WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Secret Empire #0
If fans thought it was bad when Captain America uttered his famous "Hail Hydra" last year, or hoped it was all a case of brainwashing or re-writing history... we have some bad news: Steve Rogers is, and always was, evil. Rather than walking the reveal back as a case of Cosmic Cube reality-warping, as Marvel seemed to do already, Secret Empire #0 reveals the entire truth. Apparently, the controversial launch of the new Captain America: Steve Rogers story was all building to the reveal that Cap was never a hero. Not for a second.
It's a bit baffling, since this reveal will almost certainly enrage those who felt somewhat offended by the reveal that Steve Rogers was a Hydra sleeper agent. Those who were deeply outraged, and insulted that Marvel's editors and writer Nick Spencer would ally Marvel's mascot with the Nazi-connected Hydra - promises to "hear the story out" aside - may be likely to stop reading altogether.
There's still a chance that the truth of Captain America's brutal Secret Empire plan will undo some of these new revelations about Marvel's history of World War II, but... well, it's probably best to just lay out the bombshell for readers to absorb.
The Twist We THOUGHT We Understood
As a brief reminder to those thrown completely out of the series with Issue #1's cliffhanger ending (pictured above), or those unsure of what's real and isn't anymore, allow us to refresh your memory. To keep the story simple, Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 saw Steve return to the job younger and fitter than ever... right up until the moment he tracked down a missing Hydra scientist, kicked his former ally Jack Flag off their plane, and revealed his true allegiance to the scientist with a simple "Hail Hydra."
Shock, awe, and outrage ensued (likely as Marvel planned), but Issue #2 delivered the 'explanation' seasoned fans outright expected. Earlier on, Red Skull had gotten his hands on the Cosmic Cube known as Kobik, having taken the form of a little girl and recalling her past with the Hydra leader. The villain used that to his advantage, indoctrinating Kobik into believing Hydra was the answer to global happiness, eventually re-making reality into one in which Steve Rogers was recruited into Hydra as a child back in the 1920s.
He grew up to be a devoted soldier in this twisted, false, villainously-manufactured reality along with other key players, eventually rising to the head of a group calling themselves the "true" Hydra - not Red Skull's demented version. In recent weeks, Steve even killed Red Skull to assume command, preparing the world for the decades-in-planning Hydra emergence - the aptly titled Secret Empire now beginning.
The Truth: Cap Helped Nazis Win World War II
Here's where the other, other shoe drops. In Secret Empire #0 now on sale, the story actually begins back in 1945, as Steve Rogers marches his way into a secluded, snowswept temple occupied by Hydra's highest members. His superior states how impressed he has been with Steve's mission, having infiltrated the American military, fighting on their front lines as a gleaming hero. Little did the comic book readers of the 1940s know that, in hindsight, the star-spangled hero was actually reporting all his intel to Hydra's forces.
Reporting them so effectively, it turns out, that at this point the Axis powers have already won the war. Sure, Nazi Germany may claim the victory in the eyes of history... but thanks to Steve, it was Hydra who won the day. Unfortunately, Steve has been invited to this holy site due to the devious planning of their enemies, the Allied nations. In this temple rests the true power of Hydra, including 'The Catalyst': a means to see the future. And what the Hydra superiors now witness is the Allies' efforts to master the Cosmic Cube - to re-write history, the true history of the Marvel Universe, so that the Allies won the war, not Nazi Germany and its own Axis partners.
Fortunately, The Catalyst sees victory in the end. Victory when the Cosmic Cube survives the re-writing of reality, is lost for decades, before taking the form of a little girl. At that point, Red Skull will lead her back to Steve Rogers... so that she can undo what the Allies have made. In other words, Red Skull will use Kobik to return Captain America to the person he truly is: the Hydra spy who deceived the world to help the Axis Powers win World War II.
Since only he will be returned to his true form, freed from the Cosmic Cube's re-writing of history into a world where the Allies won, it will fall to him to bring Hydra's victory to fruition.
The Original Superhero Captain America... Was The Real Lie
To be clear: Captain America was always a lie to acquire intel from the Allies to the Axis powers (specifically the Nazi-allied Hydra). Steve Rogers was always a Hydra recruit, leader, and fervent believer. The Red Skull's use of Kobik to make Steve a villain wasn't a corruption of an American hero... it was fate returning Steve to the spy he always was. In case there are any unclear on exactly what that makes of Steve's heroic exploits of the last half century, he is ordered into the protective font before Hydra's elite to protect him from the rumblings of the Cosmic Cube beginning its re-writing of reality.
As Steve descends, the waters of prophecy - or the Cosmic Cube's first ripples, it's hard to say - show him a strange vision of himself, fighting alongside Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, and Ant-Man. Confused, Steve's commanders inform him it is merely lies, deception. His career with the Avengers, as all his other years of superheroics, are merely a "prison" built by the Allies consuming them. And as the light grows brighter, Steve is told that only he can be strong enough to remember. To hold his values, and his destiny as Hydra's true Champion in his heart.
His head will be filled with false memories, but it is his destiny to persevere, to be returned to his true nature by Kobik, and free every one of his Hydra brothers and sisters. Their victory in World War II may be undone by the Allies, but that will only make his true victory in the future all the greater.
The Impostor is Dead, Steve Rogers Has Returned
So there you have it: the bombshell that Captain America was a Hydra agent was undercut by the revelation that it was the result of Cosmic Cube reality-warping... only to be further revealed that reality-warping undid previous reality-warping, and Steve was a loyal, passionate member of Hydra from the start. The red, white, and blue hero punching Hitler out? It might have happened, but it was all a ruse to distract the Allies so they would lose World War II. The plan worked, leaving no choice but to remake the world as Marvel readers believed it to be for the past six decades.
Cap's freezing, heroic escapades, Civil Wars, and countless other memorable achievements and victories up until now? Those were the brainwashings on full display. So with the mystery solved, fans can now instead ask... whether this was even a somewhat good idea. We're believers in not judging a story before it's finished, and by now, twists and bombshells could come a half-dozen more time before then end.
But if controversy swamped Marvel, Spencer, the editorial team, and comic shops everywhere... we have to imagine this will make things worse, not better.
Secret Empire #0 is available now.