Only a worthy few can lift Thor's hammer, the mighty Mjolnir. Even the original Thor himself, the Odinson, is no longer capable of wielding the weapon. However, the Free Comic Book Day issue of Secret Empire has revealed another worthy of the power of Thor, and the revelation is enough to shock the heroes of the Marvel Universe as much as Marvel's fans.
SPOILERS for the issue follow.
FCBD 2017 Secret Empire #1 takes place during Hydra's initial invasion of the United States of America, first seen in Secret Empire #0. Where the previous issue gave a bird's eye view of the events from the vantage point of Captain America on the SHIELD helicarrier, the Free Comic Book Day issue goes down to ground level to show the heroes doing their best to hold back Hydra's seemingly endless forces.
The Avengers and the Champions are all front and center for the action and things are going poorly even before Captain America lands on the scene, revealing himself to be, without a doubt, the new head of Hydra. Things get worse when the Vision is hacked and begins fighting for Hydra. Scarlet Witch also seems to fall victim to some kind of psychic attack and loses control of her powers, turning them on her allies.
In the midst of it all, Thor just disappears without explanation, literally fading from the page. The battle rages on, and the heroes try to rally against impossible odds like they always do. Any momentum they may have built shatters when Captain America walks down to where Mjolnir sits and lifts it above his head with ease, showing that he is worthy.
This moment raises some questions about how Mjolnir works. The narration in the issue leads readers to believe that Captain America, and therefore his cause, is worthy simply because they have bested the heroes. In essence, Hydra winning proves that they must be the heroes of this story. However, that seems to fly in the face of everything Thor, the Odinson, learned in his youth. The Odinson won many battles before becoming worthy of Thor. Winning wasn't what made him worthy, and losing wasn't what made him unworthy.
Perhaps then there is something innate about who Captain America is that makes him worthy of Mjolnir, though the saga of Captain America since his history was rewritten by Kobik, the sentient Cosmic Cube, has up until now suggested that he is an innately different person than he was before Kobik worked her magic.
Perhaps then it is simply a matter of belief. After all, it was a change in Thor's perspective after hearing the words Nick Fury whispered that made him unworthy, while this Captain America seems to believe fully in Hydra's cause.
This isn't the first time that Captain America has lifted Mjolnir. The first time was in 1988, during a period when Steve Rogers had renounced his "Captain America" title and was operating simply as "The Captain." He and Thor teamed up to defend Avengers Mansion from a demon invasion. During the battle, Thor dropped his hammer and Captain America lifted Mjolnir just long enough to pass it back to Thor.
The second time that Captain America lifted Thor's hammer was practically the exact opposite situation as in Secret Empire. The moment came during the Fear Itself event. Thor was busy fighting his uncle, Cul "The Serpent" Borson, and dropped Mjolnir to Earth, where Captain America and the Avengers were battling Hydra. The Serpent had previously shattered Cap's iconic shield, so when he saw Mjolnir fall he was quick to lift it high in the air and rally the troops against Hydra.
FCBD Secret Empire #1 also offers some insight into the creation of Hydra's Avengers, first seen in Secret Empire #1, which released earlier this week. Vision and the Scarlet Witch were both fighting alongside Captain America as part of Hydra's Avengers team. The vague hints at mind-control and hacking in the Free Comic Book Day issue seem to explain how that came to be.
Captain America hoisting Mjolnir may also explain why the Odinson has joined Cap's cause.
FCBD 2017 Secret Empire #1 is just one of many free comic books available today for Free Comic Book Day. Check out all of the free comics here, and check here for information on how to find a participating comic book store.