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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Baron von Strucker emerges at the forefront of the sinister society!

For years, Hydra has lurked in the shadows of the Marvel Universe, a corrupting influence that taxed even the greatest of heroes. With the group scoring their greatest victory in Secret Empire, we take a look back at the History of Hydra…

At the dawn of the 20th century, the still-evolving Hydra might’ve faded away into obscurity if not for the dark vision and leadership of one man, Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, to mold it into the global terror organization that exists today.

With his experience in World War I and his deep facial scarring, Strucker rose above the level of a garden-variety Nazi to take on missions from German leader Adolph Hitler himself until the baron racked up numerous failures in battle against Sgt. Nick Fury and his Howling Commandos. After one major defeat in France, Strucker fled from his fuhrer’s displeasure to forge an alliance with the dreaded Red Skull. This compact led directly to the forming of the modern Hydra.

Strucker traveled to Japan under the Skull’s direction to take control of the Hand, a secretive group of ninjas, and with the invaluable aid of the wickedly inventive Arnim Zola, set Hydra on a path to worldwide domination. He ultimately wrested the role of Supreme Hydra from the man who inhabited it and transplanted the organization to two new bases of operation: Hydra Island and an immense submersible called the Dragon of Death. While Hitler’s war with the Allies progressed, Strucker directed Hydra covertly while he played the part of a loyal soldier to his mad leader.

Always with an eye on seizing power and resources for Hydra, the baron managed to take possession of not only technology from the future, but also alien artifacts from a race known as the Gnobians. With these ill-gotten gains, Strucker attempted to circumvent the dark outcome of the war for Germany and create a kind of sanctuary for himself and Hydra to survive the coming firestorm directed at Berlin. He poured not only his massive personal fortune toward this end, but that of the wealthy Japanese whom he took the reins of the nascent group from. He also designed a way for his superhuman operatives to survive the end of the conflict by placing them into suspended animation. He himself allowed an experimental age-retarding serum to be used on his body, insurance for the decades to come.

And so World War II ended for Hydra, but not in the fashion Baron Strucker wished and planned for…

Check out: SGT. FURY AND HIS HOWLING COMMANDOS #5, CAPT. SAVAGE AND HIS LEATHERNECK RAIDERS #2, NICK FURY: AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D. #1, MARVEL UNIVERSE #1, SECRET WARRIORS #1

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Learn all about the group from which the current event takes its name!

It’s no secret that Captain America’s been busy carving out a “secret empire” for Hydra recently, as seen in the pages of CAPTAIN AMERICA: STEVE ROGERS and SECRET EMPIRE #0, but what he’s also doing stands as an ode to the legacy of another group: the original Secret Empire.

We’ve collected a Greatest Hits of sorts for the Secret Empire; a how-to manual for all stealthy, secretive organizations with eyes on the prize of total power.

Tales to Astonish (1959) #81

Tales to Astonish (1959) #81

What is Marvel Unlimited?
Hulked Out

Way back when the Secret Empire first made themselves known, they contracted with the criminal Boomerang to steal the plans to the U.S. Army’s dreaded Orion Missile. Fate stepped in—or rather leapt in—in the green-hued form of The Hulk, and while the jade giant and his costumed crook of a dance partner waltzed around the desert for a few rounds, the members of the Secret Empire fought each other in a power struggle that upended all their plans and schemes.

Check Out: TALES TO ASTONISH #81

Captain America (1968) #169

Captain America (1968) #169

What is Marvel Unlimited?
Cap’s Bad Day

After some internal reorganization, the Secret Empire committed one of their most heinous acts: framing Captain America for murder. On the run from the authorities with his partner The Falcon, Steve Rogers infiltrated his lurking foes’ headquarters to uncover an even greater plot: the kidnap and power-draining of several mutants. With Cap on their tails, the Empire flew off to the White House to deliver their demands, only to have the patriotic hero crush them there and reveal their leader as one of the highest ranking political figures in the land.

Check Out: CAPTAIN AMERICA #169175

Amazing Spider-Man (1963) #353

Amazing Spider-Man (1963) #353

  • Published: November 10, 1991
  • Added to Marvel Unlimited: August 06, 2013
What is Marvel Unlimited?
Midnight’s Empire

The Secret Empire bounced back to face Moon Knight and his sidekick Midnight in a no-holds-barred fight, one which left Midnight on the verge of death and a suitable subject for transformation into a cyborg by the criminal group. For his first mission, he tried to kidnap Nova, but when Spider-Man got involved and motivated, Midnight turned on his superiors and after destroying them, attempted to seize control of the Secret Empire himself.

