Secret Empire has taken over the Marvel Universe with possibly the biggest betrayal in history. Captain America turned on everything he believed in thanks to meddling by the Red Skull and Kubik the sentient cosmic cube.
What followed was a long winding road through Captain America's alternate history, a history that saw the once vaunted star-spangled Avenger now a pawn of Hydra. That wasn't the case though totally, and more layers of this storyline were revealed in every issue of Steve Rogers: Captain America.
Now that Secret Empire #0 and issue #1 are out in comic shops, it seems like a good time to go over all the events that led up to this, with every betrayal, double cross, and
Secret Empire #1 is written by Nick Spencer with art by Steve McNiven, and you can view the full review here.
It’s been building for months, across a bevy of titles! But now, the moment has arrived for Steve Rogers to step into the light and declare his allegiance to Hydra! How can the heroes of the Marvel Universe cope with this shattering betrayal by the most trusted figure among them? And what will this mean for the world? The map of the Marvel Universe changes in ways nobody will expect — TRUST THE SECRET EMPIRE!
Secret Empire #1 is in stores now.
The moment that let Marvel fans know this wasn't the Captain America they knew and loved. This was a differetn Cap, one who didn't have the best interests of the country and his fellow heroes in mind any longer. This Cap wanted the world he had a part in building to fall, and more imporantly, fall into the hands of Hydra. The two people who knew were in no position to do anything about either.
Death Of Jack Flag
While Erik Selvig was the first to realize that Steve Rogers was now Hydra, the first victim of Cap's turn came right before. Flag boarded the jet that Rogers was fighting Helmut Zemo on. Cap had given orders to stay away to the rest of his team, but Flag saw he was in trouble, so he boarded anyway. This becomes clear once Cap's true mission is revealed, and he can't have any witnesses, so he pushes Flag out of the aircraft while it's airborne.
The resulting fall puts Flag in the hospital, though he doesn't die right away. There's enough time for Cap to attempt to finiiksh the job later with poison in his IV, but he passes naturally before he can do so.
The Red Skull has been planning this for quite some time, and it all hinged on his newly found sentient cosmic cube (Kobik) taking pity on a fragile Steve Rogers. At the time Skull recalls Rogers was still heavily aged thanks to the aftermath of Original Sin. Crossbones was beating him to a pulp, and Kobik decided to save him.
Skull had spent much time preaching to her the ways of Hydra, and the world should have been. This comes into play as Kobik makes Rogers strong again, giving him back his youth, but she also makes him the "perfect version of himself". Thanks to Skull, that means she will make him Hydra, going with the vision Skull has preached to her this whole time. That is what turned Cap Hydra.
Skull's plan worked, but possibly too well. Kobik made Rogers the perfect Hydra version of himself, but with the same drive and knack for strategy that fans know and love. It is revealed that he didn't kill Dr. Eric Selvik as instructed back in issue #1, but instead hid him in a secret facility. The reason? They are going to take down the Red Skull, and take Hydra for themselves.
As the history of Steve's altered memories is revealed, his time with his mother as a young boy is slowly peeled back. It's here that the death of his mother is shown, an act that he witnessed from beneath the bed. He tries to escape but is caught, coming face to face with his mother's killer, Elisa Sinclair.
Elisa had befriended Steve's mother earlier on, but the Hydra representative had much grander plans for Steve. Elisa will play an important part in the march towards the Secret Empire, so you'll want to pay attention to her appearances.
Causing A Rift
As the book goes on it is revealed that Captain America has slowly been setting the stage for Secret Empire for some time now. In fact, he's expertly played many of the earth's greatest defenders against each other under their noses.
He's the one who sent the gamma research to Bruce Banner, prompting the heroes to all show up at his lab. Banner ended up getting killed by a specially constructed arrow from Hawkeye, and the ensuing trial further divided the heroes. He also knew that the evidence Carol had on Hydra agents was false, but hid that to further cause confusion. If it wasn't for a hotheaded Tony Stark he might have even killed Ulysses, but he didn't get to him in time.
He's been playing both sides for his own interests for some time, and the heroes will definitely look back on this with regret after the truth comes out.
What is the last thing you want a crazy dictator to have? A nuclear arsenal sounds about right, as well as an entire country at his beck and call. The Red Skull did just that though when he used Hydra's forces to unseat the leadership of Sokovia, taking the resources, land, and army for himself. It would be instrumental in dividing priorities for SHIELD, as well as building up his power base. This all comes to a head in Secret Empire #0.
The plane crash designed to kill Eric Selvig was also supposed to take down Baron Zemo. Through Rogers' memories though it is revealed that their relationship is much different now. The two met as young Hydra trainees and developed a close friendship. The Red Skull would even use this later on to force Rogers to submit to his leadership.
It is revealed though that Zemo did not die in the crash and has been kept in a secret cell in Rogers' underground bunker. The reason? Rogers has been trying to get him to understand that this reality is not the real one, and through a series of stories and recalling memories between the two it seems he finally got through. Zemo is all in to take over Hydra.
Maria Hill SHIELD Director No More
Another part of Rogers' plan was to unseat current SHIELD director Maria Hill. The Pleasant Hill incident, as well as the coming Chitauri threat and issues with Sokovia all, come to a head, with Hill put in front of a SHIELD Tribunal. The tribunal finds her guilty of all the charges and relieves her of duty. Cap happens to be in the room when they ask him to stay, thus paving the way for his eventual takeover of SHIELD.
One more obstacle is now out of the way.
The Secret Is Out
Thus far Captain America has been able to remain under the radar, even from a telepathically powered Red Skull (long story). The ship that Cap was piloting back in issue #1 (with Eric Selvig) crashed in Taskmasters province of Bagalia. He decided to search the scene and found a second video unit.
It shows the now infamous scene of Cap saying "Hail Hydra", and now Cap's secret is in the hands of someone who sees a lot of potential profit. Taskmaster would go first to the now ousted Maria Hill, who was able to get the information to Rick Jones. Unfortunately, that didn't do either of them any good in the end.
In The Oath one shot it is revealed that just because Kobik rewrote Steve Rogers' history doesn't mean he no longer remembers what came before. Cap is talking to a now comatose Tony Stark about what is coming, and here he says "See, that's the other truth. Like told you before, I'm not the man you think I am, but everything he ever did. Every memory, every moment, I carry it inside me. I know every thought he ever had about you for instance."
He's made all these choices despite knowing what he fought for before. If this ever gets changed back, it will be interesting to see if he also remembers everything he's done while he's fought for Hydra.
Taking Down The Red Skull
The current arc culminates in Captain America finally coming in contact with a depowered Red Skull, who has had Xavier's brain stripped out of him. Cap organizes his escape from custody and has him brought back to his headquarters. It is here he reveals he is no longer going to be subservient to Skull and pummels him. The confrontation ends with him throwing Skull out of a window, falling to his death in the hills below. Hydra is now his.