Warning: SPOILERS for Captain America #2
Marvel's Secret Empire ended in a way that was dissatisfying to many fans, as it reversed several of its own biggest events, leaving the story with limited consequences for the characters involved. However, the latest issue of Captain America suggests that the Secret Empire finale wasn't a cop-out at all, and the real consequences for Captain America's return have yet to be revealed.
The decision to make Captain America the main villain of the 2017 crossover event was a highly controversial decision for Marvel. Fans of the hero were up in arms over the decision, and the controversy only worsened as the story went on - and Captain America's list of evil deeds grew to include the murder of Black Widow among others.
In the end, HydraCap was defeated by the real Captain America, who was restored by Kobik from the memory of his original self (far too close to "undoing" the event, which Marvel promised wouldn't happen). But the true impact of Secret Empire may not be over just yet.
While many Marvel titles avoid or simply ignore the fallout from Secret Empire, the newly relaunched Captain America title addresses it directly, by having Cap face off against an army of super soldiers based on the villain, Nuke. The Nukes blame him for everything that happened during Secret Empire, and he gets a similar treatment from news commentators.
Sharon Carter gives Steve a pep talk to get him to forgive himself for the actions of his darker self, but in Steve's inner monologue, he claims that Sharon "doesn't know about the bargain."
After that remark, the comic highlights a scene of what appears to be Kobik giving Cap his body back. The issue ends with Steve preparing to make "another bargain" with Black Panther, which readers will presumably learn about in the next issue. What was the first "bargain" that Steve mentioned, and what does it have to do with Kobik? Steve's vague comments indicate that ha was forced to make a deal with Kobik to get his body back, and fight his evil self. If that's the case, the specifics of that deal may be revealed in the coming months.
Steve's reluctance to mention the "bargain" means that whatever it is he agreed to is something he's not proud of (if not something dangerous). Steve could be a part of something that may actually have a lasting impact on himself, as well as other characters in the Marvel Universe.
Its too soon to tell, but time will tell if the secret Cap is hiding will alleviate the frustrations of fans who felt that Secret Empire failed to deliver a meaningful conclusion.
Captain America #2 is available now from Marvel.