Check Out: MARC SPECTOR: MOON KNIGHT #19, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #353

Nomad (1992) #4

Nomad (1992) #4

  • Published: August 01, 1992
  • Added to Marvel Unlimited: January 02, 2017
  • Rating: All Ages
  • Cover Artist: Mark McKenna
What is Marvel Unlimited?
Punishing Times

The Punisher took offense to the Secret Empire’s plans to divide up the remnants of the Kingpin’s widespread criminal organization, prompting the dispatching of hit squads to prevent his wrath coming down on them. In the end, not only did The Punisher get involved, but also Daredevil, Nomad, Baron Strucker and Hydra, and the Hand, making the Secret Empire regret ever trying to expand their own borders of crime.

Check Out: DAREDEVIL #307, NOMAD #4, PUNISHER WAR JOURNAL #46

Secret Avengers (2010) #16

Secret Avengers (2010) #16

What is Marvel Unlimited?
Secrets Everywhere

Even when not present in a physical sense, the Secret Empire makes itself known, such as when the Secret Avengers discovered an entire city built by the organization far underneath Cincinnati, Ohio. Ultimately, the heroes destroyed the installation to stop a villainous group from using a gigantic transportation device on the real city above it.

Check Out: SECRET AVENGERS #16

Follow the modern day event next in SECRET EMPIRE #1, coming May 3!

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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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Participate with quizzes, puzzles, exclusive first looks, and more for Secret Empire!

Marvel is excited to announce an all-new way to interact directly with the Marvel Universe, with Marvel’s first chatbot. Timed with the release of Marvel Comics’ Secret Empire, fans will have the ability to directly chat with some of their favorite Marvel Super Heroes and be a part of the Marvel Universe through Facebook Messenger and Twitter DM. Powered by Conversable, this new chatbot experience presents a bold and exciting new way for fans to interact with some of Marvel’s most popular heroes who are directly in the throes of Marvel Comics’ Secret Empire!

At launch, in support of Marvel Comics’ Secret Empire event, the Marvel chatbot will allow fans the ability to converse with everyone’s favorite neighborhood wall-crawler, Spider-Man! Fans will also be able to engage in fun quizzes and puzzles, receive exclusive first-looks, and find their local comic shops.

“Marvel will always be on the forefront of exciting new ways for fans to experience the Marvel Universe,” said Julie Gerola, VP/GM Marketing & Digital Operations. “We are so excited to debut a brand new way for our fans to engage directly with some of the Marvel characters during the events of Secret Empire and have the added ability to have their local comic shop’s location sent directly to them so that they can further explore the entire Marvel Universe.”

The chatbot, produced in partnership with Conversable Inc., leverages natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning to engage users with an entirely unique adventure written by Eisner Award-winning author, Jim McCann.

“When it comes to loyalty and engagement, Marvel stands out as a leader. As consumers move to new platforms, it’s more important than ever for brands to meet their audience where they are,” said Ben Lamm, CEO of Conversable. “What Marvel is doing is a truly original way for such a creative organization to engage customers and tell stories through new mediums. Through the power of conversational intelligence, fans can go from bystander to fully immersed in the Marvel Universe and become part of the story.”

All of this, plus much more, will be delivered directly to fans’ mobile devices and desktops through Facebook Messenger and Twitter DM. What will you say to Spider-Man? What kind of Easter eggs will you be able to find? Find out this spring from Marvel Comics during the launch of SECRET EMPIRE #1 in comic shops May 3!

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Learn how the evil organization got its start!

For years, Hydra has lurked in the shadows of the Marvel Universe, a corrupting influence that taxed even the greatest of heroes. With the group scoring their greatest victory in Secret Empire, we take a look back at the History of Hydra…

Though some believe the roots of Hydra’s subversive evil grew out of the early 20th century, its tendrils in fact date back centuries and beyond, making the organization one of the oldest on Earth.

Few records exist of Hydra’s birth, but stories persist of a species of cold-blooded alien reptiles that came to our planet in the time before mankind’s assent and planted the seed that flourished into today’s evil empire. Eager for power and to spread darkness, the aliens branched out to touch upon many paths to their goals, thus first cementing the idea of a many-headed creature, undying and malignant.

