It’s been clear since the early issues of Captain America: Steve Rogers that the titular hero has some fundamental differences with Hydra’s supreme leader the Red Skull. In the lead up to Secret Empire, Captain America: Steve Rogers #15 from writer Nick Spencer and artists Javier Pina and Andres Guinaldo answers the question of how Steve came to serve the Red Skull specifically, and what he plans to do about that.
Spoilers ahead for Captain America: Steve Rogers #15.
Captain America: Steve Rogers #15 picks up threads left in recent issues of Uncanny Avengers in which the Avengers Unity Squad has captured Red Skull and successfully removed Prof. X’s brain from his body, leaving him in S.H.I.E.L.D. custody, only to be broken out by Steve.
As Skull’s daughter, Sin, brings the now powerless villain home, scenes from the past are inserted, showing Captain America confronting Red Skull in World War II. As the enemies finally prepare to clash, Steve is stopped in his tracks when he learns that Red Skull has captured Helmut Zemo, Steve’s best friend. On top of that, most of Hydra, who Steve believes will oppose the Red Skull, has joined the Skull’s cause.
In the present day, Steve confronts the Skull, telling him he’s corrupted Hydra and his reign is over. Meanwhile, Sharon Carter is trying to get the situation in Sokovia, where Red Skull’s puppet dictator has officially been overthrown, allowing Hydra to take control. A pre-recorded messaged – filmed prior to Red Skull’s capture – shows that Sokovia has a small stockpile of nuclear weapons. As Carter, acting as director in Steve’s absence, tries to formulate a response, the security council tells her to stand down as they require Steve’s presence to make these decisions. Sharon ignores their orders, readying a response team.
Back at Red Skull’s mansion, Steve threatens his former master, who desperately tries to explain that he changed Steve’s mind with the Cosmic Cube. Skull calls for help from Sin and Crossbones – both of whom ignore his cries as Steve throws him to his death on the rocks at the bottom of the cliff below his headquarters. Sin and Crossbones pledge their loyalty to Steve, whose army of villains is gathering.
In a final flashback to the 40s, Elisa explains to Steve that the allies have a superweapon that will end the war – a Cosmic Cube.
Captain America: Steve Rogers #16 is due out on April 19, alongside Secret Empire #0.