|For other uses, see Baron Zemo (disambiguation)|
- "An empire toppled by its enemies can rise again. But one which crumbles from within? That's dead. Forever."
- ―Helmut Zemo
Colonel Helmut Zemo is a Sokovian citizen and a terrorist mastermind who sought revenge against the Avengers after losing his family during the Battle of Sokovia, becoming obsessed with defeating and destroying them. Knowing that he was no match against the Avengers, he instead planned to have them destroy each other by first framing the Winter Soldier for the assassination of T'Chaka, causing Captain America to defend his friend from the world. This action caused the Avengers Civil War in which Iron Man led a man-hunt for the Winter Soldier and Zemo allowed Iron Man to discover that the Winter Soldier was also responsible for the deaths of his parents. With the Avengers in ruins, Zemo tried to commit suicide but was stopped by Black Panther and handed over into the custody of Everett Ross for his imprisonment.
- "Zemo ran EKO Scorpion, a Sokovian covert kill squad."
Helmut Zemo was born on June 16, 1978 in Novi Grad, the capital city of Sokovia. Zemo became a Sokovian intelligence officer and commander of EKO Scorpion, an elite Sokovian paramilitary tactical unit. Despite the nature of his job, he was able to form a family marrying a woman and having a son, Carl, with her. Zemo and his family lived a happy life in Novi Grad, and maintained good relationships with his father in the Sokovian countryside. His son also developed a fascination with the Avengers and greatly desired to see them, specifically Iron Man, in action.
- "My father lived outside the city, and I thought we would be safe there. My son was excited. He could see the Iron Man from the car window. I told my wife, "Don't worry. They're fighting in the city. We're miles from harm." When the dust cleared, and the screaming stopped, it took me two days until I found their bodies. My father still holding my wife and son in his arms... And the Avengers? They went home. I knew I couldn't kill them. More powerful men than me have tried. But if I could get them to kill each other..."
- ―Zemo to T'Challa
However, his happiness was not to last. When Ultron attacked Sokovia, Zemo and his EKO Scorpion squad were called upon to assist in the defense of Sokovia. Zemo sent his family to take refuge at his father's home outside of Novi Grad, where he believed they would be safe from peril. Despite this, his wife, son and father were killed as a result - their bodies were found by Zemo two days after the Sokovia battle. Though Ultron was defeated and destroyed by the Avengers, Zemo angrily blamed them for causing his family's death and vowed to destroy the team at all costs. Knowing he could not hope to win by force, he sought to manipulate them into destroying each other instead.
Manipulating the Avengers
Questioning Vasily Karpov
To that end, Zemo located Vasily Karpov, one of the former leaders of the Winter Soldier Program, who was in hiding with HYDRA having been wiped out. Having discovered Karpov's location, Zemo knew that he would be unable to easily break into Karpov's home so instead faked a car crash and asked Karpov to invite him inside to discuss the matter in private, rather than contacting the police.
As soon as Karpov opened the door, Zemo attacked and subdued Karpov before tying him upside down above a sink slowly filling with water. Using a hammer to bust through the walls of Karpov's cellar, Zemo found and took the Winter Soldier Book from Karpov's HYDRA files and introduced himself while speaking politely to Karpov, before demanding information about the assassination of Howard and Maria Stark which had occurred back in the year 1991.
Despite Zemo making his intentions very clear that he would not stop until he had the information he needed to exact his violent revenge, noting that his loyalties did not lie within HYDRA, Karpov refused to help him. Seeing that Karpov would not speak to him, Zemo left the tap running while Karpov gave the famous HYDRA salute. Zemo then walked straight out of the house, taking his new stolen belongings while Karpov slowly drowned inside of his own sink.
Using the information he had obtained, Zemo framed the former Winter Soldier, Bucky Barnes, into taking the fall for a bombing which killed the Wakandan king T'Chaka. The timing of events coincided with the signing of the Sokovia Accords, a framework that would place enhanced people under government oversight, and a burgeoning cause of friction between Captain America, who refused the oversight, and Iron Man, who supported it.
Re-Activating the Winter Soldier
- "Longing. Rusted. Seventeen. Daybreak. Furnace. Nine. Benign. Homecoming. One. Freight car. Soldier?"
"Ready to comply."
- ―Helmut Zemo and Winter Soldier
Having been hunted across the world for his apparent involvement in T'Chaka's death, Bucky Barnes was eventually caught and subdued in part to the efforts of Everett Ross' men and War Machine and, into the custody of the Joint Counter Terrorist Centre. Knowing this, Zemo awaited the arrival of Theo Broussard while listening to his late wife's voice mail message. When Broussard's train eventually arrived Zemo greeted him and led him to the hotel.
Zemo brought Broussard back to his own hotel room where he proceeded to murder him and hide his body in the bathtub. While practicing reading the trigger words from the Winter Soldier Book he would need to gain control of Barnes, Zemo was interrupted by the arrival of his breakfast, not allowing the woman to enter so she did not see Broussard's body or the bomb he had made. Zemo then had an ally deliver the bomb to a power station.
