(Warning: The following contains major SPOILERS for some mid-90s Avengers comic-books, as well as for the recently released Steve Rogers: Captain America #1...which the internet has probably already ruined for you. Proceed with whatever level of caution that suggests to you is wise...)
Now, comic-books may originate in a world largely defined by moral grey areas and ethical uncertainty, but that hasn't stopped them from spending much of the past seventy-five or so years offering up a vision of a world in which some heroes are absolutely, perfectly good, and some villains a truly, simply evil. There are anti-heroes and sympathetic antagonists in between, but they have historically always lain somewhere in the middle of a spectrum book-ended by absolute good and absolute evil.
That certainty, though, might just be changing.
(Note, this is where those aforementioned SPOILERS come in, hence the presence below of a conveniently placed topless Captain America. Probably best not to proceed beyond his shiny abs if you aren't willing to have some major Marvel comic-book news revealed to you...)
It Turns Out That Captain America Is Secretly a Bad Guy
Specifically, it seems that he's actually been a member of Hydra for...pretty much his entire career.
Now, you can read more about exactly what that means right here - or, if you prefer, join the debate over whether Cap's treachery is actually for real - but in the meantime, Cap is officially a bad guy.
Here's the thing, though...
The Idea of a Major Marvel Hero Being Secretly Evil Isn't Exactly New
For one thing, Marvel has been flirting with the basic conceit of 'superhero is now evil' a lot over the past five years, with Spider-Man, Cyclops and, most recently, pretty much the entire Marvel universe (well hello there, AXIS) turning evil for varying lengths of time.
As with all such trends, though, it actually turns out that there's a pretty intriguing precedent - one that, in this case, comes from the decade that sensible comic-book-related decision-making forgot...the 1990s.
Remember That Time It Turned Out That Iron Man Had Been Evil All Along?
Yup, it may be something that fans (and Marvel) have spent decades trying to forget, but back in 1995's Avengers: The Crossing, it was revealed that Tony 'Iron Man' Stark had secretly been evil for years of canonical comic-book events.
Y'see, as it turns out, Tony had been being influenced by the time-hopping supervillain Kang the Conqueror, who had bent the Avenger to his will through a complex - and entirely un-hinted at - program of brainwashing.
Things quickly fell apart from there, with Stark straight-up murdering a few minor Avengers (as it turns out, there's a reason you probably don't remember the female Yellowjacket), and eventually forcing the Avengers to bring his teenage self from the past for some reason.
Which, again, really didn't go well...
Now, the whole thing eventually resolved itself when Tony was revealed to be a...no, wait, Tony just went right ahead and died.
That, though, wasn't the end of Iron Man. Y'see, before he died, Tony somehow managed to design a super-science-y way of saving his younger self - who then stuck around in the present day, and...went to school?
Yup, that's right. There was a little while there back in the 90s where Tony Stark was a teenaged super-genius learning how to fit into a world that's technically his future.
Now, thankfully, the whole - deeply unpopular - thing lasted less than a year, with the young Tony soon 'dying' alongside the rest of the Avengers during the Onslaught crossover event, and being reborn (as a grown adult) in the ill-fated Heroes Reborn universe. When that similarly fan-angering experiment also ended after a year, Tony was returned to the mainstream Marvel universe as an adult (technically as a combination of his adult and teenaged selves, but it's best to leave that whole detail well enough alone), and that whole time he turned evil and killed a bunch of people just...kind of wasn't really mentioned again.
So, What Does That Tell Us About The New Evil Captain America?
Well, primarily, that it's probably best not to worry too much about this whole thing. After all, odds are that Marvel either has a cunning plan for bringing Cap back to the side of the heroes - or will do in the near future now that everyone is absolutely livid. The chances of Cap actually remaining a member of an evil Nazi-themed terror group for more than a story arc or two are...well, minimal, to say the least.
The bigger lesson from all of this, though? The 1990s were a seriously weird time for comic-book-related everything...
...but then again, you already knew that, right?
What do you reckon, though?
Which evil Avenger do you find more fundamentally disconcerting?