Their first real victory in this campaign arrived in the seduction and infection of an Eastern society of intelligent and clever men called the Brotherhood of the Spear. So virulent did stain upon them prove that their enemies, the Brotherhood of the Shield, began to refer to them simply as “The Beast,” echoing ancient beliefs in a devilish presence.

By the time of the great dynasties of ancient Egypt, the proto-Hydra encompassed other great yet shadowy sects and cults. This too furthered the image of the legendary hydra among impressionable and superstitious minds as the group’s evil purpose thrived and grew. Interestingly, as the great Renaissance captured the imaginations of people throughout Europe, Hydra seemed to wane, eventually disappearing into obscurity as that remarkable period in Earth’s history came to an end.

For Hydra to rise again and continue on its march toward total world domination, it needed both a powerful, central figure to lead it, and an epic, worldwide crisis for it to take advantage of. These arrived in the form of Baron Wolfgang von Strucker and the conflict known as World War II…

Further Reading: SECRET WARRIORS #1, S.H.I.E.L.D. #4, WOLVERINE #29

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The Invaders and the new Giant Man join the fight against Hydra!

The revelation of Steve Rogers as a Hydra agent shocked the world over. How could Captain America, that pure symbol of freedom and democracy, be working for the bad guys all along, we asked ourselves? Well, if you feel as if you had the rug pulled out from under you, can you just imagine what Steve’s closest friends must feel like?

The answer lies in the Secret Empire companion series, BRAVE NEW WORLD, out beginning May 17, which will explore the members of Cap’s former Nazi-fighting team from World War II, the Invaders, coping with the terrible truth coming to light. Namor, Toro, and Jim Hammond feel betrayed and devastated, but will they give up?

In the words of Winston Churchill—who christened them with the “Invaders” title after they saved his life—“If you’re going through Hell, keep going.”

Meanwhile, the new Giant Man, Raz Maholtra, remains on the fence as the events of Secret Empire come crashing down around him. He’s a newbie do-gooder with limited training, a destructive history, and a fractured life, courtesy of his mentor, Scott Lang. Not to mention that Raz’s super power makes him a bit of an ill fit for the clandestine resistance against Hydra.

We rendezvoused with the writers of these parallel stories within BRAVE NEW WORLD, Paul Allor and Jeremy Whitley, to decode the Invaders’ next move and how Raz will find his overly large footing in the fight against Hydra as the tentacles of evil tighten their grip on the Marvel Universe.

Marvel.com: Part of BRAVE NEW WORLD will be focusing on some of Steve’s oldest allies, the Invaders, coming to grips with the realization that their once good friend actually stands against them and their ideals. How did you want to capture such a crushing betrayal in the writing?

Paul Allor: The story [artist] Brian Level and I are doing picks up a while after Steve’s new alliance comes to light. So we don’t see the initial reaction, but instead see our three main characters—Namor, Toro, and Jim Hammond—dealing with the very real, very personal ramifications of Captain America’s new regime. As you said, it is an absolutely crushing betrayal, and nearly everything our characters say and do in this story is directly influenced by it. That’s a big part of the fun of an event like this; every comment becomes loaded, every decision takes on another meaning. Even when Cap’s not on the page, Cap is always on the page, you know?

Marvel.com: What does the emergence of Cap’s actual allegiance do for the Invaders’ memories and reminiscences of opposing Nazism with him during WWII?

Paul Allor: I think there’s a certain level of disbelief involved, and a feeling that this can’t possibly be the real Captain America. These guys share the type of bond that most of us will never understand, and recent events bring all of their past experiences into question. But at the same time, their primary focus is the present, and on dealing with the world as it is.

Marvel.com: Jeremy, what can you tell us about where Raz was last time we saw him in ASTONISHING ANT-MAN and how it will lead him to get involved in Secret Empire?

Jeremy Whitley: Last time we saw Raz he was double featuring in ASTONISHING ANT-MAN; he had been working with Ant-Man as part of Ant-Man Security Solutions. His situation was pretty interesting, as he’d moved from his home in San Francisco to Florida to train with Scott to better learn to use his powers. He got pulled away to do some work with the Ultimates in outer space and by the time he got back, Scott had closed down Ant-Man Security Solutions and moved on. When we pick up his story here, his life is in shambles, largely thanks to Scott, but also due to some of his own issues. As things start to change in the world leading into Secret Empire, Raz has to decide what part he’s going to take and how he’s going to get there.

