They continue fighting for Captain America, but why?

Each week, we use our super sleuth skills to dig into the histories of the characters fighting on both sides of Secret Empire!

It might seem like every hero in the Marvel Universe remains staunchly opposed to Steve Rogers and his new role as the head of Hydra. However, as we’ve seen throughout SECRET EMPIRE, he’s got a group he still calls The Avengers. We can understand why Taskmaster, Superior Octopus, Black Ant and maybe even Deadpool made the jump, but what about stalwart Avengers Odinson, Scarlet Witch and Vision?

The team first debuted in SECRET EMPIRE #1 fighting the huge monster known as Kriggorath. When the beast refuses to deal with Captain America, he calls in his team and they utterly destroy the monster. In #3, Baron Zemo lead the team in an attack on Atlantis to retrieve a Cosmic Cube fragment only to find a decoy.

The group did the same in SECRET EMPIRE #4, when they wound up in Alaska looking for another fragment at the same time that A.I. Iron Man, Sam Wilson and the others appeared to do the same. Thanks to Hank Pym-Ultron’s machinations, the true Avengers members all sat down for a skewed take on a family dinner, but the good guys walked away with the Cube piece.

In that issue, we also got hints as to why these former heroes remain loyal to an apparent traitor. A demon called Chthon possessed the Witch, an A.I. Virus keeps Vision in line and, according to A.I. Stark in #4, Odinson “just wants his hammer back.”

In SECRET EMPIRE #5, we learn a bit more about the former Thor’s role in all this. Captain America wielded the hammer at one time to quell the opposition, but leaves it in Washington, D.C. because he doesn’t feel he needs that kind of additional power all the time.

In the same issue, Odinson wonders about his decision to stand by his longtime comrade and friend Steve Rogers. They claim to be able to help the purgatory-trapped Jane Foster and also reconnect Midgard to Asgard, but he questions how they treat the innocent.

As Thor questions his decisions, both Scarlet Witch and Vision seem to be fighting their own torments. Meanwhile, as we’ve already examined, Deadpool feels an intense devotion to Cap, but also lied to Hydra about the resistance hiding in The Mount in DEADPOOL #32, so we’ll see which way he truly goes.

If you’re wondering how Doctor Octopus went from being, well, dead to running around in a body with Spider-Man’s powers and his own unique appendages, then you should check out the Clone Conspiracy story. The short version: Doc Ock put his consciousness in a clone body. Now he’s working with Hydra to ensure Parker Industry’s utter failure, as established in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #25. And then there’s Taskmaster and Black Ant. Those guys are just bad. Nuff said.

Seeing as how Hydra’s Avengers stand big as life on the cover of SECRET EMPIRE #6, expect them to continue playing an important part in this event.

The Empire Strikes Back

Both Taskmaster and Black Ant – formerly the Irredeemable Ant-Man – go back to their days together in SECRET AVENGERS. They wound up in the super villain-run country of Bagalia where Captain America crashed a ship in CAPTAIN AMERICA: STEVE ROGERS #1. In CAPTAIN AMERICA: STEVE ROGERS #11, Taskmaster discovered the important video footage of Cap first saying “Hail Hydra” from that first issue and tried to exploit it. In the following installment, they tried selling ousted S.H.I.E.L.D. leader Maria Hill the information. While waiting to make the transaction, Madame Hydra showed up, zapped them and brought them into the fold.

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Assemble to learn the genesis of the latest team of Avengers!

While many of Marvel’s heroes have gone to ground, hidden themselves away to try and marshal a plan and the strength to carry it out to oppose Hydra’s new world order, not all followed this path. Some costumed adventurers have joined with the green clad rulers and Steve Roger to extend Hydra’s grasp.

We caught up with SECRET EMPIRE series editor Tom Brevoort as he helped clear the rubble to ask him why the people we largely know as heroes might align with this effort at world dominance. Even throughout his time as Unworthy, Thor has been striving to be a hero, however reckless and erratic. Does he view aligning with Hydra as heroic in and of itself or is this borne of a dedication to Captain America?

Tom Brevoort: As is going to be the case in a number of these instances, the answers are going to unfold in upcoming issues. With the Unworthy, you get a very good understanding as to where his head is at and how he feels about what’s been going on in SECRET EMPIRE #5 in just a few weeks. Similarly, with Deadpool, is his alliance based on the fact that Cap had put faith in him in the past in the formation of the UNCANNY AVENGERS team?

Tom Brevoort: Deadpool, for all of his irreverence, has always had a lot of hero-worship for Captain America, and their relationship has only deepened through their common adventures during the time that Steve was made older—in particular “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly” arc over in DEADPOOL that Gerry Duggan wrote. So while he tried to hide it, it was a really big deal for Wade to be asked by Cap to be a part of the Avengers Unity Squad. He would follow Captain America off a bridge—and that’s exactly what he’s done here, as we shall see. We are aware from the Free Comic Book Day special that Scarlet Witch is not entirely in control of herself. How much of her actions is she at least aware of? Does she have any say at all right now?

