Find out how former Avengers feel about Captain America’s heel turn!

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

An A.I. version of a genius, a demigod, a speedy mutant, a shrinking thief, a scientist-spy, and a former Captain America might not seem like the most obvious team in the world, but they’ve joined forces to save Steve Rogers’ soul in the pages of SECRET EMPIRE: UNDERGROUND. Iron Man, Hercules, Quicksilver, Ant-Man, Mockingbird, and Sam Wilson plan on gathering up all of the Cosmic Cube pieces to restore their friend and teammate’s  personality.

The group formed in the pages of SECRET EMPIRE #2 after A.I. Tony Stark realized that, if they gathered up the Cube fragments, they might be able to return Steve Rogers to his true self. They immediately set out to get help from Sam Wilson, who we now know gave up the shield in favor of ferrying people out of the Hydra-controlled United States as seen in CAPTAIN AMERICA: SAM WILSON issues of late.

Though reluctant to help, Sam agreed to get the squad out, but didn’t realize they’d all be heading right for Alaska and Hank Pym-Ultron as unfolded in SECRET EMPIRE #4. That issue ended with the good guys getting away with the fragment. Later, while watching TV they saw Namor not only give Captain America the piece he had, but also bow in fealty to the Hydra leader! The former head of the Avengers also revealed that he also had a mole on the inside, leading to plenty of motives being questioned during UNDERGROUND.

The one-shot, which came out today, found the team traveling to the Savage Land to get another Cube piece from Sauron, but they soon discovered that the energy-sucking dinosaur man had been unseated by Whiteout, Vertigo, and Lupa. After a brutal fight, the group flew away with the fragment, but also some heavy injuries that prompted them to head back to their base.

Expect this squad to play a huge role in SECRET EMPIRE moving forward, not only because one of their number works for Captain America, but because they’re the main group trying to save Steve Rogers instead of simply defeating—and possibly ending—him like Black Widow’s recruits.

The Empire Strikes Back

Each member of this team owes Captain America their life in one way or another. At various times they have all served as Avengers under his leadership, which surely brought them out of more than a few potentially deadly battles. For Quicksilver and Ant-Man, he also helped get their lives turned around as one of the people who backed them in their shift from their previous lives of crime. Of course, we must also keep in mind that Pietro’s concerned about his sister who currently serves Hydra thanks to a demon inhabiting her body. We’d bet that comes into play down the line as well.

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Steve Rogers’ best friend finds his place in a post-Hydra world!

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

When Steve Rogers revealed his allegiance to Hydra, a wave of betrayal and sadness washed over the super hero community that he practically started during World War II. It crashed particularly hard on Sam Wilson. Back during writer Rick Remender’s run on CAPTAIN AMERICA, Steve passed the patriotic mantle to his longtime friend and ally. Since then, Sam’s been flying around, wielding the shield in an effort to keep the world safe, even with a seemingly endless mob of people calling for him to quit.

Even after Kobik returned Rogers’ youth and vitality—which we also know as the point where Red Skull had the living Cosmic Cube implant all of these Hydra memories—Sam continued wearing the red, white and blue—until his friend proved to be the biggest villain around. Conspicuously absent from the first few chapters, Sam finally appeared in the pages of SECRET EMPIRE #2 hanging out in a bar in Montana.

After Black Widow split off with her group that planned on taking Steve Rogers out, Iron Man, Ant-Man, and a few others left their secret base to try and collect the Cosmic Cube fragments so they could repair Rogers. As it turned out, Scott Lang knew that Sam could help them move around without getting caught.

Over in CAPTAIN AMERICA: SAM WILSON #22, Wilson explained that, after Cap revealed his true colors, the former social worker abandoned his costume and old life to spend some time out in the mountains to clear his head. Eventually, he headed back to civilization where he discovered that Hydra rolled in to take everything over. Just as he planned on going back into hiding, Sam stumbled into a gang of thugs harassing a woman and her Inhuman daughter and stepped in. When she asked, “If Captain America won’t help us…who will?” an idea started to form.

