It’s been four days since the latest Captain America: Civil War trailer was released, but that’s plenty of time for Marvel fans to pore over every detail. There was a lot to take in from this preview, whether it was Steve Rogers’ callback to Captain America: The First Avenger or Spider-Man swinging in at the last minute. Now that the big stuff has been seen repeatedly, some fans are analyzing quicker moments in the trailer, and one of those comes when Iron Man punches Captain America in the face at the 1:42 mark. If you look to the right if the image above, there’s a mysterious body inside what appears to be a stasis tube.
Who could this person be? Those of you who saw the Super Bowl spot will remember that Bucky Barnes, a.k.a. Winter Soldier, was seen in one of these tubes. So, if you’re like me, naturally you thought it was Bucky in there at first. It turns out that’s not the case, as several frames later, the former HYDRA assassin is seen behind the two leading heroes of the conflict. Below is a clearer shot of Bucky on the left side of the fight.
If that person isn’t Bucky, then who is it? It’s hard to say at this point, but let’s remember that despite all the heroes showing up in Captain America: Civil War, this is primarily Steve Rogers’ story. That makes it more likely that it’s someone or something connected to the Captain America mythology rather than another random figure from elsewhere in the MCU being thrown into the insanity. With the options narrowed down, my money is on that figure being the Red Skull, or somehow connected to his return.
The last time we saw Red Skull in Captain America: The First Avenger, he had touched the Tesseract (a.k.a the Space Stone) and was launched into the portal it created. He’s presumed dead, but many fans believe that he’s still out there. Some speculated that he might show up in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but his scarlet chrome dome was nowhere to be seen. Captain America: Civil War is wrapping up the Star Spangled Avenger’s solo movies for the foreseeable future, so if there was a time to bring back his greatest enemy, this would be the time. Somehow he’s able to return to Earth over 70 years after his disappearance and antagonize Captain America in a new body (making it so Hugo Weaving doesn’t have to reprise the role).
It wouldn’t be unprecedented to give Red Skull a new look. The Red Skull has transferred his mind to other bodies in the comics, whether it was a clone of Steve Rogers or Aleksander Lukin, Winter Soldier’s Russian handler from the comics. In fact, the current Red Skull in the comics isn’t even the real deal, but rather a clone of the original, created in 1942 by Arnim Zola, who has telepathic abilities, but that’s another story. Regardless, whether that figure in the stasis tube is a clone (maybe of Bucky, which explains why he was in another tube) or someone we haven’t met yet, comic book science can easily explain the formless Red Skull somehow reawakening in that body, ready to cause trouble in the 21st century. Some fans believe that the mountain compound where Iron Man, Captain America, and Winter Soldier are fighting each other is Red Skull’s HYDRA castle from World War II, so it’s not an absurd notion.
Still, if the Red Skull is coming back, he can’t do it by himself. Someone must be helping him make his grand return, which is where Daniel Brühl’s Baron Zemo could come in. Aside from several comments that the MCU’s Zemo is different from his comic book counterpart (including the absence of his purple mask), we don’t know anything about his role in Captain America: Civil War, only that he’ll be the movie’s main villain. However, Marvel President Kevin Feige did say that Zemo is a "product" of the MCU, and producer Nate Moore said his appearance will set up a future movie. Being the one responsible for Red Skull’s return certainly fits that description, and also allows for him to appear sometime later in Phase Three or Four depending on how exactly he’s used.
If we assume that Zemo has a hand in manipulating the superhero conflict behind the scenes, then perhaps his endgame is bringing back the Red Skull, someone who he’s either looked up to or has somehow been in direct contact with via unorthodox methods. Getting the superheroes fighting amongst each other plays into his plan, and while they’re fighting, he’s growing/secured a body for Red Skull to call home. Taking it one step further, what if Zemo is in the tube and he’s willingly sacrificing his body so that Red Skull can take it over? That would re-establish Johann Schmidt as a threat to the entire MCU, allowing Daniel Brühl to play a bigger role in future movies. Until we see footage of Brühl’s Zemo in Captain America: Civil War, it’s hard to tell what we can expect from him, but with that mysterious figure on our minds and the chance that Red Skull could return one day, it’s not unreasonable to discount all this as a possibility.
The identity of the person in that stasis tube and other mysteries will be solved when Captain America: Civil War hits theaters on May 6.