I’ve just read the Captain America #1 “Hail Hydra” comic everyone is so upset about. It’s well written. It subtly underlines the fact that Hydra is literally multi-headed. None one organisation, but several. Led by people each pursuing their own agenda, and making the lost and hopeless into soldiers ready to give their lives. I can see that a deep plot by a division of Hydra might have gotten to Steve when he was young. I still don’t want Stever Rogers to be Hydra, and I hope it turns out to be counter-espionage. I’m still interested in following the series to see how it plays out.
I’m still #teamcap
If you’re anti-spoiler stop reading. Though I’m guessing you wouldn’t have opened a review article thinking it would be spoiler free. It’s not. Everyone knows the big one anyway, it’s been all over Facebook that Steve Rogers has been Hydra all along. What we don’t really know yet is how or why this happened. There are some great clues in Captain America #1 that remind me why I love comics so much.
The first clues come on the inside cover. They deliberately remind us he is a “Man Out of Time” and mentions a previous battle between Rogers and “a sentient Cosmic Cube named Kobik.” Those familiar with the comics might remember the cosmic cubes have a tendency to useful for time-travel. It also mentions two other players. Red Skull and Baron Zemo.
The comic starts in 1926, showing us a drunken Joseph Rogers beating his wife in front of his son on the streets of New York’s lower east side. They are interrupted by a woman dressed very fashionably, who saves Sarah Rogers, and young Steve, from her abusive husband. The woman’s name is Elisa Sinclair, and we’ve never heard of her before. This history is completely new. Steve Rogers begins to narrate the story, describing Elisa as a hero that inspired him.
Jump forward to present day and Steve continues to narrate as we see him smash his way onto a Hydra controlled train. We see what seems to be the same old cap completing a mission, to define and defuse a bomb. It turns out the bomb is a man named Robbie Dean Tomlin. Steve tells us Robbie had a rough childhood, failed school, failed at petty crime, and started out with the wrong people in prison and ended up at a recruitment rally for Hydra led by the enigmatic Red Skull. Robbie allows himself to be swept along, and is a completely broken man by the time he straps on the bomb vest. We see Cap try to talk Robbie out of it by mentioning that his mother misses him and wants him to come home. The ploy fails, and Robbie mutters “Hail Hydra” and dies in the explosion. How did Cap know so much about Robbie? It seems unlikely that Shield would bother to research a lone Hydra agent, especially such a loser.
We then get a cute scene between Cap and his girlfriend, Sharon Carter. Sharon bring up the cosmic cube girl briefly, console him over Robbie, and teases Steve that he’s easy to manipulate. Then we’re back in the past, and Elisa treats Sarah to a restaurant they have all to themselves thanks to Elisa’s influence. She expresses delight in the young Steve Rogers, who’s playing with a puppy, stating that he’s destined for greatness, that people will tell stories about him.
Back to the present, and three of Cap’s team are trading stories about Steve, and each other. It’s revealed that Free Spirit was created to kill men, that she was programmed, and establishes Jack Flag as an endearing rogue. A nice little segue on the way to a meeting with Director Hill of Shield, Sharon Carter and Steve Rogers. Hill reveals they tracked down Baron Zemo, who is holding Dr Erik Selvig hostage. We then cut to Zemo giving a little speech to some other minor supervillains about being the true masters of Hydra and taking down Red Skull.
That’s when Captain America and his new teammates Jack Flag and Free Spirit show up to break up the party. Zemo rabbits and Cap follows, ordering the other 2 to take down the other villains. The fight aboard a plane between Cap and Zemo leads to Rogers hanging out of a bomb-bay. His narration continues to talk about being a hero, and doing what’s right, in true form. We get a brief flashback in which Elisa talks about poverty, government inaction and staying strong, not giving up hope. Back to Zemo about to deliver the killing stroke to a helpless dangling Cap, when Jack Flag shows up and sucker-punches Zemo.
Only then do we get a final flashback in which Elisa pitches Hydra as solution to all of life’s problems, and present day Cap throws Jack Flag out of the plane and delivers the controversial “Hail Hydra” next to a bound and gagged Erik Selvig.
As one Redditor already suggested, the likely conclusion to all these subtle clues and hints, is that Red Skull, or Zemo, sent Elisa back in time to indoctrinate Steve Rogers long before he ever became Captain America. Someone is going to have to save Cap from himself, and fix the timeline. Personally, I’d like to see Rogers recognise the flaws in Hydra, just as Robbie did, and instead of just going with it, challenge them. I’d like to see him discover Red Skulls plot, perhaps even bump into Elisa, and work through the conditioning just like Free Spirit did. I am confident that Steve can overcome anything that Hydra can throw at him. Even this.