The Comic That Secretly Influences ‘Captain America 2′ (And May Pave the Way For Marvel’s Entire Future)
As its title implies, 'Captain America 2' is largely inspired by Ed Brubaker and artist Steve Epting's celebrated, Eisner-award winning comic book storyline "The Winter Soldier." Although ultimately very different from what transpires in the big screen version, the broad strokes remain the same: Steve Rogers finds himself hunting, and being hunted by, a ruthless assassin who may or may not be his supposedly dead best friend, Bucky Barnes.
The movie uses Brubaker's Captain America run to fuel the first half of the film and provide an antagonist who can serve as an emotionally hard-hitting threat to the star-spangled Avenger. However, while it's the most obvious, it's not the only Marvel comic run heavily quoted in the film. There's another acclaimed comic series that not only informs the biggest twists of 'Captain America 2,' but suggests what crazy new direction the Marvel cinematic universe is heading toward on both the big and small screens.
We are now entering a spoiler-zone. If you haven't seen 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' and want to remain unspoiled this is where your turn around and flee with your hands over your ears.
The comic in question is 'Secret Warriors' by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev and written Jonathan Hickman and artist Stefano Caselli*. A tough, gritty espionage series in the same vein as Brubaker's Captain America run, the comic follows a team of young, super-powered black ops agents under the direct command of Nick Fury against the backdrop of a truly tumultuous Marvel universe.
And by truly tumultuous, I mean "S.H.I.E.L.D. has been disbanded following a disaster that threatened millions of lives and has been replaced with a new organization called H.A.M.M.E.R. run by Spider-Man baddie Norman Osborn." With the spy agency he used to run dismantled and thousands of agents and soldiers left in limbo between a dead S.H.I.E.L.D. and a corrupt H.A.M.M.E.R., the one-eyed, two-fisted Nick Fury goes completely rogue and assembles his own underground team to save the world.
Fury's Secret Warriors ultimately embark on all kinds of deadly and morally murky missions, but their biggest threat is one of the Marvel Universe's oldest enemies emerging from a completely unexpected place. The first issue of 'Secret Warriors' concludes with Fury hacking a computer in a forgotten S.H.I.E.L.D. base and learning an awful truth: the spy agency he's dedicated his life to is, and always was, under the control of the villainous Hydra group for the purpose of obtaining intelligence on the good guys and taking down the competition.
If S.H.I.E.L.D. being disbanded and revealed to be one of the many arms of Hydra sounds familiar, that's because those are the big third act twists of 'Captain America 2'. There's a reason Marvel has been so open about the identity of the Winter Soldier and have only talked about the film's allegiance to Brubaker's classic work - if they had even mentioned drawing material from 'Secret Warriors,' they would have given away their biggest and most unexpected twists. Now that's awesome misdirection.
As with the material drawn from the original Winter Soldier storyline, the exact details of the story beats taken from 'Secret Warriors' have been changed, but the impact stays the same. Robert Redford's Hydra turncoat Alexander Pierce is mostly unique to the film (he exists in the comics, but in a different fashion), but the reveal of his true intentions certainly match the big twists on the comic page. In the end, the results are pretty much identical: S.H.I.E.L.D. is gone, its agents and heroes are without a home and Hydra is responsible for decades of top secret harm against the American government and the citizens of the world.
However, there's more to this than interesting fanboy trivia. The bulk of 'Secret Warriors' takes place after these massive revelations and after re-reading the series, it paints the potential future of the Marvel cinematic universe in a brand new light.
The biggest impact will be on ABC's 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,' which will enter its second season with the title agency dismantled. So how do you have 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' when there is no S.H.I.E.L.D.? Simple: you follow Hickman and Caselli's lead and put the team underground and on the run, fighting threats and supervillans from the shadows. There's no way Samuel L. Jackson will jump to television, but Clark Gregg's Agent Phil Coulson is the perfect substitute for Nick Fury, leading his scrappy band of agents in the battle against evil with almost no resources or support. You couldn't ask for a better way to raise the stakes. I wouldn't put it past the show to crib more from 'Secret Warriors' and bring some of the comics' lesser-known super-powered characters like Quake and Druid to the ensemble. In fact, I highly recommend it.
But the 'Secret Warriors' influence may spread to future big screen adventures as well. We know that actor Thomas Kretschmann will make a small appearance as the monocled and megalomaniacal villain Baron von Strucker in 'The Avengers 2,' but we also know that he's signed on for additional films. In true Marvel Studios fashion, Kretschmann has been sworn to secrecy, but we can make an educated guess: von Strucker will be the main villain of 'Captain America 3.'
Baron von Strucker is the big bad of 'Secret Warriors,' the villain who picks up Hydra's reins after S.H.I.E.L.D. is dismantled. When the series begins, he takes advantage of the situation to seize billions of dollars in abandoned S.H.I.E.L.D. assets, form a central leadership of deadly Marvel villains and, of course, plot world domination. In the comics, his chief rivalry is with Nick Fury, but with a few adjustments, this could easily be the plot of the next Captain America film. After all, both Cap films so far have seen Steve Rogers waging a war against Hydra and there's no way Marvel Studios would cast a Hydra bigwig like von Strucker, commit him to several films and not follow a storyline this good. This storyline is perfect material for a direct sequel to the events of 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier,' taking the cataclysmic events of that film to the next logical stage.
I'm no psychic and I'm no scoop hunter - just a humble comic book reader. Everything I've written here is observation and suggestion and for all I know, the Marvel movies and TV shows are going to go in a completely different direction. However, as a card-carrying geek and a comic fan, I will say that taking additional bits from 'Secret Warriors' is a fantastic idea. Like with Brubaker's "The Winter Soldier," you should only steal from the best.
[*Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly omitted both Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev as co-creators of The Secret Warriors. ScreenCrush regrets the error.]