Spoilers in review

The events of the Pleasant Hill incident related in Sam Wilson Captain America: Standoff saw Steve Rogers restored to his youthful physical prime, but there have been other changes and they’re going to require quite the suspension of disbelief. It’s also very difficult to review Hail Hydra without the spoiler, and what’s to be revealed is so fundamental it’ll probably outweigh all other aspects in any decision about how good the story otherwise is.

Nick Spencer’s asking the readership to believe that not only is Captain America now acting to further the agenda of global terrorist organisation Hydra, but that he’s always been working for them. Now, considering how many times he’s been responsible for bringing down the group in the past that’s a mighty big leap. On the other hand anyone who’s read Standoff in the Sam Wilson Captain America series probably has a vague idea regarding what’s happened, and if they haven’t, Spencer lays everything out in his second chapter. It’s the Red Skull’s ultimate victory. He’s schemed before, but this time the means for greater ambition has pretty well fallen into his lap, and Spencer doesn’t try to pull the wool over our eyes. He lays out what’s happened, how everything’s now changed, and over the following chapters always drops back to Steve Rogers’ revised past for a few pages, beginning when he was a young child.

There are some neat touches for those immersed enough in Captain America’s history to pick up on them. One is a replay of the pivotal scene in which Captain America and Bucky Barnes are chasing Baron Zemo at the end of World War II, the incident in which it was presumed for decades that Bucky had died. However, after three really absorbing chapters, the storyline is sucked into the morass that was Civil War II, and parts of it make little sense without reading that, and others that make sense enough aren’t followed up in this collection, but somewhere else. Adding to the disappointment is the drop down to the art of Javier Pina from Jesús Saiz. They’re both technically good, but Saiz is by some distance a more imaginative artist, laying out his pages with a dynamism lacking on those Pina produces.

So, half a really good book, but one that could have been far better if not for Marvel’s misguided belief that everything should be forced into their summer crossovers. The loyal Hydra agent Captain America continues in The Trial of Maria Hill.