Marvel.com: In many senses, he’s still very much a rookie. How will that factor into the role he plays in this series?

Jeremy Whitley: Well, I think his rookie status is very much realized in the fact that Raz not only isn’t in the heart of the storm when things go down, but he’s only peripherally aware of what’s going on. His story in the series is about finding his place in the conflict and getting to where he needs to be.

Marvel.com: How keen is Raz to avoid causing damage like the kind he inflicted on the Golden Gate Bridge?

Jeremy Whitley: Incredibly. Not only is it embarrassing, it’s bound to get him caught by Hydra.

Secret Empire: Brave New World #1 cover by Paulo Siqueira

Marvel.com: Paul, you’ll be exploring Namor and his leadership of Atlantis during these troubling times. Can you tell us how the lost city will find itself affected by the new Hydra regime, despite its location at the bottom of the sea? And on that frightening note, what does Hydra have planned for the metropolis beneath the ocean?

Paul Allor: Captain America has a plan for everything and everyone, and Atlantis is certainly no exception. But as you can imagine, Namor will fight that agenda however he can—even in some fairly unexpected ways. This tale really focuses in on Namor’s role not just as a soldier and a fighter, but as a monarch. His number one priorities are the safety and prosperity of his people, and his reaction to this new regime is a direct reflection of those priorities. Our story begins as Toro and Hammond show up in Atlantis, seeking help from their old friend. But they find that the situation in Atlantis is incredibly complicated, and that Namor himself faces some wrenchingly difficult choices. I would also note that the City of Atlantis itself serves as a character in our story—and Brian Level is doing such an extraordinary job bringing it to life, and making it feel like a real and complex and layered place, through art that is, itself, incredibly complex and layered.

Marvel.com: So, Jeremy, we’ve got Giant Man, like the rest of the Marvel Universe, in the middle of a giant problem, mainly a world overrun by Hydra with Captain America at the forefront. What’s Raz’s plan of attack here not only as a super hero, but as an intelligent programmer?

Jeremy Whitley: Raz is in the awkward position of not having a plan. First, he’s on the opposite side of the country of a lot of the resistance, but also his super power revolves around being able to grow to gigantic size. So, he can’t really be a super hero and still hide. So Raz needs to get somewhere where he can support the resistance and be part of the team.

Marvel.com: Will he be utilizing any particular lessons or advice he learned from Scott and joining up with any heroes in particular?

Jeremy Whitley: Well, sadly, Scott’s advice is worth about as much to Raz as the “heroes” he’s left him with for friends. We’ll get a quick peek into the current lives of his former coworkers Grizzly and Machinesmith.

Marvel.com: What was it like creating a smaller and more personalized story while not getting lost in the wider events of a Marvel Universe overrun by Hydra?

Paul Allor: That is, again, a big part of the fun of these events: narrowing in on personal tales, set against an epic backdrop. It’s very exciting, to tell a story that’s both its own unique and exciting thread, but also, when you take a step back, part of this vast tapestry. And the way to do it is just by focusing very intently on your characters, and how they are influenced by the larger machinations that are playing out in other titles and other stories.

Jeremy Whitley: It kinda works out great for me, as our story is kind of about Raz getting lost in the world of Secret Empire. He’s not connected like a lot of other super heroes so when things go down, he doesn’t get the call. He’s got to find his way back [into] the fight.

Marvel.com: This series will also harken back to the beginnings of the Marvel Universe. How far back does that imply and what answers from the past can be applied to the present situation?

Paul Allor: I don’t want to speak too much to this, but these characters have a history that stretches back nearly 80 years, and it’s only natural that that history will resonate throughout our story. But in those 80 years, things have changed a lot for them—new powers, new jobs, new titles. And as with any old friends, there’s sometimes a tendency to assume things haven’t changed as much as they have—an assumption that could have serious consequences to our heroes.

Marvel.com: Despite the dark events going on in Secret Empire, was there any room for humor or levity in BRAVE NEW WORLD?

Paul Allor: Oh, yeah. Humor and levity are a natural part of the human condition. Plus, most people don’t know this, but Namor makes a lot of fish puns. Like…a lot of fish puns.

Jeremy Whitley: Absolutely. I think when it comes to Giant Man—or really anyone in the Ant-Man family—that there is always room for laughs. Beyond that, people who know my work know that I always find room for a little levity.

