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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Feast your eyes on some SECRET EMPIRE OMEGA pages courtesy of Tom Brevoort!

Good golly, True Believers! It’s that time again. We’re back with a brand new episode of This Week in Marvel, the official Marvel podcast!

Catch upon all the latest comics news and info as Ryan, Ben and Tucker give you the rundown on all of this week’s greatest comics releases including CAPTAIN PHASMA, HAWKEYE, CHAMPIONS, GENERATIONS: IRON MAN AND IRON HEART, and so much more! Meanwhile, Ryan sits down with Tom Brevoort for the final word on Secret Empire (1:18:43).

Head on over to the West Coast where Christine and Eric give you the scoop on everything Film, TV, and Themed Entertainment (1:58:52). They talk the Marvel Games Inhuman event with Tim Hernandez and Danny Koo. Christine and Eric close out the show with a celebration of the acclaimed Daredevil run of Mark Waid and Chris Samnee for #TWIMURC (2:28:48)!

Download episode #306 of This Week in Marvel from Marvel.com, check out Marvel Podcast Centralgrab the TWiM RSS feed and subscribe to This Week in Marvel on iTunes, so you never miss an episode! We are now also on Soundcloud! Head over now to our new hub to listen to the full run of This Week in Marvel!

This Week in Marvel will focus on delivering all the Marvel info on news and new releases–from comics to video games to toys to TV to film and beyond! New episodes will be released every Thursday (or so) and TWiM is co-hosted by Marvel VP & Executive Editor of Digital Media Ryan “Agent M” Penagos and Marvel Editorial Director of Digital Media Ben Morse, along with Marvel.com Editor Marc Strom, Marvel.com Assistant Editor Christine Dinh, and Manager of Video & Content Production Blake Garris. We also want your feedback, as well as questions for us to answer on future episodes!  Tweet your questions, comments and thoughts about TWiM to @AgentM@BenJMorse@chrissypedia or @Marvel with the hashtag #ThisWeekinMarvel!

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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 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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Get a tease of what's in store!

All the cool kids read Secret Empire–where the action’s at in the Marvel Universe these days. So of course, we had plenty to chat about during the Secret Empire panel at San Diego Comic-Con last Friday. For those of you who couldn’t attend, check out this recap of all the latest news.

Secret Empire #7

This week’s SECRET EMPIRE #7 will continue the super dramatic events we’ve seen unfold over the last year. And you really, really need to read it for one important reason. Remember way back in Civil War II when Ulysses had a vision of Miles Morales killing Steve Rogers? That finally comes to fruition in this issue, so true believers should definitely check it out.

Secret Empire (2017) #7

Secret Empire (2017) #7

Captain America

As we know, Steve Rogers finds himself at the center of Secret Empire, and this has totally blown up the Cap corner of the Marvel Universe! If you plan to read one Secret Empire tie-in, make it the upcoming CAPTAIN AMERICA #25 to see how Steve’s saga continues to develop.

Secret Empire Omega

When Secret Empire wraps up, we’ll have an epilogue that ties up the loose ends in SECRET EMPIRE OMEGA. This oversized issue will serve as an important finale, allowing the story to come to a close in a way that’s exciting and emotionally satisfying for readers who have followed the story since the beginning.

Avengers

As a major event in the Marvel U., Secret EmpireE has plenty of tie-ins. AVENGERS has given us a look at a team we think of as, in a sense, the “Dark Avengers”–the team Steve Rogers has put together in his current, Hydra-influenced state. The team includes Scarlet Witch, Thor Odinson, Vision, Black Ant, Deadpool, Taskmaster, and Superior Octapus. Lots of interesting character dynamics here–particularly between Ock and Wade!

Champions

We’ve seen the Champions getting involved in the Secret Empire storyline in some pretty significant ways, and that will continue with the upcoming issue. After Civil War II, we saw the young heroes strike out on their own, hoping to serve the public in their own way. Now, they have to reunite with the old guard in order to help take down Hydra.

Secret Warriors

The Champions aren’t the only group pooling their efforts to fight Hydra. The Inhumans Quake, Karnak, Moon Girl, Ms. Marvel, and Inferno also put their plans into action in order to fight the villains. But unlike the Champions, these characters don’t necessarily see themselves as a “team.” They’ve got different agendas and different approaches to accomplishing their goals. The pragmatic Quake and the idealistic Kamala clash frequently, and Karnak has started doing his own thing, too (though we don’t know why yet–stay tuned!).

Amazing Spider-Man

The Secret Empire story has ramifications for Peter Parker, as well. In the upcoming AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #31, we’ll see the story continue to play out. How could it not, with Superior Octopus in the mix? Parker Industries, headed by Peter, has built some pretty awesome spider equipment, which played an important role recently in overthrowing an actual government! If that equipment gets into the hands of someone like Ock, bad things would definitely happen–especially now that he has jumped on board with Hydra!

U.S. Avengers

Plenty of drama going on for the U.S. Avengers as a result of Secret Empire! Toni finds herself trapped in a cell with a dying Roberto, and she’ll have some important decisions to make (will she follow in her father’s footsteps??). Also, Squirrel Girl and Enigma go to Europe and have delightful adventures in Paris! Check it out in the upcoming issue #9.