Sam called Misty Knight and Dennis Dunphy, otherwise known as D-Man, to help him figure out a way to sneak people like that woman and her daughter to safer locations. Soon, they’d set up a system that included a new take on the old Captain America hotline to get people out of the country, including Scott Lang’s daughter Cassie. When Ant-Man asked why Sam hadn’t tried to save Steve, the one-time Falcon said that if Tony Stark or Amadeus Cho couldn’t figure it out, what could he do? Instead, he decided to stay focused on this effort, which seemed to truly help people.

That, of course, set up the aforementioned SECRET EMPIRE #2 which itself continued on in the next issue with Wilson reluctantly leading Stark, Ant-Man, Mockingbird, Quicksilver, and Hercules into their next adventure in SECRET EMPIRE: UNDERGROUND.

The Empire Strikes Back

In an interesting twist of fate, Sam Wilson first met Captain America after The Red Skull switched bodies with him. The villain got the drop on Rogers in CAPTAIN AMERICA #114 and used the Cosmic Cube to take over the hero’s body in #115. By issue #117, Skull, still in Cap’s body, once again used the Cube, this time to teleport Steve from Avengers HQ to an island inhabited by his old cronies the Exiles who hated the villain for sending them there in the first place.

A young social worker by the name of Sam Wilson happened to also be there in an effort to help the locals. Realizing he’d been wearing a mask the whole time, Steve ditched the Red Skull visage and covered his face in clay so no one would recognize him. That’s how he looked when Steve Rogers first met Sam Wilson, who would become The Falcon later in that very issue. Given how things turned out, Sam’s got to wonder if maybe the Red Skull’s face proved more of a window into Steve’s soul than he ever thought!

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Captain America sends Wade Wilson on a murderous mission!

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

Readers may have been surprised to see Deadpool still standing by Captain America’s side in the pages of SECRET EMPIRE #1 wherein he and a handful of other heroes like Odinson, Scarlet Witch, and Vision continued to act as Avengers under Hydra’s ruling fist. The Merc with a Mouth’s not exactly known for towing the line or being much of a company man, so what’s the deal?

Well, Gerry Duggan and Matteo Lolli attempted to answer some of those questions in this week’s DEADPOOL #31, which takes place before the events of SECRET EMPIRE #0. The issue kicked off with DP remembering how he grew up as a huge Cap fan and felt honored when Steve Rogers asked him to join the Avengers Unity Squad.

Back when Steve was still running around at his actual physical age, he used his tactical genius to set up the Avengers as well as he could. In 2015’s AVENGERS #0, he tasked Deadpool with stealing a canister of Terrigen mist so they could use it to save Rogue’s life. Upon successful completion, Steve surprised Wade by handing him an Avengers ID card!

That, of course, led to Deadpool regularly appearing in UNCANNY AVENGERS as the squad took on the likes of Super-Adaptoid, Ultron, and The Red Skull outfitted with parts of Professor X’s brain. They also made their way to Pleasant Hill during Standoff and got in on the Civil War II action. As Wade so helpfully explained, Cap would send him secret missions writtenon small white note cards that he would memorize and burn. With those gigs came specific rules, especially the one about not killing anyone. He found himself engaged in one of those very assignments before the Sentinel of Liberty showed his true Hydra colors.

Uncanny Avengers (2015) #1

Uncanny Avengers (2015) #1

  • Published: October 14, 2015
  • Added to Marvel Unlimited: April 18, 2016
  • Rating: Rated T
  • Writer: Gerry Duggan
  • Cover Artist: Ryan Stegman
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That mission involved tracking down another Cap-fan: S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson who admitted that he’d been a bit suspicious of Rogers for a while. As he sent out a transmission warning about Cap’s involvement in something big—including the business with the Chitauri queen—Deadpool shot a rocket launcher at him, sending Lola crashing into a forest. Knowing he couldn’t take the merc on directly, Coulson ran for a nearby safe house he intended to use. He got inside, but Wade jammed a hand in and got a gut shot off. As he passed out, Coulson understood that he could have stopped Rogers’ plans if Wilson had never shown up.

