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. 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. 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. 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 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. 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. 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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HYDRA forces our resident therapist to profile Miles Morales!

To begin with, I must renew my objections to this report. What is happening here is very nearly coercion and while this is not an ethical violation or illegal judging by current laws, statutes, or professional codes, it also does not feel necessary or oriented towards some kind of good outcome. While it has been made clear to me that my opinion on this matter has little weight, I nonetheless strongly urge this report be destroyed without review and that this practice end here and now.

Additionally estimating factors like future dangerousness, which is similar to what you are asking, are impossible without direct meetings with the subject. In other words, the information presented below is literally guesswork and may be more muddling than helpful.

The subject in questions is one of two individuals who identifies as Spider-Man and operates as a costumed crime fighter. This particular Spider-Man wears the black costume with red web markings.

The subject presents as male and, given his size and body type, is most likely a teenager. This matches the scant information provided to this writer by your organization, so I do expect it is accurate.

In the past several months, he has worked with the Avengers, the teen pacifist and recently discredited team known as the Champions, and on his own. He has engaged in a variety of conflicts including stopping so-called street level crime, super villain crime, and interceded in civil right issues in foreign nations. From this, it seems likely the subject tends towards idealism. It is possible, as well, that he may be amoral and just seeking conflict because of some desire for violence, but this would be highly unusual.

The subject does seem to have a preference towards teams and partnerships while acting as a super hero. This may indicate that he is seeking a stability in his “career” that he is not finding at home. There may be a variety of reasons for this including absentee or abusive parents, an inability to share his secret with his family, or a recent major loss in the family. Of course, it could also mean the subject has an excellent support system in his non-costumed life and therefore is drawn to similar situations while costumed.

To speak directly to the question at hand: does this writer think the subject is capable of the murder of Steve Rogers? I do not believe he is. Physically, it does seem possible; the client obviously possesses incredible strength and agility and reports indicate he might have some kind of ability to short circuit other’s abilities for a small window of time.

Psychologically, however, it seems unlikely. The subject has no recorded instances of using lethal force at any point, no matter the danger of the situation or the state of his physical being in that moment. The subject has not sought out conflicts in any active way—for instance, as The Punisher has been known to do—and has even, at times, attempted to defuse situations before turning to violence even when initially engaged violently by someone else. Finally, all his known alliances have been with vigilantes who else do not employ lethal force, limiting the potential for him to have a sudden change of heart.

Therefore, I would suggest HYDRA’s obsession with the subject—who, I stress, is most likely an adolescent—is unnecessary and ill-informed.

I have heard some individuals suggest that whatever report I deliver here is not to be trusted given my strenuous objections to doing it at all so I would also suggest reviewing Doctors Nick Spencer and Leinil Francis Yu’s report on Spider-Man. It is available on July 26 in the file marked SECRET EMPIRE #7.

Psy D. Candidate Tim Stevens is a Staff Therapist who has never worn HYDRA green and never will.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Empire Strikes Back

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

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Quake and Mr. Hyde face off in the heart of Secret Empire!

The Secret Warriors have faced a lot of big challenges since their inception as a loosely-knit team. From battling the X-Men to fighting Hydra, they’ve got a lot on their plates. And things get even trickier in the upcoming SECRET WARRIORS #4—due out July12—as Quake leads the team into a confrontation with her dad, the Hydra commander Mr. Hyde.

We chatted with writer Matthew Rosenberg about the top five reasons why a run-in with Hyde is Daisy’s worst nightmare. At this particular moment, given everything going on with Hydra in Secret Empire and Hyde’s role in it, we wouldn’t expect this encounter to go particularly smoothly, to say the least.

Matthew Rosenberg: Yeah, Hyde is scary to tangle with when the world isn’t falling apart and he isn’t your father. But yeah, Daisy is trying to end this takeover and Hyde getting in her way makes things very complicated. Daisy and Hyde have never had what we’d consider a super healthy father-daughter relationship. And that emotional tension will make this confrontation even more challenging.

Matthew Rosenberg: Totally. Daisy has spent a lot of time steering clear of Hyde. She doesn’t want him in her life, she doesn’t want to have to deal with him, and she doesn’t want to think about him. But Hyde has his own agenda and she can’t get away from it anymore. And deep down I think Daisy is afraid of learning that she is more like Hyde than she wants to believe. Daisy has pretty impressive powers of her own, and Hyde has gone up against characters like Thor—so who will win out?

Matthew Rosenberg: Hyde is definitely formidable. Daisy is powerful too, but at a certain point her powers go from being useful to just destructive. She is always toeing the line between super hero and natural disaster, and she can’t let Hyde push her too far. Luckily for her she has some friends with her. Or sorta friends. Regardless, all of the Secret Warriors vs. Hyde is probably a good brawl. We see some mistrust going on among the Warriors. Especially when it comes to Karnak, whom we’ve watched start to make his own plans for some reason. They don’t seem to feel as unified as they could, so it’s not really the best time to have to face someone like Hyde.

Matthew Rosenberg: No. It’s probably the worst time, actually. But that’s what this team is all about. Five people and a dinosaur who don’t necessarily see eye to eye or even get along that well. But they’re together because they need each other. They have always been reacting instead of acting, and that isn’t going to change anytime soon. So Hyde definitely gets the drop on them in terms of preparedness, but I trust Daisy and the Warriors will put up a good fight. Hopefully. Hyde spent some time in Pleasant Hill; that had to have messed with his head, and can only make matters more complicated.

