WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Free Comic Book Day's Secret Empire.
What's scarier than an evil Captain America taking over the world for Hydra? How about him also claiming the hammer of Thor? Believe it or not, that's a sign of just how strange Marvel's Secret Empire is going to get, now that Captain America has launched his plan to take over the world. And if fans thought that rewriting the history of the Marvel Universe to make Captain America's superhero career a lie was a bit extreme... well, it turns out that Nazi-allied murderer or not, Steve Rogers is still "worthy" in the eyes of Asgard.
That's according to the upcoming Free Comic Book Day issue of Secret Empire, arriving in local comic shops, free of charge on May 6, 2017. Why do we know about it now? Because when the twist of the issue's final page is as big and controversial as this is guaranteed to be, the secret is going to get out ahead of time. In an effort to turn that buzz in their favor, Marvel allowed select fans to read the issue at the recent C2E2 event, building anticipation as those reader squealed with mindblown excitement at the issue's final reveal. And, as was to be expected, that reveal - and the image itself - has appeared online.
In case some readers missed out on the Nazi-allied Captain America's plan finally being launched, Steve Rogers now stands at the head of a Hydra army and a crippled S.H.I.E.L.D., keeping Marvel's cosmic heroes locked outside a planetary shield surrounding Earth, and trapping most others in New York City. With the heroes (mostly) taken care of, Cap is able to finally get his Secret Empire under way... but apparently still requires one extra weapon forged by the greatest smiths of the Marvel mythology.
We don't yet know what story Nick Spencer and artist Andrea Sorrentino will tell in the Free Comic Book Day issue of Secret Empire, but we know how it ends. Needless to say, Cap's shield just became obsolete:
Obviously, the image of Steve Rogers holding Thor's hammer, Mjolnir over his head (beautifully rendered, as always, by Sorrentino) is going to raise some questions. For starters, are fans to believe that despite having murder several officials behind the scenes, orchestrated the deaths of countless more, and seeking to rule Earth and humanity... Steve Rogers is "worthy" in ways that Marvel's actual Thor Odinson isn't? It's not impossible, since the Norse gods were brutal in their pursuit of strength and power.
But if true, it opens up entirely different storytelling possibilities, and a chance to drill even deeper down into the morality of Steve Rogers's Hydra-minded plan. And raising an even more obvious question: what does this mean for Jane Foster, current wielder of the hammer and power of Thor? Has it been torn from her hands by Steve Rogers in a further twist of villainy? Or has Jane offered it up willingly...?
Considering how vocally both casual and devoted Marvel fans have criticized Spencer's run on the character - in which Steve took on such a villainous role, deceiving all of his former friends and allies in the name of Hydra - this is guaranteed to earn just as much negative attention. Not only in regards to the unknown events that lead up to his claiming of Mjolnir (you'll have to read the whole issue to find out that story), but the twisting of Marvel history and mythology that now seems to have spread to Mjolnir.
Fans won't need to wait long for more details, or a chance to read the issue for themselves. But in the meantime, it looks guaranteed to draw attention from fans of Cap and Thor. Whether that also means the characters will be stronger when the story ends... remains to be seen.
Secret Empire's Free Comic Book Day issue arrives May 6, 2017.