The issue ended with Captain America congratulating Deadpool on a job well done as they both watched Coulson’s safe house burn…

The Empire Strikes Back

For more background on the Wade Wilson/Steve Rogers dynamic, check out THE DEATH OF WOLVERINE: DEADPOOL & CAPTAIN AMERICA one-shot. After Logan died, his fellow super soldier science experiments made it their mission to destroy any trace of the mutant powerhouse so he could’’t be cloned or resurrected. That involved tracking down a knife with his blood on it that had recently been purchased by A.I.M. to Moscow. As they did, they remembered their friend and we got more of a look at why Cap believed in Deadpool so much. He’d seen what being created in a lab could do and also knew the potential those unique individuals had for creating good in the world. Then again, he turned out to be a mind-controlled despot, so who knows?

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Track the evolution of Carol Danvers’ role in the Marvel Universe!

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

SECRET EMPIRE #0 saw Captain America’s Hydra agenda come full circle as he assumed control of the world governments through S.H.I.E.L.D., isolated New York City in the Darkforce Dimension, and blocked Alpha Flight with the planetary defense shield. That last one seemed particularly aimed at Captain Marvel. In fact, Cap even fully explained that he’d had a Chitauri queen hidden on planet, which meant her people would never stop coming for her. In other words, the extra-terrestrial pummeling would never end.

If she had time to reflect on how she got to that point, Carol would remember taking the job as head of Alpha Flight after the events of Secret Wars. In the volume of CAPTAIN MARVEL that launched in 2016, she assumed control of the group working out of the Alpha Flight Space Station putting her in charge of a full staff plus the likes of Puck, Aurora, Sasquatch, and Abigail Brand. Their mission? Stop space threats from reaching the Earth.

The first adventure put her and the team in direct opposition to an alien race that didn’t take kindly to her Kree genetic signature after people from that particular planet nearly wiped them from existence. Soon after, Carol re-purposed her group to utilize the information coming from the Inhuman Ulysses to save the planet during Civil War II. The crossover also ran through A-FORCE and ULTIMATES, two team books that Carol also regularly appeared in. Captain Marvel’s desire to use Ulysses to save the world, even if he’s wrong every now and then, didn’t sit well with everyone, including Iron Man who worried more about someone else using that information for the wrong reasons.

Captain Marvel (2016) #1

Captain Marvel (2016) #1

What is Marvel Unlimited?

The event ended with Carol’s boyfriend Jim Rhodes dead, her longtime friend Jennifer Walters beaten comatose, Tony Stark out of commission, and the hero community once again left in a shambles. Yet, in the pages of her new series MIGHTY CAPTAIN MARVEL, Danvers found herself dealing with not only newfound fame, but also the impending Chitauri invasion. This week’s MIGHTY CAPTAIN MARVEL #5 actually takes place before the events of SECRET EMPIRE #0, showing how Carol started training a group of Alpha Cadets and also fought the first wave of invaders with the Guardians of the Galaxy, some of the Ultimates, and other heroes before getting the news that Cap had betrayed them.

SECRET EMPIRE #1 skipped ahead to show a world where Hydra had already taken control. We saw Captain Marvel sending out a distress signal to anyone who might hear saying that Earth needed help, noting that this threat could easily spread to their planets. As long as she’s still up there, humanity has a hope!

The Empire Strikes Back

The alien menace known as the Chitauri first appeared in the Ultimate Universe in the pages of the original ULTIMATES. They would show up to menace that reality on more than one occasion, but blew up to nearly a household name after becoming the main threat in the first Avengers film! The aliens first appeared in the Marvel Universe in the pages of NOVA to hassle Sam Alexander. Thanks to a stolen Ultimate Nullifier, though, he made short work of them.

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Before Clint and Natasha go their separate ways, see how they first got together!

