NOTE: This article contains SPOILERS for U.S.Avengers #1
As far as movie fans are concerned, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has defined (at least for the moment) the absolute top heroes of their universe as the one of a kind Avengers, a roster filled with the likes of Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, and a few human teammates. But as comic fans know, the heroes who make up Marvel's chief super team are on a near-constant rotation - and given the fallout of Captain America: Civil War, the movie is soon to follow suit. And where the MCU has clung to one incarnation of the team, the world of Marvel Comics has almost too many variations or franchises to count.
That selection has increased by one, with the debut of Marvel's new U.S.Avengers, a collection of existing heroes embodying the ideals (or at least the attitude) of the United States. With an Iron Patriot, a Red Hulk, a Squirrel Girl and more, the series' first issue concludes with the addition of one more surprising member: a Captain America, plucked from the future to help the U.S.Avengers battle a similarly time-displaced nemesis. And, as is usually the case, the woman now wielding Cap's shield is no stranger to longtime fans of the Marvel Universe.
Danielle Cage: Captain America
Those who stick to the current world of Marvel Comics will best know 'Danielle Cage' as the infant daughter of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones (the product of a marriage sure to surprise fans of Marvel's Netflix programming). While still present in the universe as a child, the series Avengers: Ultron Forever released in 2015 leaped forward centuries in time, to an era when a returned Ultron had taken over the world. With only Doctor Doom left to oppose Ultron, the genius assembled a team plucked from disparate times to combat him - including Luke and Jessica's daughter from decades ahead of the current Marvel period, as that world's reigning Captain America.
In U.S.Avengers, Danielle's arrival is still a surprise to the present-day heroes. We don't yet know how this Cap will put her enhanced strength (a gift from her father) and unstoppable attitude (her mother's work) into action with the rest of the team, but since she debuts via a tear in the fabric of space-time, we're assuming she's got some explaining to do. It's certainly fitting that a new form of the Avengers should launch with their very own Captain America, but it may be the villain of the piece that's responsible for her return to the past.
The Golden Skull
The villain in question may not be the most chilling, imposing, or even familiar to most fans, but will likely pose a greater threat than the flying-weapons-platform-and-volcano-base thwarted by the U.S.Avengers in the debut issue (it's as incredible and wonderful as it sounds). 'The Golden Skull' made his initial appearance alongside Danielle's Cap in the "Ultron Forever" story, as a familiar foe in her future era (before she was teleported to the future mid-fight). He seemed at the time to be a simple, wealth-seeking troublemaker, but in the final pages of U.S.Avengers #1, he's giving a recruitment speech to swell his forces for an assault on America itself.
The fact that he may or may not be displaced in time as much as Danielle - as evidenced by the setting of his speech: apparently some form of pirate republic - only adds to the mystery surrounding him. Will Danielle recruit the new U.S.Avengers to take down Golden Skull in a different place and time? Or has the gilded villain set his sights on the U.S.Avengers, with Danielle running ahead to warn them of their coming doom?
The first issue may be hard to top, but with so many questions raised (and so much curiosity to know the answers) the second issue and its rise of the "$kullocracy" can't come soon enough.
U.S.Avengers #1 is available now.