* minor spoilers for Captain America: Civil War lurk within*
Captain America: Civil War is a tricky one to talk about in terms of villains, given that the central conflict is heavily focused upon an ideological division rather than a central antagonist.
But as Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch) said in an interview last year, Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl) is the central antagonist of the film, the one pulling the strings to further manipulate conflict between the two sides, and he's a fantastic addition to Marvel's cast of villainy.
And of course we still have The Winter Soldier hangover of Crossbones/Brock Rumlow (Frank Grillo) and the minor, but vital, addition of Vasily Karpov (Gene Farber) as part of the Winter Soldier's (Sebastian Stan) origin tale. But how do they compare to the pages from which they sprang? Let's take a look.
Without giving too much away, Crossbones doesn't have quite as big a role in [Captain America: Civil War](tag:994409) as we would've liked, but he's pretty important to the narrative regardless. The Winter Soldier left HYDRA agent Brock Rumlow badly scarred after Cap 'dropped a building on him' (as Rumlow accuses Cap of doing during the opening incident of the movie) and he's out for revenge in Civil War.
First appearing in the Marvel comics in the late 1980s, Crossbones has since emerged as a pretty formidable Captain America foe and ally of Cap's arch nemesis: the Red Skull. He had a brief run with the Thunderbolts too, before getting chucked off the team.
As a teenager, the young Brock Rumlow led a New York City gang, but fled to the Taskmaster's school for criminals after he killed an older boy. He eventually became an instructor at the school, then a mercenary for hire who was picked up by Albert Malik, the communist who assumed Red Skull's identity after the apparent death of Johann Schmidt.
Through this job, he wound up coming into contact with Schmidt who, impressed by his work, took him on and gave him the name Crossbones. Since then he's come into conflict with Captain America repeatedly, as well as Baron Zemo, Diamondback, Daredevil, Wolverine, Winter Soldier, and Falcon, and was directly involved in the "death" of Steve Rogers following the conclusion of the comic book Civil War.
The last we saw of Crossbones in the comic books, he was kicking around with Red Skull and Sin, trying to rebuild HYDRA. The last we saw of him in the MCU — well, I won't spoil that for you.
The name 'Baron Zemo' actually refers to more than one character in the Marvel universe, as it's a title passed down in a lineage from father to son. The two most prevalent of the comics were Heinrich Zemo and Helmut Zemo, both antagonists of Captain America and Bucky Barnes, both very similar in nature and appearance.
A sadistic (and later insane) genius, the elder Heinrich Zemo was a Nazi scientist battled repeatedly by Captain America during World War II. He wears a hood which is permanently bonded to his face by Adhesive X, a super powerful bonding substance he invented which he came into contact with during a fight with Cap.
His son, Helmut Zemo, also emerged years later as a supervillain opposing Captain America, whom he blamed for the death of his father. He also ended up wearing the hood almost permanently, as he fell into a vat of molten Adhesive X and was hideously scarred. You think they'd learn to keep a lid on this stuff but, apparently not.
The Baron Zemo we saw in Civil War was very different from both Heinrich and Helmut Zemo, in both appearance and motivation. Despite the fact that he's portrayed by a German actor, he's not even German, and he doesn't wear his trademark hood, nor does he have any connection to the Nazi party.
No, the Baron Zemo of Civil War is driven by a much more personal agenda, and it works wonders for both his character and the narrative which unfolds around him.
In the comics Karpov was a minor, but very important character. A Russian Soviet officer, he's involved in a joint operation with Captain America and Bucky Barnes to overthrow a Red Skull base in the Soviet village of Kronas during World War II.
During this operation Captain America managed to seriously outperform the rest of the soldiers, including Karpov — and this battle left Karpov seeking revenge for the perceived shame Cap cast upon him by being better than him in front of his own men.
When Captain America and Bucky Barnes were sent after Baron Zemo to stop a bomb threat in an experimental drone plane, the bomb detonated, dropping the two of them into the Atlantic Ocean. If you've seen Captain America: The First Avenger this probably sounds pretty familiar, but the big difference between the comics and the MCU here is that Bucky was in the plane with Cap when it exploded.
While Cap ended up frozen in ice until he was revived later by the Avengers, Bucky was presumably killed due to not being a super soldier. But of course he survived, and was found floating in the ocean by — yep — General Vasily Karpov, by then a major player in Department X.
Karpov revived and brainwashed Bucky as the Winter Soldier, pretty much entirely so he could get revenge upon Cap for making him look bad. Note to self: Don't piss off Soviet officers unless you want your best friend brainwashed as a weapon against you.
And the MCU Karpov? We learned in The Winter Soldier that it was Doctor Arnim Zola (Toby Jones) who brought Bucky back; but Karpov appears in Civil War flashbacks as the Winter Soldier's handler, the one who sent him on his missions for HYDRA.
He's a pretty minor character in the film, but is central to Baron Zemo's evil plan, and he's left his mark on the Winter Soldier forever, if not so much upon the MCU itself.
Who's your favorite Captain America villain? Tell us in the comments below!