In the comic book world, few events made as many waves last year as the reveal of the original Captain America, Steve Rogers, as a Hydra agent. His Cosmic Cube-retconned story has also provided one of the most winding and riveting story arcs in the four-color realm this year. By way of his meddling in Civil War II and his own complex and disturbing backstory, Rogers has become a compellingly complex character and a devious adversary in his own right.
The slow burn, knife-twist-in-the-back saga has clearly been building to something big, though. Is it possible Marvel just gave fans a hint of what Cap's endgame?
Marvel’s latest promo, titled Secret Empire, features Steve Rogers’ revamped shield and teased fans with the phrase “A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand.” This could mean that Cap’s nefarious schemes are about to succeed, or at least come dangerously close to fruition. So far, though, the House of Ideas hasn’t tipped their hand about the creative staff involved in the event, or which titles and characters it will pull into the fracas.
The tagline itself hearkens back to their fall 2016 promotion of the second round of Marvel Now!, titled “Divided We Stand.” Secret Empire could also refer to the selfsame extremist group, one that happens to have some major Hydra connections. First developed by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby as S.H.I.E.L.D. antagonists in the mid-60s, the Secret Empire battled Steve Rogers, who eventually discovered their covert agents extending all the way up to the U.S. Presidency.
Is it possible that, in an ironic twist, Steve Rogers winds up controlling the very group he once sought to destroy? It certainly wouldn't be surprising if Cap has something to do with this band of infiltrators, who recently popped up again in the first issue of U.S.Avengers. Could the Secret Empire event link up with the covert infiltration Misty Knight warned Sam Wilson about in All-New Captain America #3 – a discovery which predates Steve’s Hydra reveal.
One thing’s for sure: with Steve Rogers in the middle of things, fans can expect plenty of double-dealing, as well as no end to the subtle machinations and plot twists. The Secret Empire event may also tie into one of the possible futures Ulysses alluded to during the final issue of Civil War II, before his evolution.
We’ll keep you posted as Marvel unveils more details about the likely Cap-centric “Secret Empire” event.