Arriving at the facility, Zemo found Barnes was locked in a contained cell with his robotic arm tightly fixed down as Zemo posed as the psychiatrist Broussard, who was supposed to evaluate his mental well-being before Barnes was sent to Wakanda to await his trial for the murders of King T'Chaka and many others. Knowing that the cameras were on him and people like Everett Ross were watching him closely, Zemo began by doing a true evaluation of Barnes' mind while awaiting news on the next stage of his plan. Zemo continued the evaluation, he then got a text giving him a warning just before the power around the base was cut out, including the cameras.
Zemo then reactivated Barnes' Winter Soldier Program training by using the HYDRA manual he procured from Barnes' former handler Vasily Karpov, which led to Barnes breaking free of his restraints to stop Zemo's plans, ripping his arms free and punching the glass to try and get away. Zemo was able to finish saying the codewords just as Barnes broke free and became his willing assassin. Zemo requested the mission report about the death of Howard Stark.
Having obtained the information he needed, Zemo ordered the Winter Soldier to fight and kill anyone who attempted to stop him before getting in a helicopter and escaping to seemingly prove his guilt for the bombing. As the Winter Soldier obeyed his orders, Zemo was confronted by Captain America and Falcon who attempted to save Barnes. Rogers demanded to know what Zemo wanted and was told that he wanted to see an empire fall.
Before Rogers could take Zemo into custody however, the Winter Soldier charged forward and attacked, knocking Sam Wilson onto the floor before using his Prosthetic Arm to throw Rogers down an elevator shaft. As Zemo went to check if Rogers had been killed, Wilson awoke and chased the fleeing Zemo, who ran up a flight of stairs with Wilson close behind. Eventually Zemo made it outside into Berlin where he ditched his jacket and disappeared.
Fall of the Avengers
- "Sokovia was a failed state long before you blew it to hell. No. I'm here because I made a promise."
"You lost someone."
"I lost everyone. And so will you."
- ―Helmut Zemo and Captain America
Once the Avengers' co-leaders had gathered forces for their factions and fought each other to a near-standstill, Zemo traveled to Siberia seemingly to reawaken from cryostasis the five remaining soldiers from the Winter Soldier Program. While waiting for his transport, Zemo again listened to the voice mail message left by his deceased wife to remind himself of his motives against the Avengers.
Boarding a plane to his destination, Zemo made his escape from Berlin and soon arrived in Siberia. Having arrived and hired a snow plow to make it through the harsh weather, Zemo contacted his hotel back in Berlin and requested his usual breakfast, knowing that the maid who brought it to his room would find the corpse of Theo Broussard, allowing those who were following him to learn his identity and follow him to his current location.
Zemo soon arrived at the HYDRA Siberian Facility where Vasily Karpov had worked decades before and soon found the remaining Winter Soldiers, including Josef who were being held in Cryostasis Chambers. While waiting for Captain America, the Winter Soldier and Iron Man to arrive as he knew they would soon learn his identity, Zemo killed all five soldiers with a single bullet to the head each while they slept before finding a sealed room.
When the three arrived, he greeted them, revealing that he had lost everyone he loved during the Battle of Sokovia and that he had then orchestrated events for the Avengers to fight one another. He then played a video of surveillance footage from 1991 of Barnes, under the control of HYDRA, killing Tony Stark's parents. This revelation caused a brutal and emotional fight between the three heroes, while Zemo took the opportunity to get away from the immediate area.
Success and Defeat
- "Justice will come soon enough."
"Tell that to the dead."
"The living are not done with you yet."
- ―Black Panther to Helmut Zemo
Zemo awaited the result of the ensuing battle in the snow, content that he had split the Avengers apart as their leaders fought to the death. While overlooking the landscape, Zemo listened to his wife's voicemail one last time before deleting it. Black Panther found Zemo and they discussed his involvement in the death of T'Chaka, which had almost led to Black Panther killing the innocent Winter Soldier for revenge due to Zemo's clever manipulations.
Seeing what had become of Captain America and Iron Man, Black Panther refused to allow himself to be consumed by revenge in the same way, seeing that within Zemo's heart and what it could lead to. Believing his plan to be complete regardless, Zemo attempted suicide by placing his gun under his chin, however the Black Panther stopped him in time by blocking the bullet with his Vibranium suit and putting Zemo in a choke hold which he could not escape.
Zemo, arrested for his crimes against the Avengers, was left to be mocked in a containment cell by Everett Ross at the headquarters of the Joint Counter Terrorist Centre. Ross taunted Zemo by explaining that if he ever tried to escape or even raised his voice in protest, he would receive a painful electric shock. Ross then asked Zemo how it felt to see his plans fail so spectacularly after spending so much time and effort and Zemo simply replied, "Did it?"
- "You killed innocent people in Vienna just to bring us here?"
