Nick Spencer wraps up an epic event with SECRET EMPIRE OMEGA.

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

Nick Spencer kickstarted an epic tale starting with CAPTAIN AMERICA: STEVE ROGERS #1 last year and this week, he wrapped it all up with SECRET EMPIRE: OMEGA #1 along with artists Andrea Sorrentino and Joe Bennett. 

Captain America: Steve Rogers (2016) #1

Captain America: Steve Rogers (2016) #1

What is Marvel Unlimited?

Before getting to the main event, let’s look at a few of the side stories that found their completion in this issue. First, as Clint Barton wept over Black Widow’s casket, Bucky Barnes found himself in Madripoor looking into the upcoming assassination of a general who aligned himself with Hydra. When the guy gets shot, Barnes thinks that the killer had to be Black Widow.

At the same time, Emma Frost and Hank McCoy talked about the dissolution of the mutant nation New Tian. While McCoy said that the efforts to put forth a solid mutant society would mean a lot to younger generations, Frost regretted that they would never know who their actual queen was.

Meanwhile, we also caught up with one of the more surprising members of HydraCap’s crew: The Punisher. Feeling betrayed and used, Frank Castle decided to make it his mission to burn Hydra to the ground. As Punisher continued his crusade, Nick Fury looked on and said to Control, “He’s ready.”

With those mysterious set-ups out of the way, it’s time to talk about the main confrontation in this issue which came between Steve Rogers and his Cosmic Cube-created copy with the octopus tattoo across his chest. To do so, Cap broke into a jail holding just the one captive.

Inside, he faced the man with his face. HydraCap, still convinced that the reality he understood thanks to Red Skull’s essential brainwashing of Kobik, was the correct one and one still worth fighting for. He also brought to Steve’s attention how quickly people seemed to turn on one another and reach for the power he offered them.

Rogers, while concerned with the damage HydraCap did to his image and reputation, still saw some good in the whole situation, hoping that this whole nasty endeavor would stop some people from blindly following anyone, even himself.

Ultimately, though, the true Captain America believes in the goodness of people and the resilience of his homeland. We’ll see him trying to make up for the mistakes a man with his face made over in MARVEL LEGACY #1 and CAPTAIN AMERICA #695.

The Empire Strikes Back

Upon leaving HydraCap’s cell, Steve Rogers warned his double not to leave his cell, letting him know that he’d be able to spot him no matter the face he wore. As the guards rushed in at the very end, though, one of them whispered something in his ear: “Hail Hydra.” So, while the threat of HydraCap seems low at this point, don’t be surprised if we see him again!

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War's hard on everyone, especially super-powered kids.

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

Wars, whether overt or secret, take their toll on everyone involved. Soldiers fight the battles, their families try to go on living back home and children do their best to understand the whole thing.

SECRET EMPIRE may have ended last week with the true Steve Rogers returning thanks to the efforts of Bucky Barnes, Kobik and everyone else who resisted Hydra’s advances. But, just because Captain America’s back to normal, doesn’t mean the damage gets fixed in an instant, at least in some cases.

This week’s CHAMPIONS #12, by Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos, examined the current status of the team in the wake of their incredible and horrible experiences during the conflict, which we’ll examine now! 

Champions (2016) #12

Champions (2016) #12

This version of The Champions – Totally Awesome Hulk, Young Cyclops, Ms. Marvel, Viv Vision, Miles Morales Spider-Man and Nova – initially came together because they didn’t like how the adult heroes handled the business of saving the world.

Even though they had their differences, the Champions joined up with the rest of the adult heroes in the Underground after Captain America took over the country in the name of Hydra.

As Secret Empire kicked off, their ranks swelled to include Ironheart as well as the new versions of Wasp, Falcon and Patriot. When Black Widow split off from the rest of the resistance fighters, intent on taking Steve Rogers out for good, the Champions followed her.

Even though Miles Morales had seen the same vision of himself killing Captain America as everyone else in CIVIL WAR II, he and his team intended to let Black Widow train them in the Red Room – as seen in SECRET EMPIRE UPRISING #1 – but never fully agreed with the idea of killing Steve Rogers. 

