The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s version of S.H.I.E.L.D. experienced a major status quo shakeup earlier this year when it was revealed in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and later Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. that the espionage agency had been infiltrated by the terrorist group, Hydra. With the second season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. now airing on Tuesdays on ABC, viewers are getting a closer look at how S.H.I.E.L.D. is persevering now that its former leader, Nick Fury, is presumed dead (but is still very much alive and operating undercover), and Agent Phil Coulson is running the stripped-down ship. Will Coulson and his crew have the manpower to stop another Hydra invasion? And is there anyone else from what’s left of S.H.I.E.L.D. who is secretly hailing Hydra?
Of course, fans of any of the numerous Nick Fury and /or S.H.I.E.L.D.-centric comic book series will note that last season’s combustion of the MCU’s S.H.I.E.L.D. is not the first time Hydra has stuck its tentacles deep into the heart of the department. Over the years, there have been a number of critically and commercially successful storylines that depict the forces of Hydra causing chaos throughout the Marvel Universe. Remember, this is a group that boasts, “if a head is cut off, two more will take its place.”
Here are five of the very best comic book stories where Hydra has, at least temporarily, reigned supreme:
Honorable Mention: Nick Fury vs. S.H.I.E.L.D.
The only reason this six-part prestige format miniseries by Bob Harras doesn’t formally make the list was that Hydra wasn’t directly responsible for S.H.I.E.L.D.’s downfall in this instance. Instead, S.H.I.E.L.D. is infiltrated by sentient life model decoys called Deltites. The androids impersonate many key members of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s hierarchy including Clay Quartermain, Jimmy Woo and Jasper Sitwell, sending Nick Fury and some of his most trusted confidantes like Dum Dum Dugan on the run. At one point in the story, Fury actually has to work alongside Viper, the former Madame Hydra, since the Deltite invasion actually goes beyond just S.H.I.E.L.D. The story ends with the dissolution to S.H.I.E.L.D., similar to the current status quo in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
5. Enemy of the State/Wolverine: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Wolverine #20-31)
In what many consider to be one of the greatest Wolverine solo stories of all-time, the powerhouse creative duo of Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. give all of Marvel’s heroes the frights of their lives when Wolverine is killed by the mysterious supervillain Gorgon and then resurrected by Hydra and the Hand to do their evil bidding.
The arc is technically split into two separate six-issue storylines, the first of which shows Wolverine’s descent into mind-controlled evil, as he hacks, slashes and kills a number of Marvel heroes and countless innocent bystanders. The second storyline shows Wolverine back in S.H.I.E.L.D. custody, being “reprogrammed." While there is initially some uncertainty about whether or not Wolverine can be trusted, he does prevail in defeating the Hydra and Hand forces that victimized him, including a memorable scene where he gets revenge on Gorgon.
In typical Millar fashion, this 12-issue run is grand in scope and tends to favor style over substance. But it’s also an incredibly engrossing story, especially the front-half of the arc where Wolverine is treated almost like the killer in a high body-count slasher film – ready to pop out and "snikt" somebody without warning. Meanwhile, these two stories may not depict one of Hydra’s most intricate and complex plans, but it’s certainly one of the organizations most successful strikes against the forces of good.
4. Secret Warriors
This ongoing series, which ran for 28 issues between April 2009 and July 2011, takes place in Marvel’s post-Secret Invasion status quo where S.H.I.E.L.D. was disbanded by the government and replaced by the Norman Osborn-run H.A.M.M.E.R. In the book’s opening arc, “Nick Fury: Agent of Nothing,” Nick Fury discovers that, for years, Hydra had successfully infiltrated every level of S.H.I.E.L.D. As the series chugs on, it is revealed that Hydra has resurrected the supervillain and former Hydra leader Gorgon (see entry No. 5). If that wasn’t enough salt in the wounds of S.H.I.E.L.D., Fury’s longtime teammate and love interest, the Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine, comes out as the new Madame Hydra.
Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. do come out on top in the end. In Secret Warrior’s final arc, “Wheels Within Wheels,” Fury and his arch nemesis Baron von Strucker are being held captive by Hydra member Kraken who reveals himself to be Nick’s brother Jake. Upon being released by Jake, Nick tells Strucker about how, for years, Fury has deployed a number of life model decoys into Hydra’s ranks giving the organization the impression they had infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. (when in fact it was the other way around). Fury then shoots Strucker in the head.
3. “The Strange Death of Captain America” (Captain America #110-113)
While Jim Steranko’s run on Captain America in the late 1960s was criminally short, over the span of three issues (with a fourth fill-in courtesy of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby), he did manage to create an all-time great Cap vs. Hydra storyline that clearly went on to inspire some of the thematic elements of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
The arc introduces the Madame Hydra character for the first time, as she leads a strike against Steve Rogers that aims to kill Cap and anybody close to him (including Rick Jones, who attempts to fill in as Captain America’s sidekick Bucky in this arc). Fearing for the safety of his loved ones, Cap fakes his death and plants a Steve Rogers mask next to his bullet-ridden uniform, leading Hydra and other potential enemies to believe that Rogers was never actually Captain America.
Hydra would strike one more time before Cap triumphantly saves the day, as the group attacks Nick Fury and other mourners paying their respects at Captain America’s funeral. After Rick manages to escape the ambush, he comes across a resurrected Cap, who explains how he faked his death. Then, in one of the most famous visuals in Captain America history, Cap and Rick dominate Hydra while the comic’s script reads: “A man can be destroyed! A team, or an army can be destroyed! But how do you destroy an ideal – a dream?”
2. Baron von Strucker, Supreme Hydra (Strange Tales #156-158)
The arc that both made Jim Steranko an industry icon and gave Hydra its imposing figurehead to line up opposite of Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D., these three issues introduce Baron von Strucker as Supreme Hydra.
Strucker had faced off against Fury previously in Stan Lee/Jack Kirby’s Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos, but Steranko was the creator that added some sizzle to the former Nazi’s steak. In the issues leading up to his reveal in Strange Tales #156, Strucker is terrorizing S.H.I.E.L.D. from within, posing as other agents and making Fury think he has a traitor within the ranks. Once Strucker appears in the flesh, he busts out his Satan’s Claw – a metal gauntlet that amplifies his strength and administers electric shocks.
Fury does emerge victorious against Strucker and Hydra, but not without some dramatics. At first it appears that Strucker dumps Fury into an incinerator but it turns out that Fury used a “face-changing gizmo” to pull a double-switch on Hydra’s guards. Strucker, of course, would be back.
1. “Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Man for the Job” (Strange Tales #135)
For every fictitious subversive terrorist organization, there is a beginning. In Strange Tales #135, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduce the world to one of the longest-running rivalries in Marvel Comics history in S.H.I.E.L.D. versus Hydra. The comic also marks the moment where Col. Nick Fury is recruited by Tony Stark to lead S.H.I.E.L.D. in its struggle against Hydra.0comments
The comic establishes Hydra as a force to be reckoned with from the very beginning – not only in terms of the organization’s physical might and strategic competence, but also in its persistence and belief in its ideology. In one scene, a Hydra henchman fails to kill Fury and is then killed himself (and replaced) by another Hydra agent, giving birth to the organization’s frightening mantra: “if a head is cut off, two more will take its place.”
Fury is initially resistant to leading S.H.I.E.L.D. but after witnessing just how far Hydra forces are willing to go to destroy their opponents, he takes Stark up on his offer.