Warning: contains spoilers for Avengers: Tech-On #1!
The Red Skull’s new form arrives in Avengers Tech-On #1, and it’s entirely unlike any ensemble the villain has sported before. One of Captain America’s first premiere villains, the Red Skull’s history spans over 80 years in real-time; like many arch-nemeses in comics, he’s died and come back from the grave so often that radical changes were bound to happen sooner or later. But does his new form go against everything this Nazi scientist stands for?
In Avengers Tech-On #1, written by Jim Zub with art by Jeffrey “Chamba” Cruz, the Avengers have recently defeated Thanos and destroyed his weapons of choice, the all-powerful Infinity Stones. Captain America gives a speech in the aftermath of the battle, remembering lives lost, when a massive red explosion destroys a building. The Red Skull appears in a puff of red smoke, making a grand entrance along with his new henchmen, the Soldiers of Orochi. The soldiers transform any unfortunate civilians into more soldiers, meaning the Avengers must think twice before attacking Red Skull’s new army.
The Red Skull’s appearance is easily the standout aspect of Avengers Tech-On, perhaps even more so than the Avengers’ armored suits. Red Skull wears an elaborate suit of armor that gives off the impression of a demonic medieval knight, complete with cape and spiked shoulder pads. The remnants of the Infinity Stones, called Infinity Mirror Shards, adorn the Nazi’s belt. The most striking aspect of his redesign is his head; the Skull has two horns, rows of sharp, monstrous teeth, and glowing red eyes. The power of the Infinity Mirror Shards has changed him into something markedly non-human.
This is an odd choice for the Red Skull. Nazis believe in the superiority of the so-called Aryan race. Why then is the Skull’s latest appearance the least human (and certainly least Aryan) in recent memory? It’s entirely possible this form is not of his choosing, and the Infinity Mirror Shards have a corrupting influence. In Avengers: Infinity War, the Red Skull guards Vormir as a floating wraith-like creature, punished by the Tesseract he had so desperately desired in Captain America: The First Avenger. Is this demonic Skull the result of improper use of the Infinity Stones? After all, the stones used by the Skull are only the remains of the intact Stones; they can’t destroy the universe, but as Red Skull says, “…there is still much I can achieve.”
The Avengers: Tech-On series has just begun, and the full extent of Red Skull’s abilities remain unknown. Will he return to his classic form if deprived of the Infinity Mirror Shards? What will he do now that the Avengers are powerless? As in Captain America: The First Avenger, perhaps he is playing with power he does not fully understand. This may come back to haunt the Red Skull in the future, even more so than his haunting new visage.