Secret Empire: Uprising (2017) #1

Secret Empire: Uprising (2017) #1

UPRISING also saw the Champions infiltrate the Hydra Youth Choir, a plan designed by Widow to get them close to Viper and eventually flip her to their side. This move allowed both Miles and Black Widow to get close enough to Steve Rogers to kill him, but instead Cap killed his former Avengers comrade and Miles gave himself up.

The remaining members of the team did their best to continue fighting against Hydra-Cap, but were temporarily erased from existence after he used a Cosmic Cube-created armor to rewrite history. As we mentioned above, though, Bucky’s plan to bring Kobik and Steve back worked and everyone returned to the land of the living, though still with the memories of what happened.

The Empire Strikes Back

In addition to bringing dead characters like Rick Jones and Black Widow back from the dead, Kobik also offered legacy characters like Miles, Amadeus, Sam Wilson, Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, Kate Burton, Jane Foster, Wolverine and Iron Heart a “journey of discovery…through the Vanishing Point.” Upon returning in the next panel, these individuals had been restored. To see exactly how, you’ll have to get the various GENERATIONS one-shots that feature these heroes meeting up with their predecessors in ways that allow long-dead or earlier versions of characters to interact with their modern counterparts.

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Steve Rogers' former sidekick saves reality in Secret Empire!

 

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

In a way, it always had to come back down to the men who wielded the shield. SECRET EMPIRE kicked off when Steve Rogers revealed himself to be the head of Hydra, surprising everyone, but most of all his former partners Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes. Wilson gave up the Captain America mantle to focus on helping people get out of America while Bucky played dead until the time to strike seemed right.

With Rogers revealing his new Cosmic Cube-powered, yellow and green armor at the end of SECRET EMPIRE #9, the time seemed perfect. Rogers displayed exactly how powerful he’d become by not only defeating the assembled Avengers, but also wiping them from existence and completely re-writing history.

Wilson, Barnes and Ant-Man hung back, or maybe part of Rogers didn’t want to see them go. Wilson handed over the last Cube fragment as well as Rogers’ shield, but that all proved a ruse to get a shrunken Bucky inside the Cube with Kobik and her memory’s of the real Steve Rogers!

Rewinding a bit, you might wonder where exactly Bucky’s been during this whole event. Well, in the pages of THUNDERBOLTS, Baron Zemo appeared to have killed him, but in reality Kobik saved the man she considered a friend and protector. 

Thunderbolts (2016) #1

Thunderbolts (2016) #1

  • Published: May 04, 2016
  • Added to Marvel Unlimited: November 14, 2016
  • Writer: Jim Zub
  • Penciller: Jon Malin
  • Cover Artist: Jon Malin
What is Marvel Unlimited?

Playing to the advantage of his presumed death, Bucky made his way to Atlantis where he disguised himself as one of Namor’s advisors and eventually revealed himself to his fellow Invaders in SECRET EMPIRE: BRAVE NEW WORLD.

Back in the present, Bucky reached into Kobik’s consciousness and pulled his friend back into existence. He succeeded in saving his friend, where Rogers had failed with Bucky during World War II.

With the real Captain America standing in front of them for the first time in ages, Bucky and his friends simply watched as two sides of the same coin battled each other nearly to death.

In the end, Bucky’s faith in the goodness of his friend, Steve Rogers, proved the most important thing he, or any of his fellow heroes, could believe in. Thankfully, he and everyone else on the planet was rewarded for believing in a true hero.

The Empire Strikes Back

SECRET EMPIRE might officially be over with this tenth issue, but there’s still more to look forward to. As seen at the end of this story, Kobik sent the Legacy heroes through a Vanishing Point that will be more fully explored in the GENERATIONS one-shots. The aftermath will continue through some of the monthly titles, while SECRET EMPIRE: OMEGA will examine how, or if, Captain America can regain the trust of the people.

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The sentient Cosmic Cube begins to understand her role in Secret Empire.

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

It all started with a Cosmic Cube who believed it was a person. That’s the basic truth behind the events of Secret Empire, though far from the full story.

Kobik’s origins reach back to her first mention in MARVEL NOW! POINT ONE #1, though readers didn’t get a full look at her until AVENGERS STANDOFF: WELCOME TO PLEASANT HILL #1. In that crossover, we learned that Maria Hill put a plan into place that would use parts of a Cosmic Cube to re-write villains’ memories so that they would fit in nice and happy in a small town dubbed Pleasant Hill. 

