Avengers: Endgame is filled to the brim with references to Marvel Cinematic Universe history. As self-referential as it is, however, the blockbuster sequel never forgets where it came from: The finale of the Infinity Saga also features a handful of nods to the comic book source material, including a big wink to one of Captain America’s most controversial storylines.
When Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, Bruce Banner and Scott Lang return to the Battle of New York, from 2012’s The Avengers, they split off from one another to pursue different Infinity Stones. Cap heads for the Mind Stone, which is contained within Loki’s scepter. However, before he can take it, he has to convince a handful of undercover Hydra agents — including Brock “Crossbones” Rumlow — to hand it over.
In a scene that echoes the iconic elevator fight from The Winter Solider, Cap gets into an elevator with Agent Jasper Sitwell, Crossbones and several of the S.H.I.E.L.D. turncoats he would go on to battle in the second Captain America film. He curtly informs them that the Secretary ordered him to escort the scepter. Sitwell isn’t so easily swayed, and insists he receive confirmation from above. In a last-ditch effort, Steve leaned over and whispers, “Hail Hydra.”
This moment mirrors the divisive “Hydra Cap” storyline from writer Nick Spencer and various artists. Essentially, it rewrote Steve Rogers’ history, transforming him from America’s greatest champion to Hydra’s secret asset. Due to Kobik, a sentient fragment of the Cosmic Cube, Cap’s past changed so that he was recruited by Hydra at a young age. His new allegiance was infamously revealed in 2016 on the final page of Spencer and Jesus Saiz’s Captain America: Steve Rogers #1.
The shock ending sent many fans into an uproar, with one faction upset that Captain America — a longtime anti-Nazi symbol — suddenly stood for the very thing he had fought since the 1940s. The real-world implications of turning the character into a fascist figure caused the debate to rage for months, continuing past the reversal that returned Cap to his proper state.
Of course, Endgame’s Captain America maintains his status quo throughout the film, but those agents believe he is “Hydra Cap” long enough for him to make off with the Mind Stone. Cap’s “Hail Hydra” moment is simply a clever nod to controversial period from his Marvel Comics history.
Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, Avengers: Endgame stars Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Evans as Captain America, Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, Brie Larson as Captain Marvel, Paul Rudd as Ant-Man, Don Cheadle as War Machine, Karen Gillan as Nebula, Danai Gurira as Okoye and Bradley Cooper as Rocket, with Gwyneth Paltrow Pepper Potts, Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan, Benedict Wong as Wong, Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie and Josh Brolin as Thanos.