Something is rotten in the Marvel Universe: Last May, Captain America was reborn, thanks to a childlike Cosmic Cube. Unfortunately, his renewed vigor also put him under the influenced of the Red Skull (get the full story here). Cap's new origin left him as a Hydra double agent and has spelled nothing but trouble for friends and colleagues, and in fact, the entire world. Over the last few decades (retcon time), Steve Rogers has been weaving a tapestry of deception in the MU, sowing mistrust among the superhero community, and even encouraging the infighting in Civil War II.
Marvel recently teased an endgame to Rogers’ schemes with a series of promos which foretold of a Secret Empire. Now, the full extent of his diabolical plot has been revealed.
ABC News reports (via CBR) that Marvel’s latest major event will run kick off in April with Secret Empire #0, ending in August after a run of nine issues. The epic crossover will be written by Nick Spencer and include an revolving cast of artists, such as Steve McNiven, Leinil Francis Yu, Daniel Acuna and Andrea Sorrentino. The result of careful plotting by Marvel and writer Spencer in the pages of Captain America: Steve Rogers and Captain America: Sam Wilson among others, Secret Empire will follow on the heels of Civil War II, during a time when the Marvel Universe is at its most vulnerable. Check out the promo cover below:
Marvel’s Senior Vice President Tom Brevoort discussed the build up to this dark and disturbing turn for the MU:
"Steve has been kind of lining his dominoes up around the Marvel Universe to be able to make his move and bring about a Hydra revolution, a takeover. At the point of 'Secret Empire,' they are ready to go. That's the moment we hit as we go in."
Recently, Steve Rogers was (once again) granted directorship of S.H.I.E.L.D., the most powerful super spy organization in the world. With Captain America sitting atop the world, everything will rapidly come to a head, Brevoort said:
"His plans and Hydra's plans will have begun to unfurl. We are done with the covert portion, the buildup portion of the program, 'Secret Empire' is the pyrotechnics, the big Michael Bay blockbuster, huge colossal struggles and battles across the Marvel Universe, with all of our key characters and players taking on a big role."
"Where not one, not two, but three separate events break out all at once. Cap, as head of S.H.I.E.L.D., is able to mobilize forces to all three of those situations. And those three situations represent Hydra's first move. It comes off the blocks explosively right from the get-go.”
Brevoort also teased that the Secret Empire might not wrap up neatly for all involved, as its implications will continue to challenge the core perceptions of the Marvel Universe:
"If you are going into this story not knowing how it's going to go, yeah you should have some misgiving about [a happy ending], because it's a really ridiculously awful situation he is in," Brevoort said. "It might not all be fine."
"We'll definitely see an impact on our new, younger generation of heroes, a huge turn for them, a Watergate moment for them. They will have to grapple with what this means and reset their heroism. You don't want it to be bleak and miserable, you always want to have hope and be uplifting, and that's the aspect of this story where the other characters in the Marvel Universe have to kind of come together for."
Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso also reiterated the unifying elements of the event, saying that, despite the focus on Rogers and his Hydra ambitions, many other key characters will find themselves thrust into the action:
"This story is going to be told through the perspective of multiple characters, who are dealing with the threat this poses. Some roles and characters will come to the foreground at different moments in the story and play a big role in saving the day."
Alonso also mentioned that Secret Empire will draw the lines of battle in a more traditional light, as opposed to the hero-on-hero action as late, telling ABC:
"We've just come off of 'Civil War 2' and 'Inhumans vs. X-Men,' two big, dark events that had heroes fighting against heroes, over somewhat defensible positions. This is very much more an old school story. You will know who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. This is not heroes fighting heroes, this is heroes fighting a bad guy. We saw this moment as our chance to rally the entire Marvel Universe, which has been fragmented of late."
After all the buildup and the hand-wringing behind closed doors, Marvel fans will be excited for Steve Rogers' diabolical schemes to finally come to fruition. Secret Empire promises a huge payoff, as Rogers and Hydra usurp power on a major level. It also suggests an overall conclusion to his twisted incursions, as well as a lasting fallout that could leave the MU's superheroes shaken to the core. Many readers will also be excited for a more cut and dried event, much like Monsters Unleashed, which focuses less on philosophical trappings and internal strife than previous wide-scale crossovers like Civil War II or Inhumans vs. X-Men.
At the same time, fans shouldn’t expect Marvel to make things too simple. The House of Ideas is always seeking new and interesting ways to challenge reader perceptions and create explosive events that keep True Believers hooked. Secret Empire will also provide an interesting running commentary about the power of ideology and those who seek to embody it for their own personal gains.
Secret Empire #0 arrives in April of 2017.