Avengers Standoff: Welcome to Pleasant Hill (2016) #1

Avengers Standoff: Welcome to Pleasant Hill (2016) #1

What is Marvel Unlimited?

In AVENGERS STANDOFF ASSAULT ON PLEASANT HILL ALPHA #1, Kobik’s origins were revealed. Initially, S.H.I.E.L.D. intended to use pieces of a smashed Cube to make their jail a reality, but the chunks joined together to create a kid named Kobik. That, of course, didn’t stop Hill and company from using her to achieve their goal anyway.

The Cosmic Cube prison idea started making the rounds in public early on in CAPTAIN AMERICA: SAM WILSON, though it took Rich Jones’ work as the super-hacker Whisperer to get the word out Pleasant Hill. Jones actions lead to heroes like Wilson, Steve Rogers, Bucky Barnes and eventually the rest of the Avengers to make a move on the prison as Baron Zemo and other baddies started regaining their memories.

During the conflagration, the then-old Steve Rogers found himself returned to his more youthful status thanks to a run-in with Crossbones that lead to him needing some healing from Kobik.

What no one knew at that time was that Red Skull had been influencing Kobik from the beginning. Upon gaining sentience, she desired to meet someone who loved her and no one loved their old Cosmic Cube like the Skull. Through their interactions, the Hydra leader indoctrinated the young woman in his ways of hate, even teaching her completely false news-laced history.

Even worse, Skull essentially programmed Kobik to not just rejuvenate Steve Rogers, but implant a series of false memories that lead to his “Hail Hydra” shocker in CAPTAIN AMERICA: STEVE ROGERS #1 and everything that lead up through this week’s SECRET EMPIRE #9

Captain America: Steve Rogers (2016) #1

Captain America: Steve Rogers (2016) #1

What is Marvel Unlimited?

After Standoff, Kobik spent time with Bucky Barnes in the Thunderbolts as well as some of the former villain pals she made in Pleasant Hill. She even went so far as to attempt to rewrite Bucky’s past to make him a Hydra agent, but he rebuked the very notion. When Bucky attempted to explain the reality of Hydra to Kobik, she flipped her wig and nearly destroyed everything in existence until Fixer blasted her, shattering her into the Cosmic Cube fragments.

The heroes have been looking for these pieces since Secret Empire began, but as we learned this week, Hydra attained all but one which lead to the souped-up version of Rogers seen at the end of the issue.

However, a glimmer of hope exists within Kobik herself. Another reveal in #9 came when Steve Rogers realized that he had been existing in a kind of ghost world inside her mind. Having regained much of himself, he seemed ready to jump back into the battle, assuming he could get his hands on a body, of course!

The Empire Strikes Back

If you’re wondering which of the many Cosmic Cubes used by Red Skull resulted in Kobik’s strange relationship with the madman, look no further than Mark Waid’s run on CAPTAIN AMERICA with Ron Garney which ran from CAPTAIN AMERICA #444448. Though presumed dead thanks to the Super Soldier Serum turning on him, Rogers soon woke up to the sight of the long-thought-dead Sharon Carter and the Red Skull. All three had to team up to save their own skins – reality itself – from a Hitler-infused Cosmic Cube. Upon succeeding in that task, the Skull gained control of the Cube itself and did some of his own historical re-writing, but Rogers broke free and used his shield to shatter the Cosmic Cube, slice off the Skull’s arm and blowing everything up. That seemed the end of that particular Cube until Red Skull revealed the true history in CAPTAIN AMERICA: STEVE ROGERS #2

Captain America (1968) #444

Captain America (1968) #444

What is Marvel Unlimited?

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The sea king reveals his true intents as Secret Empire barrels towards its epic conclusion!

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

Ever since his first appearance back in 1939’s MARVEL COMICS #1, Namor of Atlantis has proven himself one of the most inscrutable and complicated characters around. He’s constantly talking about focusing solely on his underwater home, but also forming alliances with land-lovers and getting involved in their larger conflicts.

With Secret Empire, the sea king couldn’t help but get involved as Steve Rogers himself approached his former Invaders teammate about establishing an agreement between the Hydra-run United States and the undersea ruler.

In the first issue of BRAVE NEW WORLD, Namor admitted that he struck a deal with Rogers that would lead to Atlantis’ neutrality as long as they didn’t interfere in surface matters. Two more invaders, Human Torch and Toro, tried convincing him that, eventually, Rogers would take over the whole world. Their reward for trying? Getting locked up in jail.