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

This week’s installment of SECRET EMPIRE by Nick Spencer and Andrea Sorrentino not only established Captain America’s potentially wavering relationship with Hydra and equipped the heroes with the information they need to find the Cosmic Cube pieces, but also drove an enormous, and possibly permanent, wedge between longtime friends—and more—Black Widow and Hawkeye.

Way back in TALES OF SUSPENSE #57, Hawkeye—who decided to go from expert circus performer to masked hero after seeing Iron Man in action—got wrongfully accused of a crime. Russian spy Black Widow then appeared to save him, filled his quill with fancy arrows, and set him against Shellhead, dangling the potential for love like a carrot before the archer’s nose.

The duo continued to work together in the pages of TALES OF SUSPENSE #60 and #64, but eventually Hawkeye’s patriotism overcame his lust for the espionage expert and he went straight, joining Earth’s Mightiest Heroes along with the rest of Cap’s Kookie Quartet in AVENGERS #16.

Even though she too intended to defect to the States, Natasha found herself brainwashed and battling her former beau and his new allies in AVENGERS #29 and #30. However, she admitted that her love for Hawkeye helped break her from the mind control. The pair tried to make it work for a while, but ultimately, they went their separate ways.

Tales of Suspense (1959) #57

Tales of Suspense (1959) #57

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Natasha eventually became a full-fledged member of the Avengers herself and even led the team for a while. She also co-headlined the DAREDEVIL series for a time. Hawkeye moved on with Mockingbird, but still showed up in DAREDEVIL #99 to try and win the Widow back!

After enough time passed, Hawkeye and Black Widow figured out how to work together as friends and teammates. Most recently, Hawkeye came under fire during CIVIL WAR II for killing Bruce Banner at the doctor’s own orders. He then moved on to OCCUPY AVENGERS. Black Widow herself starred in her own acclaimed eponymous series.

So, what could cause such a rift between these two? A very clear split in ideology. Black Widow wants to assassinate Captain America for all he’s done, especially after the resistance lost so much ground trying to figure out if he was a clone or a Skrull or something else. Hawkeye, however, wants to wait and see if this Cosmic Cube plan can come together and fix his friend. In SECRET EMPIRE #2, Natasha made her position clear as she cold-clocked Clint and made off with her own agenda.

The Empire Strikes Back

If any two characters could understand the possibilities of a second chance, it’s Clint and Natasha. As you can tell from the above history lesson, both characters worked on either side of the law before becoming Avengers. A major reason they both got accepted into that organization’s hallowed halls lies with Captain America having faith in them. As Avengers and even agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., both have been able to at least try and make up for the bad they’ve done, which makes Natasha’s stance all the more troubling.

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Daisy Johnson leads her reluctant Secret Warriors against evil!

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

The world has gone crazy. Captain America took over the world for Hydra and now Daisy Johnson leads her own team of Inhuman heroes against him in SECRET WARRIORS by Matthew Rosenberg and Javier Garron.

Also known as Quake, this hero has been working the darker side of the Marvel Universe since she first appeared in SECRET WAR #2 back in 2004. That story, by Brian Michael Bendis and Gabriele Dell’Otto, featured Nick Fury sending Captain America, Spider-Man, Luke Cage, Wolverine, Black Widow, and Daredevil to illegally take over Latveria under Johnson’s command. Since the mission led to a major super villain attack on New York City and he used brainwashing to entice his operatives, Fury went underground which eventually paved the way for Daisy to become Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. for a time.

When Fury put together his original Secret Warriors team, Daisy not only helped recruit the offspring of existing super humans for the “Caterpillar” squad, but also went up against Hydra a number of times while working with the group. Those encounters seemed to carry over into her other appearances. In the pages of AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D., she worked with her team as well as the Avengers to stop Gorgon from unleashing an army of Iron Man armors programmed with Agent Coulson’s plans on how to take down just about every hero in the Marvel Universe.

Now she’s leading her own squad in SECRET WARRIORS, including Ms. Marvel, Karnak, Moon Girl, Devil Dinosaur, and Lockjaw. Not bad for the daughter of Mr. Hyde!