Doctor Strange

When it comes to formidable Marvel U baddies, we’d consider Baron Mordo pretty near the top of the list (you know, maybe not at the Galactus level, but still). Now, Mordo has taken over the Sanctum Santorum–definitely not a good thing! How will that play out? In the upcoming DOCTOR STRANGE #25, we’ll get to see our favorite sorcerer take on his foe and team up with Spider-Woman.

Deadpool

Another character whose story has been pretty profoundly impacted by Secret Empire. On orders from Steve Rogers, Deadpool has killed one of the sweethearts of the Marvel Universe – Phil Coulson! To see how this impacts the fate of the Merc with a Mouth, pick up the next issue, DEADPOOL #35.

Mighty Captain Marvel

Carol Danvers has found herself at the center of the Secret Empire action–and things certainly haven’t always gone well for her. As we’ve seen, Steve trapped Carol and her team outside the shield that now surrounds the Earth, introduced by Maria Hill and intended to protect the planet from hostile aliens. As a result, they’ve had to fight of wave after wave of Chitauri invaders. To catch the latest in Carol’s story, check out MIGHTY CAPTAIN MARVEL #8.

Big Announcement!

It wouldn’t be a Comic Con panel without a big announcement! Secret Empire will come to a close relatively soon, but the story of Steve Rogers will continue. And here’s the amazing news–Marvel has tapped writer Mark Waid and artist Chris Samnee to bring Steve into the next chapter of CAPTAIN AMERICA! The story will feel, in a lot of ways, like a return home to the Cap we know and love, and it will explore Steve’s identity and role in the Marvel U. after the events of Secret Empire. As Mark Waid explained during the panel, “Steve is tired of being the couch surfer of the Marvel Universe. He’s hasn’t had a place that he’d call his own, except for Avengers Mansion, for a long time.” We’ll see Steve trying to figure out where he belongs–and with these two at the helm, the story won’t disappoint!

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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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Cullen Bunn brings back a familiar face as part of Secret Empire!

Secret Empire gets the cold shoulder in the upcoming X-MEN: BLUE #7, out July 12, as writer Cullen Bunn and artist Cory Smith bring Emma Frost back into the mutants’ midst. Hiding since the war against the Inhumans, the former White Queen finds herself in a dark place despite being a ruler of the mutant homeland of New Tian.

Oh, and did we mention that she’s also receiving push back from both the X-Men and Magneto?

We spoke to Bunn about Emma’s return and some of the threats she’ll be facing, both physical and psychological.

Marvel.com: Just to catch everyone up, where has Emma Frost been hanging out before this issue?

Cullen Bunn: Emma has been in hiding since the events of [Inhumans Vs. X-Men]. But don’t think that means she’s been doing nothing. She has been very busy. She’s been building alliances and positioning herself to make some big moves. You’ll see some of that play out in the Secret Empire story. But we’re really going to be setting something really, really big up for Emma in the future. Ever since we revealed her return, I’ve been receiving messages asking me to immediately return Emma to her status as a hero. I understand the sentiment, but that’s not something I can do right away. Emma can’t just come back from where she was with the flip of a switch. She’s in a dark place right now, and if she comes back from it—that’s a big “if”—it will take time.

Marvel.com: Going off that, what’s compelling her to join the fray now?

Cullen Bunn: Emma is part of the “ruling council” of the new mutant homeland of New Tian, and she sincerely wants to see this new society succeed. But she’s still very angry—so angry—about everything that has happened of late. Sometimes when you’re full of rage, you lash out at everyone, including those closest to you.

Marvel.com: What will Ms. Frost bring to both X-MEN: BLUE and SECRET EMPIRE?

Cullen Bunn: In SECRET EMPIRE, Emma gives us a look at a world leader who has been deeply wounded. She wants what is right for her people, but she’s so hurt and angry that she is ruthless in her pursuit of her ideals. She’s an antagonist for the X-Men, without a doubt, because the X-Men simply cannot accept what she’s doing. She’s also—in my mind—a very tragic figure, because she has lost so much and she’s fallen so far.

X-Men: Blue #7 cover by Arthur Adams

Marvel.com: Do you have personal favorite aspects of her character that you enjoyed writing/exploring?

Cullen Bunn: Emma is proud and confident, and that’s always fun to write, but underneath is a great deal of pain that she is trying—unsuccessfully—to hide. That makes her a rewarding character to write. I am looking forward to exploring how she grows and changes for some time to come.

Marvel.com: What kinds of threats will she be facing and how are her powers well equipped to handle them?

Cullen Bunn: Emma can handle just about anything you throw at her. Initially, the threats she faces come from the X-Men as they make moves against her regime. But her biggest challenges in the future will be dealing with her own sense of loss without letting it drag her into madness. And she’s making some alliances that could be very, very dangerous for her in the future.

Marvel.com: Are there any more epic mutant returns in the cards?

Cullen Bunn: Oh, yes! We know about Emma and we know about Polaris. But even in the Secret Empire arc, there will be several other mutant returns. Some of the mutants that will be popping up will be changed in mysterious ways. These changes play into something big that we’ve already been building in X-MEN: BLUE and we’ll be exploring in future issues of the series.

Face the return of Emma Frost with writer Cullen Bunn and artist Cory Smith next week in July 12’s X-MEN: BLUE #7!

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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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