SECRET EMPIRE #3 saw Hydra send Baron Zemo and their Avengers to raid Atlantis after they discovered a piece of the Cosmic Cube resided there. Upon completion of the mission, though, Rogers’ agents realized that the piece proved a fake. To show his displeasure with his one time comrade, Captain America ordered his people to destroy the entire location.

At the same time, members of the resistance traveled all over the world trying to track down their own under the supposed guidance of Artificial Intelligence Tony Stark, who turned out to be lying about being able to track the pieces.

To everyone’s surprise, Namor asked for an official, public audience with Rogers and presented him with the Cosmic Cube fragment. Even more shocking? He actually bowed to the turncoat, as seen in SECRET EMPIRE #4.

Later, after Hydra’s near-crippling attack on the resistance’s secret headquarters and Steve Rogers’ almost-death at the fists of Miles Morales, Namor returned to the fray in SECRET EMPIRE #8. After the heroes took out the Darkforce bubble around Manhattan and the planetary shield, Namor popped out of the water with help and a surprise.

Not only did he reveal that he planned on helping the heroes, but also that he had an ace up his sleeve: Bucky!

In this week’s SECRET EMPIRE: BRAVE NEW WORLD #5, we saw that, after his apparent death at the hands of Baron Zemo, Bucky had been posing as one of Namor’s advisers. He revealed himself to Human Torch and Toro and then all of the Invaders united to help their friend.

The Empire Strikes Back

Namor and Bucky have a long history of working with one another. The two, of course, fought against the Nazis during World War II, but their relationship picked right back up after Steve Rogers used a mangled Cosmic Cube to restore Bucky’s memories in the wake of his return as the Winter Soldier. When Bucky took over for Steve Rogers as Captain America, he and Namor teamed up to save the body of Jim Hammond, the Human Torch which is part of a larger story running in CAPTAIN AMERICA #4348. This tale establishes not just Namor’s deep loyalty to these people he fought alongside of, while also showing some of those original adventures. Eventually, they recovered Hammond’s body and gave him a proper burial, though he returned to active duty not long after.

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See how Avril Kincaid went from S.H.I.E.L.D. agent to shield-breaker in SECRET EMPIRE #8!

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

Sometimes heroes rise from the most unexpected places. Anyone who read this week’s SECRET EMPIRE #8 will know that, as multiple plans of attack failed by more well known heroes, including Sam Wilson and Doctor Strange, a relatively new one hopped out of a hospital bed and saved the day!

Of course, we’re talking about Avril Kincaid, the current protector of the universe known as Quasar. But where did she come from and how did she get here? Let’s get into it!

Kincaid first appeared as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent in CAPTAIN AMERICA: SAM WILSON #7. As part of Maria Hill’s Pleasant Hill operation she not only acted as head of  Plainclothes Surveillance, but also kept special watch over the school that Kobik – the living Cosmic Cube – attended.

Sam and Bucky Barnes arrived in the secret super villain prison after Baron Zemo started his revolt. They jumped in to save Kincaid from the Blood Brothers, but she revealed a secret armory and took care of the villains herself!

In that same issue, Agent Kincaid laid out a plan to get into the Pleasant Hill Museum and nab a weapon she thought could change the tide of the whole mess. The next issue saw her meet up with the Curator, but she didn’t actually achieve her goal until ASSAULT ON PLEASANT HILL OMEGA.

That tale not only revealed that Wendell Vaughn acted as the Curator, but also that Kincaid sought and received the Quantum Bands, turning her into the new Quasar in the process. She immediately jumped in to help knock out Graviton’s seemingly impenetrable shield so the Avengers could take on the villains.

From there, Avril trained with Wendell in the mysterious ways of the Quantum Bands and their awesome powers. She even tested the Planetary Defense Shield at the request of Steve Rogers back before he revealed his Hydra leanings.

In SECRET EMPIRE #0, Quasar stepped up to take on the invading Chitauri along with Captain Marvel, Alpha Flight, the Guardians of the Galaxy and other heroes. After Hyperion fell to the invading forces, Carol Danvers called Avril up to the plate. She tried, but wound up a tasty snack for a Leviathan.

