Issue #14 takes place, literally, in the mind of Red Skull. It was Mark Waid’s concept, but Marvel editorial forced a complete rescripting by Ralph Macchio, so although Waid’s name appears on the cover, he had it removed from the internal credits. Red Skull has been trapped in the Cosmic Cube, and as he reimagines history he figures out a way to access the Cube’s power to free himself. It just so happens that “Kang the Conqueror” was ALSO getting ready to free Red Skull–in the future. (It’s actually Korvac, not Kang, which is one of the big reveals in this story.)
Meanwhile, Steve and Sharon spend some quality time.
The sweetness of the moment is juxtaposed against the rising threat.
Mark Waid did not take his name off the rest of the issues in this arc, which gradually has Red Skull becoming a God–with Kang coaching him along the way.
Steve seems to sense a change in the air as Red Skull’s power grows and he starts changing the timeline.
The Watcher gets so concerned that he (once again) breaks his vow of noninterference to warn Steve and Sharon Carter about Skull’s rising power. (Only it’s not really Uatu–it’s Korvac again!)
Skull creates extreme weather events, acidifies the ocean, and does other environmental actions usually reserved for extreme Republican agendas.
Cap battles Skull and is ultimately forced to kill him.
At that point, Korvac reveals himself.
Turns out, he needed Captain America to defeat Red Skull so that the Cosmic Cube power would be out of the picture, and Korvac could take over the future.
Using the disguised Korvac to drive both hero and villain against each other is a brilliant narrative tool, and when they are revealed to be Korvac, I can say I definitely did not see it coming.
Captain America travels to the future to take on Korvac. There, we get an homage to the panel in Days of Future Past where a Sentinel, in the future, kills Wolveirne.
Here’s the panel from X-Men #142:
But of course he’s not really dead. Instead, he rallies the soldiers of the future to successfully unseat Korvac–with the help of an alternate future “Silver Surfer type” from Zenna La, named Primax, who becomes the leader of an army of Captains America.
There is also a subplot that has Iron Man restoring Captain America’s shattered original shield.
That subplot will be the main story of the next issue, which has time rewinded back to issue #17 of this very story. We then see issues #17 and 18 repeat, only this time Captain America subdues–not slays–the Red Skull.
This was a near-perfect story arc. Time travel usually sucks, but it’s done very well here.