"I've thought about nothing else for over a year. I studied you, followed you, and now that you are standing here, I just realized that there is a bit of green in the blue of your eyes. How nice to find a flaw. "
- ―Captain America and Helmut Zemo
Helmut Zemo was a member of a death squad of the Sokovian Armed Forces that managed to build a happy family despite the nature of his job. However, the war between the Avengers and Ultron ended up with the death of his whole family, and he became consumed with so much anger and hatred that he became a vengeful sociopath. Thus, Zemo only wished to destroy the Avengers from the inside, the same way he himself had been destroyed.
However, despite his relentless attempts at trying to destroy the Avengers, Zemo is ultimately not without a conscience. He first tried to interrogate a HYDRA officer, but stated that if he didn't get the mission report from the officer, then he would resort to more violent means though he doesn't enjoy using said means. Zemo also sincerely apologized to T'Challa for accidentally killing his father T'Chaka, and he even opened up to him about why he wanted the Avengers destroyed. This caused even T'Challa, a man who had wanted Zemo's death the most, to sympathize with his current situation, and even spare him, as he realized that revenge would have completely consumed and destroyed him, as it did with Zemo.
Zemo intended to kill himself after avenging his family, as he had little else to live for, and only T'Challa's timely intervention stopped him from shooting himself. Zemo kept a voice message of his late wife on his phone as one of the last connections from his former life that he held onto, which he often played over. Yet after he was content with his revenge and was about to commit suicide, he deleted the message.
This section requires expansion
- "Most of it was encrypted. Not easy to decipher. But I have experience and patience. A man can do anything if he has those."
- ―Helmut Zemo
- Master Tactician: Zemo, as the former intelligence officer and commander of the elite Sokovian paramilitary tactical unit EKO Scorpion, is a brilliant tactician, being able to mastermind a series of events in order to get his revenge against the Avengers for their role in the destruction of Sokovia and the death of his family. He was also smart enough to know that he had no hope of killing the Avengers, even if he had raised an army. So then, Zemo decided that it would instead be better to manipulate them into destroying themselves, which he very nearly succeeded in doing, with Iron Man and Captain America starting the Avengers Civil War.
- Multilingual: Zemo can speak his native Sokovian, as well as English, German, and Russian.
- Master Hacker: After Black Widow released all of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s files on the Internet, Zemo was able to hack and decrypt the files pertaining to the Winter Soldier program.
- Skilled Combatant: Zemo's extensive military background gave him some degree of knowledge on close-quarters combat. While he's not as talented as Captain America or Black Panther, he was able to easily take down a former HYDRA agent.
- Expert Engineer: Zemo was able to build an EMP bomb that was able to take out Berlin's power plant.
- Smith & Wesson 6906: Zemo used this pistol in a suicide attempt after causing Iron Man and Captain America to brutally attack each other, believing that there was no reason to escape and live. However, T'Challa quickly snatched the firearm from Zemo's hands and apprehended him.
- AK-103: Zemo used this assault rifle along with another member of EKO Scorpion during an operation.
- Winter Soldier Book: Zemo stole this booklet from a house in Cleveland, Ohio after torturing and killing Vasily Karpov, the house's sole resident. The book contains several "trigger words" that Zemo used to activate the Winter Soldier's HYDRA-created thought patterns while the Winter Soldier was in custody in Berlin.
- Father †
- Wife †
- Carl Zemo † - Son
- EKO Scorpion - Former Subordinates
- Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier - Former Thrall
- T'Chaka † - Unintended Victim
- Jeffrey Mace †
- T'Challa/Black Panther - Captor
- Everett Ross
- Theo Broussard † - Victim
- Ultron †
- In the comics, Helmut Zemo is a German Baron and the son of Heinrich Zemo and Hilda Zemo, and by extension of this is a descendant of Harbin Zemo, Hademar Zemo, Heller Zemo, Hilliard Zemo and Herman Zemo and the thirteenth baron of the Zemo bloodline. Outside of having led HYDRA and some incarnations of the Masters of Evil, Helmut Zemo masqueraded himself as Citizen V when working as a member of the Thunderbolts. After have been severely disfigured, Zemo uses a purple mask to cover his scars.
- Zemo, Surtur and Loki are the only main villains whose plans were successful to any extent, as Zemo managed to manipulate Iron Man into a battle with Captain America and his friends and divided the Avengers, despite failing to ultimately have them kill each other.
- Zemo appears to have a taste for bacon and black coffee, ordering it every day while staying in a hotel.
- Zemo is left handed.
Behind the Scenes
- According to the DVD commentary, Zemo's mission was one of suicide, as he intended to end his own life once he succeeded in fracturing the Avengers, but ultimately failed when T'Challa stopped him.
- Stephen McFeely explained Zemo's back-story was heavily changed from the comic book version because it felt false to have the younger Zemo motivated by the death of his World War II ancestor. "We would really have to stretch all of that given that it's the MCU and Steve is 70 years removed as opposed to when they unthawed him in the comics and it's 20 years," he said.