue down this path and succeed with his plans...
Captain America: Steve Rogers #4 is now available. Captain America: Steve Rogers #5, a Civil War II tie-in, releases September 28, 2016.