Explore SECRET EMPIRE: BRAVE NEW WORLD beginning on May 17!

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Black Widow develops her own plan to oppose Steve Rogers!

An attempt to create a new world order can expect opposition. But when your new world order has Captain America as its leader, you need someone equally skilled to oppose him. Enter Black Widow and her plan to utilize the Marvel Universe’s best, brightest, and youngest heroes to stop the spread of the Secret Empire.

It all begins in the SECRET EMPIRE: UPRISING one-shot from writer Derek Landy and artist J. Cassara this May. Landy led us to the hidden bunker with a blindfold over our eyes before agreeing to answer our questions.

Marvel.com: To begin with, how would you describe the atmosphere and setting of this book? How did you want it to feel to readers?

Derek Landy: Secret Empire is scary. It’s a scary idea, a scary scenario, and the good guys are going to find themselves in some scary situations. But in all that darkness, you’re gonna need a little light, and I’ve been handed six characters who are taking their moment to shine.

Marvel walks the line between light and dark with most of its biggest characters. Put Spider-Man up against an unstoppable opponent and he’s just going to keep cracking wise, no matter how scared he gets. That’s the Marvel way. So with [SECRET EMPIRE: UPRISING], no matter how bad things become, these kids are still going to be ever so slightly goofy. That’s the line I wanted to walk as the writer.

Marvel.com: How did working with artist J. Cassara help you to make that tone a reality? In general, how has the process of creative collaboration in this medium been for you?

Derek Landy: As I’m answering these questions, Josh is still penciling the issue, and he’s sending me pages as he finishes them, which allows me to alter the script to best suit the visuals. I’m delighted with what arrives in my inbox every few days. He’ll take a rather humdrum panel description and turn it into something that actually lives, which in turn makes me look much better as the writer. This is my first full-length comic, and I’m learning so much by working with an artist of his caliber.

Marvel.com: Creatively, what drew you to select Black Widow as the leader and trainer of this young insurgency force?

Derek Landy: Black Widow belongs in the shadows. In an event like Secret Empire, she’s a major player, and the reader can only imagine what she’s going through, dealing with what she’ll have to deal with. For me, she’s the slice of darkness that UPRISING needs, through which we can take a peek at her “little revolutionaries.” They’ll provide the humor, they’ll bring the jokes, but her very presence in the story is the essential link with the main [book].

Marvel.com: Within the Marvel Universe, why does she make sense as one of the leaders against HYDRA’s takeover?

Derek Landy: A story like this needs spies. It needs people who are not only willing to get their own hands dirty, but also willing to compromise others for the greater good. Who else but Natasha would truly understand that? She’s going to be putting some of these kids [into] some very specific places, as all handlers do, in order to achieve some very specific objectives. For her, it’s all about the mission.

Marvel.com: Similarly, what drew you to the heroes that Black Widow is training? Why did the idea of taking on some of Marvel’s newest and youngest heroes excite you as a writer?

Derek Landy: These are simply some of the most exciting characters Marvel has right now. As readers, we’re just getting to know them. As creators, we’re exploring just how far they’ll go, how far they can be pushed. It’s also a fresh injection of new blood, of a younger set of sensibilities that have the potential of shaking up the whole of the Marvel Universe. In a few years, it’ll be these characters who are front and center during an event.

This is where they start earning those stripes.

Marvel.com: The participants are aware that this is a mission that is setting them on a path to possibly confront Captain America himself. Emotionally, how does this affect everyone, Black Widow included? What are their states of mind as they endeavor on this dangerous mission?

Derek Landy: Being set on this path is bad enough—the truly worrying aspect is that they’re not privy to Natasha’s ultimate plan, so they don’t know what will eventually be asked of them. They have to trust that she won’t put them in a situation that will betray who they are—but that seems to be exactly what she’s training them to do. For Natasha, she had to make them understand that this isn’t about being a hero. This is about doing a job—fulfilling a mission—and she is a tough taskmaster. In order to do what she has to do, she needs to build an emotional wall between herself and her recruits.

Marvel.com: How does the Champions’ dedication to nonviolent solutions conflict with this moment and Black Widow’s own personal perspective and history in the context of this story?