The Empire Strikes Back

Thanks to Daisy’s ongoing presence on “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” as played by Chloe Bennet, a whole new audience has gotten to know the erstwhile Inhuman. As viewers of the series will remember, she began life on the series as super-hacker Skye who got recruited by Agent Coulson. In the second season, she gained her familiar powers and learned that Daisy Johnson is her true name.

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From Whisperer to a scream, how did he end up before a firing squad?

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

Anyone thinking that there still might some goodness left in Captain America saw those dreams fade at the very end of SECRET EMPIRE #1 when he ordered a firing squad to kill his one-time partner and long-time friend Rick Jones. The issue, by writer Nick Spencer and artist Steve McNiven, marked an end point for a long career in the super hero community. Rick first appeared in INCREDIBLE HULK #1 as the near-victim of a gamma bomb test. Thanks to the quick thinking of Dr. Bruce Banner, Jones lived, but his savior turned into The Hulk.

The following year, Rick found himself at the center of another monumental moment in the Marvel Universe when he and his Teen Brigade pals sent out a warning about the Jade Giant to the Fantastic Four that Loki made sure other heroes heard, including Thor, Ant-Man, Wasp, and Iron Man. In other words, he proved at least partially responsible for starting the Avengers as seen in that book’s very first issue!

That might be enough adventure for a lifetime in some cases, but Jones still had plenty of thrilling moments ahead. He trained with Captain America briefly and even shared a heroic career with Captain Marvel for a time, switching places with the Negative Zone-based hero when appropriate. After the events of the Kree-Skrull War—which Rick actually turned the tide of thanks to the Destiny Force inside him—the two bound themselves together willingly.

After that, Rick palled around with the Hulk again, this time in his Doctor Banner form, got married, pursued a career in music, teamed up with a new Captain Marvel ,and even attempted to supervise the Runaways so they wouldn’t head down the same kid-hero path he went down. Later, when his old friend attacked Earth during World War Hulk, Rick tried talking to the Green Goliath, but found himself on the wrong end of betrayer Miek’s spear. In the HULK series, Jones discovered that he’d been turned into the Abomination-like A-Bomb. The Leader and M.O.D.O.K. orchestrated the transformation to use Rick as a weapon against Bruce Banner, but the Hulk’s alter ego figured out the plan and put a stop to it.

Rick ran around as A-Bomb for a while until Hulk, in his Doc Green persona, gave him an antidote to turn him back to normal. In the process, Jones gained the ability to learn things with incredible speed. As he explained in AVENGERS STANDOFF ALPHA, the longtime sidekick used his newfound gift to figure out everything he could about computers and information before becoming the hacktivist known as Whisperer. In that identity, he tried revealing Maria Hill’s Cosmic Cube plans early, but eventually got found out.

Leading up to Secret Empire, Rick actually worked for S.H.I.E.L.D. in an effort to avoid jail time, which put him in direct contact with his old friend Steve Rogers. Cap tried keeping Rick comfortable, but his repeated efforts to get information out to the world—including to young Rashaun Lucas as seen in SECRET EMPIRE #1—got him locked back up in a cell and eventually led to his death in front of a firing squad at the end of the issue.

The Empire Strikes Back

For those wondering if Rick’s really dead, it’s a fair question to ask! If he could avoid a gamma bomb by being thrown into a ditch, maybe he’s tougher than we think. Maybe he’s got some Destiny Force or excess radiation kicking around inside of him that will save his life. Or, maybe he’s still in good with Death after being kinda-sorta married to her for a time. Oh, and don’t forget about that guy who ran around New York City claiming to be Rick Jones seen in the pages of ALIAS. Really, we just want Rick Jones to be okay!

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The long hard road to betrayal for Steve Rogers’ closest confidante!

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

To say that Sharon Carter and Steve Rogers have had a complicated relationship is tantamount to the Marvel Universe being miffed that Captain America now serves Hydra. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1966’s TALES OF SUSPENSE #75, Sharon gobsmacked Cap because of how much she looked like her great-aunt Peggy Carter, his World War II-era love.