The team recovered Kincaid, but she remained in a coma until the critical moment in SECRET EMPIRE #8 when she stood up, focused all of her energy and took out the Planetary Defense Shield which gave Captain Marvel the opportunity to destroy the Chitauri eggs, thus demolishing one of Hydra’s major fronts.

The Empire Strikes Back

As you surely remember, Steve Rogers’ plan to take over the Earth revolved around a three pronged attack. He hid Chitauri eggs on Earth to draw them to the planet, but also threw up the Planetary Defense Shield to trap the space-bound heroes up above. Meanwhile, he had Blackout and Baron Zemo throw up a Darkforce Dimension force field around New York City. Finally, he gamed the system so that he would become the head of the United States in case of an emergency that he himself orchestrated. Two of those prongs broke off in SECRET EMPIRE #8. We already talked about how Quasar saved the space heroes, but Mariah Hill also did her part in this issue by tracking down Blackout and shooting him in the head, thus dropping the Darkforce bubble around the Big Apple. 

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The recently revived Doctor Octopus uses his Hydra connections to try and steal Parker Industries!

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

Doctor Otto Octavius has decided not to let his new lease on life go to waste. After first inhabiting Peter Parker’s body for a while then hanging out inside the Living Brain robot, he finally scored a new form for himself thanks to the Clone Conspiracy story which found him taking over the Proto Clone.

Ock soon made his way to one of his old bases, but found new occupants: Hydra! He took out the guards, but then came face to face with Arnim Zola. Instead of fighting further, the two made an agreement that would bring Doctor Octopus into the Hydra fold and allow him to eventually take control of what he saw as rightfully his: Parker Industries.

This all goes back to the time Otto spent living inside of Peter Parker’s body during the SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN series. During that time, Ock used not only Peter’s physical gifts, but also his own smarts to build first his education by finally acquiring a PhD and then built up Parker Industries himself.

Parker eventually regained his body when Octavius realized that he didn’t fully deserve the title of “superior” Spider-Man. Thanks to a trip to the year 2099, he made a copy of his consciousness up to the point of Spider-Verse, programmed it to sleep for 100 days and then wake up. It made its way to the Living Brain and downloaded itself into the robot at that point.

In AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #29, Superior Octopus started some trouble with Parker, but the hero ran off to get beaten by Captain America in Washington, D.C. Spidey then told Mockingbird he needed to take care of his longtime foe instead of immediately joining up with the resistance.

However, he didn’t bother heading to the Parker Industries building in San Francisco. Ock did, however in #30, using his leverage as a member of Hydra to get inside the building and take what he wanted even though it stood on mutant property as part of New Tian.

Instead, Parker traveled to Shanghai where he warned his people that Ock would come. He appealed to his brilliant employees for help and when the Superior Octopus did finally arrive, Spider-Man thought he had the upper hand against the solo villain.

However, at that point, Otto revealed that he had not only built back doors into all things Parker Industries, but also hidden a part of himself as well. With that, he took over Spider-Rider’s fleet of arachnid-themed vehicles and announced that he’d taken over the company!

The Empire Strikes Back

Secret Empire does not mark the first time Doctor Octopus crossed paths with Captain America. Heck, it’s not even the first time they’ve worked together! During his time as Spider-Man, Otto came in contact with the Star-Spangled Avenger a number of times. After taking notice of Spider-Man’s increasingly brutal methods, Cap wondered if the Avengers still needed him in their line-up as seen in SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #5. In #7 the team confronted him and the formerly-friendly neighborhood wall-crawler flipped Captain America! Cap knocked him out in the following issue and they ran tests on Spider-Man, but couldn’t find anything wrong with him, much to the true Peter’s chagrin. The duo came into conflict again in SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN TEAM-UP #1 when Spidey started taking out all kinds of heroes in an effort to track down the Carrion Virus which happened to take over then-Avenger Hyperion.

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The teen hero struggles with his role in potentially killing Captain America!

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

Surviving Secret Wars and making his way into the 616 Universe may have seemed like the best possible thing for former Ultimate Universe denizen Miles Morales, but then Civil War II broke out and a bomb got dropped on him.

In CIVIL WAR II, Spider-Man witness one of Ulysses’ future-visions which saw him holding an impaled Captain America on the Capital steps in Washington, D.C. Ever since, he’s been understandably shaken.