Derek Landy: That’s been the most interesting aspect to tackle. Two of these kids are going to end up undercover, working to get within striking distance of Captain America. Whether they succeed or not is beside the point—the question is what then? Since the Champions formed, they’ve been trying to approach things differently. They don’t want to punch out every opponent. They don’t like hurting people. They’re certainly not killers. If you want to assassinate someone, you send in Black Widow, not the Totally Awesome Hulk or the Unstoppable Wasp.

They hope.

Marvel.com: In speaking directly to fans, what is one reason they absolutely should not miss this one-shot?

Derek Landy: I’m doing my very best not to give away exactly where they go undercover. When they sign up for this gig, they’re thinking spy-craft, espionage, danger at every corner. They certainly don’t expect to end up where they end up, or [to be] using talents they never thought they’d use.

Marvel.com: As a writer taking on his first Marvel comic, how does it feel to be part of this important far ranging event? Any unexpected challenges or advantages you encountered as you crafted the story?

Derek Landy: It’s quite an honor to be involved in something like this, and also quite daunting. My initial approach to the story was a lot darker, but then I realized that I’m better off leaving that to [SECRET EMPIRE writer] Nick Spencer. He’s the one holding the reins.

The fact is, I’ve got six super-smart teenagers to write, and they’re not going to allow the darkness to swamp them. They’re going to be as bright as they can be and as breezy as possible. They’ve got powers, jokes and youthful arrogance—what more could I ask for?

Go undercover with SECRET EMPIRE: UPRISING on May 31!

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Marvel’s mutants come together against the threat of HYDRA!

The Secret Empire. A name that hearkens back to 1966 when it first came to light as one of HYDRA’s auxiliary organizations. Over 50 years later, the group stands poised at the brink of achieving its dream: Taking over the government of the United States with the most unlikely of heroes at its head—Captain America!

Who stands united before the Secret Empire? Would you believe, Marvel’s mightiest mutants? Only writer Jim Zub and artist Ario Anindito know more as they prepare to take readers into SECRET EMPIRE: UNITED #1. Expect the unexpected when these secrets stand revealed this June!

We spoke with Zub and Anindito for a little sneak peek of what’s to come!

Marvel.com: We know Steve Rogers has been working for HYDRA to conquer the United States, now having taken over S.H.I.E.L.D. Is it possible we could be looking at another super hero conflict with those looking to bring down the Secret Empire and those working for it? 

Jim Zub: There are multiple factions involved in this conflict and that’s exactly what our story in SECRET EMPIRE: UNITED digs into. HYDRA’s big moves create strife, both inside and out and, as much as Steve would like for HYDRA to be a unified front, the group of villains he’s assembled have their own plans for the future.

Ario Anindito: It’s a battle of good versus evil, but in terms of which heroes are involved, well—just wait and see!

Marvel.com: Shifting gears, in what ways do you see Secret Empire, and more specifically, SECRET EMPIRE: UNITED, pushing against the current status quo in the Marvel Universe? 

Jim Zub: UNITED is a mixture of high-level, political intrigue and ground-level combat between mutants and the forces of HYDRA. I’m using both well-known and obscure characters in Marvel’s mutant canon to show how these political machinations crash headlong into the day-to-day lives of people living with the ramifications of HYDRA’s grand conquest.

Ario Anindito: It’s a reality check on what’s actually happening right now on the ground between HYDRA and the mutants; how they react against each other and what comes next. The ramifications will ripple out from here to the rest of the event and the bigger Marvel Universe.

Secret Empire: United #1 cover by Ryan Stegman

Marvel.com: Visually, what excites you about SECRET EMPIRE: UNITED?

Ario Anindito: I’m a big fan of the mutants, so I am very excited to draw as many of them as possible along with how they interact with Steve Rogers and his HYDRA team. I’m also looking forward showing off some big action visuals. HYDRA versus mutants and no one is holding back! Let the good times roll.

Jim Zub: Corrupted heroes battling a mutant strike force infused with Magik—er, magic.

Marvel.com: How does SECRET EMPIRE: UNITED tie into the greater story playing out across the Marvel Universe?

Jim Zub: The SECRET EMPIRE core series shows how Steve Rogers and HYDRA have established their new order. This one-shot tie-in shows the broader effect that has on the X-titles and what each side is willing to do in order to either keep peace or destroy each other.

Ario Anindito: This issue shows how the big game will be played between HYDRA and mutantkind as the event develops. The chess pieces are starting to move and the stakes are high.

Stand against HYDRA with SECRET EMPIRE: UNITED, this June!