The two had their ups and downs over the years until Carter, an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., seemingly died in CAPTAIN AMERICA #233 from 1979 in a battle between white supremacists, Harlem gangs, and the National Guard. She returned many years later in CAPTAIN AMERICA #444, helping The Red Skull save the Star-Spangled Avenger so they could team up to take out a Hitler-powered Cosmic Cube. Sharon revealed in issue #446 that S.H.I.E.L.D. used her apparent death as cover to send her into increasingly dangerous situations. The woman known as Agent 13 eventually lost contact with her handler and did whatever mercenary or wetwork jobs came her way to survive.

Sharon became a huge part of writer Ed Brubaker’s run on CAPTAIN AMERICA which launched in 2004. In addition to her relationship with Steve, Sharon also exhibited the spy skills that made her such an asset to S.H.I.E.L.D. Along the way, she found herself brainwashed by Dr. Faustus—who also controlled her just before her apparent death years before—into shooting Captain America after the events of Civil War.

With Cap out of the picture and Bucky taking over the shield, Sharon left S.H.I.E.L.D., but continued to fight the good fight alongside the new Captain America, Falcon, and Black Widow. The trauma did not end there, though, as Sharon also lost her baby while fighting with Sin for her very life. After helping bring Steve back from being displaced in time as seen in CAPTAIN AMERICA REBORN, the pair continued to work together.

By the time writer Rick Remender launched his CAPTAIN AMERICA volume in 2012, Sharon and Steve still continued both their professional and romantic relationships, though both hit a snag when she sacrificed herself to keep Arnim Zola’s massive warship in Dimension Z as seen in issue #10. She reappeared in #23 as an older warrior, having spent years fighting Zola and raising her and Cap’s adopted son. Just before that, Steve had been transformed to his actual physical age, so the two took on more administrative roles in the super hero community.

That’s where they stood when Kobik de-aged Steve during the Standoff! event which lead directly into CAPTAIN AMERICA: STEVE ROGERS and Secret Empire. The former series even saw Sharon work as a liaison between S.H.I.E.L.D. and the U.S. Security council to help push for new laws that would make it easier for the former organization to wage war on Hydra. Steve even suggested her for the job as head of S.H.I.E.L.D. when Maria Hill got ousted, but everyone agreed that he should get the gig. In other words, everyone played directly into his plans.

Sharon’s even one of the first people to realize that Steve now leads Hydra as seen in the pages of SECRET EMPIRE #0. She’s understandably bewildered when the green-suited minions stop and listen to the man they called Supreme Leader. The last we saw of Sharon in the issue, Steve ordered her to be placed on a transport and demanded her safety. He repeatedly said that he loved her, but that probably won’t stop one of the world’s most accomplished secret agents from trying to stop the man she loved and one of history’s greatest heroes.

The Empire Strikes Back

Secret Empire might be the latest story pitting Agent Carter against a huge secret organization like Hydra, but it’s far from the first. She’s encountered the evil group many times, including as part of Steve’s Secret Avengers squad. Set during the time after REBORN when Rogers returned, but Bucky Barnes still ran around as Captain America, the series found Carter and the former Cap working with the likes of Black Widow, Valkyrie, War Machine, Moon Knight, Beast, and Ant-Man. During that period, the team came into direct conflict with the Shadow Council, a subversive set-up that also had ties to Secret Empire as revealed in SECRET AVENGERS #21!

Sharon Carter might be stuck on a Hydra-controlled ship at this moment, but don’t expect her to stay there for long!

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How did the most beloved hero in the Marvel Universe become its most dangerous enemy?

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

Over a year ago, Captain America uttered two words that sent the comic-reading world into an uproar: “Hail Hydra.” Since then, this new version of an old hero has worked to secretly aid his beloved organization, especially in the pages of CAPTAIN AMERICA: STEVE ROGERS by Nick Spencer and regular artist Jesus Saiz.

