Graphic Novel Review: Captain America: Steve Rogers: Hail Hydra

Captain America; Steve Rogers: Hail Hydra

Captain America; Steve Rogers: Hail Hydra - Credit: Archant

He’s back! The original Sentinel of Liberty returns, with a new shield, a new team, and a new mission! And he’s not the only one who’s back! Like the saying goes - cut off one head, two more will take its place! Hail Hydra!

(Panini Books) SPOILER ALERT! Do not continue if you are not aware of the plot of this series...

You have been warned.

The internet almost imploded following the first issue of the latest Captain America series, when the Sentinel of Liberty, embodiment of the American Dream and living legend of the Second World War, uttered the shocking words: “Hail Hydra!”

The revelations kept on coming, as we learned that not only was Steve Rogers currently a card-carrying devotee of the fascist organisation, but he had been since the days of his childhood. Recruited by Hydra as a boy, he was conditioned into adopting their beliefs in order to fulfil a prophecy of greatness, one which eventually saw fruition when he became the only survivor of the Super Soldier process.

As Avenger Captain America, he may have appeared to represent truth, justice and the American way, yet this was just a front for his covert work to bring about the eventual rise and dominance of Hydra. Make no mistake, this isn’t Rogers carrying out an elaborate double-bluff, he lives and breathes the ethos and aims of Hydra with every fibre of his being.

So how did one of the Marvel Universe’s most upright costumed champions end up tainted by the world’s deadliest terrorist organisation? The answers lie not only in Rogers’ rejuvenation during the recent events in Pleasant Hill (see Avengers: Standoff), but also in the manipulations of the Red Skull, who succeeds in actually re-writing established history thanks to his control of a self-aware Cosmic Cube.

So in this rebooted timeline, not only is Captain America now an agent of Hydra, but thanks to the Red Skull’s schemes, he has been under the influence of the group since the 1920s, and is comfortable murdering in cold blood on their behalf.

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And even as we come to terms with this mind-blowing revelation, other secrets are revealed, including Rogers’ behind-the-scenes activities during the events of Civil War II.

It’s a bold undertaking by writer Nick Spencer to so dramatically shake-up the history of a Marvel stalwart like Steve Rogers, and one might eventually expect him to hit the cosmic re-set button to restore things to how they had been, but such a deus ex machina seems beneath Spencer’s abilities, and we might find ourselves having to accept that Steve Rogers is now and forever a member of Hydra.

But for all the shocks and surprises, Spencer and artists Jesus Saiz and Javier Pina also manage to tell a story which weaves blockbuster action, historical narrative and spy drama in equal measure, leaving the reader in no doubt that they are along for perhaps the most thrilling ride in Captain America’s long history. Exceptional.