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Sam Wilson, Mockingbird, and more unite against the machinations of Steve Rogers!

When Secret Empire kicks off this May, ripples will be felt across the Marvel Universe, and heroes must unite to face a threat they never expected. SECRET EMPIRE: UNDERGROUND, a major tie-in from writer Jeremy Whitley and artist Eric Koda, will tell the story of one such group of good guys looking to liberate the Marvel Universe from Steve Rogers’ machinations.

We spoke with the UNDERGROUND creative about what to expect from their scintillating story.

Marvel.com: In Secret Empire, we’ll see the culmination of Steve Rogers’ story, which has been unfolding since this past summer. Can you tell us about jumping into the story at this stage?

Jeremy Whitley: It’s pretty wild, like boarding a moving train at full-speed. With UNDERGROUND, I don’t write Steve directly, but with characters like Sam Wilson on my team who have a ton invested in this story, we’ve got a lot of pressure to get things right. It’s a real honor to be asked to help tell a story so tied in to the narrative of Secret Empire.

Eric Koda: I feel so honored and excited to contribute to this, especially as a newcomer at Marvel. At this point I don’t know much but I am really intrigued about where this will go.

Marvel.com: Jeremy, in the book, Mockingbird leads the team. We recently saw her appear in UNSTOPPABLE WASP, which you write as well. How did it feel to write this character in such a different context?

Jeremy Whitley: Not so different, actually. We’ll have a lot fewer smoothies involved in UNDERGROUND than in UNSTOPPABLE WASP, but I love writing Mockingbird. I see her as very well-rounded, in a way few heroes are. She has a background in science, she has years of experience in operations and espionage, she has served as an Avenger and a double agent. When I got the list of the characters that were going to be on this team, I knew Bobbi would step up as the leader. She knows how to run an operation and she has a history of getting the job done when the chips are down.

Marvel.com: The team is described as “ragtag”—have you enjoyed working on a book that brings together characters we may not usually see teaming up?

Jeremy Whitley: At first it felt pretty intimidating. When you step into a team like the Champions or X-Men, you have a pretty good idea of how the characters will act toward each other based on their shared history. But with a team like this, some of whom we’ve never seen share panel time before, you start out feeling unsure how to orchestrate things.

But as it turns out, all of that worry was for nothing because this book has a lot of characters with big personalities. Hercules, Mockingbird, Iron Man, Sam Wilson—I mean, love him or hate him, Quicksilver is in this book and that guy always has personality to spare. You put him in an enclosed space with other people and this much tension, well, it just starts writing itself.

Eric Koda: That’s the fun part. We all know how Wolverine and Colossus interact or how the Thing and Spidey interact, but we never see Quicksilver and Ant-Man hanging around.

Marvel.com: In this book, we see the team trying to put things back to the way they used to be. What kind of emotional impact do you hope it has on readers who have been following Steve’s crazy ride for months now?

Jeremy Whitley: I consider the emotional stakes really high here. All of our characters have things to lose. All of them have skin in the game. And in the case of characters like Sam Wilson, Steve has been a part of his life for years. I hope readers picking up this story can feel themselves on this crazy adventure with our team. It’s tense, but also, we see the team in the Savage Land and if you’re not the kind of person who wants to see Mockingbird and Hercules face off against T-Rexes, I don’t know what I can do for you.

Eric Koda: I’d like for them to get some hope out of it. It’s kind of like in Star Wars: Rogue One and into A New Hope, where we have a lot at stake and our heroes face difficult odds.

Marvel.com: Can you tease any of the challenges they’ll face?

Jeremy Whitley: Well we got a really fun chance to bring in one of my favorite characters of the Savage Land. I think anyone who has read much X-Men over the years, will know the one. However, as with so much of Secret Empire, our heroes think they know what they’re in for and what role this character will play, but they have no idea how it will really go down.

Marvel.com: Would you like to tell us anything else?

Jeremy Whitley: For anyone reading Secret Empire, this is an integral part of that story. You’ll see this team leave in the pages of SECRET EMPIRE and you’ll see them arrive right back into the pages of SECRET EMPIRE. If you follow that story, this is a must.  However, I see it as a big adventure all on its own and I encourage fans of any of the characters to jump in and check it out.

Eric Koda: I feel psyched to be on board for this event and super stoked to work with Jeremy! Also, any opportunity to get to draw goofy Hercules faces is incredibly fortuitous!

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