This week, however, the Marvel Universe finally started understanding the truth with the publication of SECRET EMPIRE #0 by Spencer along with artists Daniel Acuna and Rod Reis. Captain America hasn’t just been working for Hydra this whole time, he’s been orchestrating a three-pronged attack on the entire planet in his efforts to tear down the existing framework of society and rebuild it from the ground up.

In addition to drawing an immense Chitauri army by capturing and holding a queen on Earth, Rogers also orchestrated the creation of an army of super villains to attack Manhattan and even got the U.S. government to completely sign over power to him. In other words, he has the world in his grasp and simply needs to squeeze.

But how did it all come to this? How did one of the greatest heroes ever created, a man who’s patriotism and leadership have inspired others since his creation in 1941, go so bad? Not to deflect blame from the perpetrator, but The Red Skull pulled all the strings.

As explained in CAPTAIN AMERICA: STEVE ROGERS #2 by the Skull himself, Kobik actually came from the Cosmic Cube destroyed in a battle between the villain and Captain America, as seen way back in CAPTAIN AMERICA #448. After re-forming as a child, she sought out the man she had spent so much time with previously. With the entity in his grasp, the Skull indoctrinated her with stories about the greatness of Hydra.

So, what does all this have to do with Captain America? Well, when Maria Hill decided to use Kobik to create Pleasant Hill—a prison for super villains changed by the Cosmic Cube into supposedly peaceful individuals—she actually played into the Skull’s plans. After Sam Wilson, Bucky Barnes, Steve Rogers—then transformed to his actual physical age—and other heroes found out about the prison, they demanded it be shut down. Following an attack by Crossbones in Pleasant Hill, Cap got his youth and power restored by Kobik who didn’t want anything bad to happen.

Captain America: Steve Rogers (2016) #1

Captain America: Steve Rogers (2016) #1

What is Marvel Unlimited?

Now, here’s where things get tricky. According to Red Skull, at this moment he had Kobik rewrite all of Steve’s memories, which explains the mostly black and white flashbacks seen throughout his solo book. Instead of dedicating himself to the individual-praising doctrines of the United States, Steve learned the true power of working together from Hydra. Instead of growing up in New York City until he entered into Project Rebirth, a woman named Elisa took him to a Hydra camp where he and other children trained to become agents. There he met Helmut Zemo and the two became lifelong friends.

In his mind, Steve took on the assignment to kill Dr. Erskine, the man who created the Super Soldier Serum. Instead, Helmut pulled the trigger, but Hydra arranged for Arnim Zola to take over and still give Steve the serum which produced Captain America. Rogers served during World War II for the Allies, but secretly still worked for Hydra. In that version of history, the Axis powers won, but the Allies developed a Cosmic Cube that would supposedly allow them to rewrite history. In the pages of SECRET EMPIRE #0, Kraken explained to Steve that he would enter into this new world and be something very different, but would eventually wake up when Kobik touched him.

Restored to his Hydra-loving ways, Steve started working with Red Skull, though also against him. It turned out that, to Captain America, Hydra represented a more pure idea and that the Skull had tarnished it by recruiting racists and making it all about himself. After much subterfuge, Cap killed Skull in CAPTAIN AMERICA: STEVE ROGERS #15 and continued with his plans to move the proper Hydra to the forefront of humanity.

Now the question becomes, who can stop the world’s most experienced tactician? Well, hopefully the combined might of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes…

The Empire Strikes Back

Unfortunately, Secret Empire does not mark the first time that Captain America wound up working for The Red Skull. Co-creator Jack Kirby had the villain recount his own origin to a bound Sentinel of Liberty way back in TALES OF SUSPENSE #66. The tale gave a chemical enough time to work its way into Cap’s system and allow the bad guys to seemingly order him to attack the Supreme Commander of the Allied Armies in the following issue. Before the mission itself in issue #67, the Skull introduced Cap to Hitler and then sent him after his target. Bucky infiltrated the accompanying Nazi squad, but couldn’t fully shake Steve out of his stupor. Finally, in #68, it’s explained that Cap snapped out of the Skull’s control when he had the gun pointed at the General, causing him to return to his heroic state of mind.

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