Of course, everything notched up a level when Steve Rogers revealed his true colors veered more towards Hydra green than U.S.A. red, white and blue as Secret Empire kicked off.

The Champion fought bravely at the first battle of Washington, D.C., but soon fell back with his teammates and became part of the resistance. In SECRET EMPIRE #1, he and the other Champions helped save Rayshaun Lucas and get information from Rick Jones.

In the following issue, Black Widow split off from the others, knowing that Steve Rogers could not be saved and needed killing. As she made her exit, Miles stopped her and offered his services, feeling that he would be the one to kill Cap anyway. Initially she denied his offer of help until the other Champions showed up. Then she brought them all in and began giving them Red Room training.

Meanwhile, over in SECRET EMPIRE UPRISING #1, Morales and his teammates helped infiltrate the Hydra Youth Choir which allowed Black Widow to get Viper to join their side. As seen in SECRET EMPIRE #5, the group also helped acquire an old man in a hospital bed who, as we saw in SECRET EMPIRE #7, turned out to be Mosaic!

Before discovering that, though, Miles helped keep the Champions together in #6, convincing the Wasp to stay while also talking to Widow about their views on whether Steve Rogers remained save-able or not.

The actual targeting of Rogers came in SECRET EMPIRE #7 as Widow literally took aim at him while using Mosaic to take over the nearby Hydra troops and the Champions to fill their various roles. Though Black Widow tried holding Miles back from the action, he escaped and did wind up confronting Captain America on those famous steps.

Miles fought well, but that didn’t stop Cap from killing Black Widow in the process. In his rage, Miles achieved the upper hand and stood over Rogers’ body, not far from the piece of jutting rock his vision told him he should impale the former her upon. Instead of giving into to supposed destiny, though, Morales let the Star Spangled Avenger live, even though it meant getting captured by Hydra.

The Empire Strikes Back

The end of SECRET EMPIRE #7 found another legacy hero reclaiming his place amongst his fellow costumed crusaders. As Miles Morales got locked up, alongside his fellow Champions, Sam Wilson donned his Captain America costume, lifted his own shield and declared that this battle had not yet ended. As we remember from a previous installment, Sam had given up hope in the Captain America name after Steve Rogers showed his Hydra allegiance, but now seems to be taking the name back and re-dedicating himself to acting as a symbol for justice and hope in one of the darkest times in the Marvel Universe!

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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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Hawkeye’s crew starts a grassroots effort to put Hydra in the ground for good!

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

In the wake of killing Bruce Banner during CIVIL WAR II, Hawkeye took to the streets in an effort to help normal people. Along the way he put together a crew of like-minded individuals like Red Wolf, Nightshade, Nighthawk, Wheels, and the Fireheart Cousins. As Clint Barton ran off to help out with the Underground, the other heroes continued their efforts in the pages of this week’s OCCUPY AVENGERS #8 by David F. Walker, Martín Morazzo, and Jorge Coelho. Instead of fighting super villains, they focused on keeping people safe from Hydra goons and getting supplies to those in need.

After stopping a Hydra convoy, the new Nighthawk tried rallying people around the idea of focusing their efforts on fully destroying the evil empire, not just knocking out agents here and there. “They’ve left all of you,” she said to a group of survivors in a rural area. “Why? Because they think you’re not worth locking up or killing. I say they’re wrong. You are a threat.”

The action cut away to show the after effects of a brief broom closet hook up between Hawkeye and Black Widow, but then saw Clint talking to his squad about their upcoming plans. To destroy Hydra, they need to continue building the civilian army, hit even more food outposts, and make their way into another of Nick Fury’s secret bunkers. Of course, an organization as big and powerful as Hydra will have more than a few things to say about their plans, but we’ll have to keep reading to find out how it all plays out.

The Empire Strikes Back

Nighthawk and Nightshade started working together in the former’s 2016 eponymous series. The alternate dimension version of the hero—also known as Kyle Richmond—decided to keep the streets of Chicago safe. Once there, he started working with the former super villain Nightshade, now simply going by Tilda Johnson. The two eventually made their way into OCCUPY AVENGERS, but as Tilda recounted in this issue, “He died out of costume—gunned down by Hydra, not for being Nighthawk, but for simply being a black man.” Now she wears his costume as a way to honor the man who saved her life and plans on stomping out the people who killed him no matter the cost.

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