Warning: contains SPOILERS for Marvel’s Secret Empire event.
During the build up to Secret Empire, Marvel rewrote history, at least as far as Steve Rogers goes, transforming him into a mirror universe version of himself. At the same time, the Captain America fans know and love may still be running around inside Rogers, fighting the Cosmic Cube-based Hydra indoctrination poisoning him and the world. Still, this comes as little comfort to former friends and allies betrayed by Rogers, those now executed, battling the corruption of a Darkhold dimension version of Manhattan, or scrambling around the globe to collect Cube fragments.
As difficult as it is to believe, Rogers retains a number of loyal followers, otherwise courageous heroes or dubious mercenaries that are well-aware of his duplicitous nature. In fact, the Avengers still exist, now in a bastardized, Hydra variation. So who’s still working for Hydra Cap, and more so, why would they follow him?
Starting out as a villain, Scarlet Witch later became a core member of the Avengers. While Wanda Maximoff was often resigned to the background, her romantic interest in synthezoid Vision created a fascinating and charming relationship that continued on and off through the decades. Despite her immense powers derived through chaos magic, which allowed her to rewrite the entire Marvel Universe during the “House of M” event, her bizarre parentage (maybe she’s Magneto’s daughter; maybe she’s not) and unusual family life (usually she has two kids; sometimes she doesn’t) only contributed to her unstable mental state.
Her continued service with the Hydra-fied Avengers is simple: she’s a woman possessed, literally. At present, Wanda is under the control of one of the MU’s Elder Gods, Chthon. At this point, it’s unclear why Chthon itself is working (willingly or otherwise) for Hydra. Clearly, the ancient organization counts some powerful mystics among their ilk, especially Madame Hydra and (possibly Cube-realigned) Isaac Newton. They may have created a binding spell or promised him dominion over part of the Earth. Heck, perhaps Hydra just has the best horrors of antiquity benefits around.
Much like Scarlet Witch, Vision’s incredible power set and quirky personality make him a must-have for any superhero squad. Capable of altering his body mass, generating energy discharges, and flipping a switch between emotions and a lack-thereof, Vision has been an Avengers’ fixture since Hank Pym created him in the ‘60s. In an attempt to mimic his fleshy cohorts (very Data from Star Trek), he even built himself a family that proved all-too-human.
Unfortunately, he does have one major weakness, which Hydra seems to have exploited: he’s still a robot running off a series of computer codes. Steve and the green and gold posse apparently found a way to hack into the android hero, possibly using Rick Jones mad skills – at least before they executed him, anyway (there’s gratitude). It’s unclear how easy it is to re-crack the Vision’s programming, but until the remnant resistance heroes do, the warped Avengers have a potentially deadly ally.
Marvel recently revealed the real reason Thor Odinson was no longer able to wield his hammer Mjolnir (spoilers ahead). He first lost his “worthiness” at the conclusion of the “Original Sin” miniseries in 2014. During the storyline, Nick Fury Sr. took over Watcher duties for the murdered Uatu. Now an all-seeing being known as the Unseen, Fury whispered into Odinson’s ear that “Gorr was right.” For those who missed the Jason Aaron’s intense “God Butcher” saga, Fury/Unseen was referring to Gorr’s belief that the universe’s deities are petty, self-serving creatures – which they usually are. So, when the nigh-infallible Unseen-Fury’s confirmed this to Odinson, his sense of worth crumbled and his mighty mallet fell from his hands.
Shortly thereafter, his former lover Dr. Jane Foster proved her own merit and hoisted the hammer as the latest Thor. In the Secret Empire Free Comic Book Day issue, though, Steve Rogers proved his combat value by besting Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and stealing Mjolnir from Thor, which suggests that Jane Foster was either incapacitated or stripped of her own powers and captured. In Secret Empire #4, Thor relates to belligerent demigod Hercules that he serves with the Avengers to protect “those I love” and Asgard. Without the full picture, it’s not entirely clear what he means. Readers can assume he’s referring to an endangered or dying Jane and that wielding the hammer gives Steve Rogers power over Asgard as well – putting the entire Ten Realms at risk.
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