Tom Brevoort: Again, this is a question that’s best answered by future issues, including SECRET EMPIRE #5 and also AVENGERS #10, the issue that focuses on this team. So there’s not much more I can tell you on this point at the moment, I’m afraid. Her former husband The Vision seems similarly compromised. How present is he in his decision-making?

Tom Brevoort: Same deal, I’m afraid—sorry I’m not being more helpful. But think of just how much readers will enjoy SECRET EMPIRE #5 and AVENGERS #10 when they’re released! With the exception of a brief appearance in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, this is the first time we’ve seen Otto Octavius as the Superior Octopus. What has led him to sign up with Hydra? Is he pursuing a more heroic path, a la Superior Spider-Man, or is this purely motivated by self-interest?

Tom Brevoort: There’ll be a lot of insight into this in the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN tie-in issues, and also that popular AVENGERS #10. But Otto is ultimately interested most in what benefits Otto. He’s hardly a true believer in Hydra’s cause, and would likely throw them over in a hot second if his own aims and goals conflicted with theirs. Fortunately, at the moment, the rise of Hydra and the resources they command give him the means to take back the thing that he wants most at the moment: Parker Industries, the company that he built when he was Peter Parker, and that Spider-Man has usurped from him. Given Eric O’Grady’s history of being unreliable up to the moment he was turned into a robot, what does Cap see in Black Ant?

Tom Brevoort: Eric’s got S.H.I.E.L.D. training and has shown some great resourcefulness, but more than anything he’s there because Madame Hydra brought him and Taskmaster into the fold, rather than eliminating them when they stumbled onto Steve’s secret in Bagalia. Steve has worked with Eric before, back in the Secret Avengers days, so he’s got more of an appreciation of his abilities and potential than most others do, I expect. Plus, he’s not about to double-think [Elisa] and her predictive abilities. Long motivated by the almighty dollar above all else, how does Taskmaster see his alliance with Hydra? Is he planning to stick around or is this but a quick pay day for him?

Tom Brevoort: I think it’s a situation of convenience that’s become something more long-term. Like Black Ant, Taskmaster was brought into the fold by Madame Hydra rather than being killed by her when he discovered Steve’s secret. So all of a sudden, he’s an inside player where he’d mostly been on the outside before this. And I think that holds some appeal for him, for all that he’s also likely to cut and run and look out for number one if things begin to break bad. As Cap’s best friend, how does Baron Zemo feel about being included in this team? How does he feel about watching his friend realize their lifelong dream of returning Hydra to glory?

Tom Brevoort: Zemo is not actually on the team, though he has worked alongside them on certain operations, acting as Steve Rogers’ Chief of Staff. He’s in an odd place, in that he’s been told that in the history that was erased he and Steve had this brotherly bond, but he never experienced that himself firsthand. Nevertheless, he’s chosen to believe what Cap has told him, and has thrown himself into his new role. All through his time with the Thunderbolts, particularly towards the end, Zemo was vacillating towards walking a more heroic path, betrayed only by his weaker instincts. So Steve is giving him a second chance to be the man he wants to be, the man he thinks his father was.

The intrigue continues next week in the pages of SECRET EMPIRE #4!

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Nick Spencer pits the Marvel Universe against Hydra for their last stand this August!

It’s the most shocking and talked about Marvel story that has stunned the whole world and kept readers on the edge of its seat. As Hydra amasses control over the entire globe, the heroes of the Marvel Universe have stood together and united  and it all comes to its monumental conclusion with SECRET EMPIRE #10 – coming to comic shops later this August!

“[Writer] Nick [Spencer] has constructed each issue of SECRET EMPIRE so that it ends with a climactic twist or a big reveal or a shocking development, and issue #9 is no exception,” said SVP & Executive Editor, Tom Brevoort. “So moving into the finale, with issue #10, the heroes across the Marvel Universe will be pushed to the breaking point as we race to the exhilarating climax we’ve been planning for months. Oh, and let me say again: we’re not going to use the Cosmic Cube to simply reverse everything away—the stakes matter, maybe more than they ever have before.”

Chartbusting creators Nick Spencer and Steve McNiven will maintain their control over the Secret Empire for one more epic issue. Allowing the cataclysmic story to wrap up as intended, this additional issue will bring Secret Empire to its explosive conclusion.

As Hydra’s tentacles tighten around the world, can they maintain control against the combined teams of the Avengers, Champions, Defenders, Inhumans, X-Men, and more? Or will the heroes of the Marvel Universe ultimately succumb to the power of one of their most trusted allies? Find out this August as SECRET EMPIRE reaches its dramatic conclusion.

Secret Empire #10 cover by Mark Brooks

SECRET EMPIRE #10 (of 10)
Variant Cover by J. SCOTT CAMPBELL
Villain Variant Cover by DAN MORA
Civil Warrior Variant Cover by TBD
Action Figure Variant Cover by JOHN TYLER CHRISTOPHER

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