Matthew Rosenberg: At a certain point you can only scramble an egg so much. Pleasant Hill [was] probably not good mentally for any of its residents, but Hyde was further gone than many. But his time there has given him some new insight and direction for sure. He is on Team Hydra more than he was before, but he is also thinking about a longer-term plan in ways he never was before. Basically, once people start messing with other people’s heads, don’t ever trust anyone. Would you like to tease or mention anything else?

Matthew Rosenberg: The next few issues of SECRET WARRIORS have more than a few fun cameos. Daisy vs. Hyde—the team vs. Hydra—is what people should come for, but I hope people are excited about some of the other folks who stop in to make our team’s lives more difficult.

SECRET WARRIORS #4 by Matthew Rosenberg and Javier Garron ships out on July 12!

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Discover the depths of Doc Ock with editor Nick Lowe!

Imagine Otto Octavius teaming up with Hydra; it sounds like a devious match made in comic book villain heaven—or hell—right? Well, you can stop imagining because that’s exactly what will happen in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #30, a Secret Empire tie-in out July 12.

Before Doctor Octopus joins forces with Steve Rogers, however, Spider-Man editor Nick Lowe helped us take a step back to appreciate this many-armed adversary. The early buzz on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #30 teases that Doctor Octopus won’t be returning to his old ways. Can you elaborate on that in a spoiler free manner? Does this have anything to do with Hydra taking over the world?

Nick Lowe: It sure does! I don’t think that it’s a secret that Ock is working with Steve Rogers and Hydra. He’s on Steve’s Hydravengers team. And if you were Steve Rogers, and Spider-Man had a company that just successfully invaded a foreign nation, you’d want someone who can take them down, right? Enter Doc Ock! How would you characterize Doctor Octopus’ change and evolution over the last few years?

Nick Lowe: It’s been the most fascinating journey. [AMAZING SPIDER-MAN writer] Dan [Slott] and all the artists that he’s worked with over the years have done more with Doc Ock than I would have dreamed possible. They turned him into a horrifying and fascinating villain and then into SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN! And now into this new stage, whatever shape it takes! Suffice it to say, Dan Slott, now with Stuart Immonen, have big plans for Ock. Going back even further, how has he changed since his debut back in 1963? What attributes—other than his mechanical arms, of course—have stayed constant over the years?

Nick Lowe: The biggest constant is the ego and attitude. He’s such a delightfully jerky guy. If you ask him, no one’s anywhere near as smart as he is and that isn’t going anywhere. He just learned other stuff from being in Spider-Man’s body and mind. What changes do you like the most and what kind of changes would you like to explore in the future?

Nick Lowe: They’re all pretty great, to me. Putting a character with specific goals and a worldview all his own in situations that challenge it is the whole point of storytelling! Kind of going off that, as a longtime member of the Sinister Six, what mentality does Octavius bring to the villainous cabal? Has his role in the Six changed with time?

Nick Lowe: He’s taken so many steps from there since he was last part of any Sinister Six. What shape such a group would take and what role Ock would take are all questions for another day… Going forward, what kind of role can we expect from the many-appendage-wielding baddie and his place in the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN series?

Nick Lowe: A big one that’s going to challenge Peter in ways he’s never been challenged.

The Superior Octopus joins up with Hydra in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #30 by Dan Slott and Stuart Immonen, coming July 12!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Empire Strikes Back

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

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

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Jim Zub talks about his team’s attempt to save Manhattan from Secret Empire seclusion!

Manhattan has been trapped in the Darkforce since SECRET EMPIRE #1 and on July 12, the “Big Apple” finally seems to be buckling under the strain of it all. Even a city that prides itself on toughness and almost nothing interrupting its routine has limits.

UNCANNY AVENGERS writer Jim Zub, however, still has hope.

“Baron Zemo and Blackout have exiled Manhattan to a Darkforce-encased prison crawling with otherworldly monsters,” he acknowledges. “The Uncanny Avengers are trapped within, but they’ve got what it takes to save the city and themselves.”

In UNCANNY AVENGERS #25, Zub’s confidence in the team will be put to the test. Before it all goes down though, we gave him a chance to tell us why we must keep the faith with thoughts on how each member approaches the crisis.

The Human Torch: One of the Marvel Universe’s most experienced heroes, he has gone into numerous unusual realms—the Negative Zone, for one—and came back as strong as ever. Surviving a city ensnared in Darkforce cannot be all that different for him.

“Heat and light to combat the chilling forcing of the eternal night?” muses Zub. “Johnny will answer the call.”

Synapse: The Inhuman has tangled with tragedy and come out the other side if not unscathed, certainly unbroken. If she can help stop The Shredded Man—her grandfather—and not give up on being a costumed hero, what chance do monsters have at breaking her spirit?

“When crowds of people are tense and afraid, Synapse has the power to keep them calm and focused,” the writer points out. “Bolstering innocent bystanders and teammates alike against the oppressive forces trying to wear them down.”

Uncanny Avengers #25 cover by RB Silva

The Wasp: A founding Avenger who has remained bright and sunny during some of the most heartbreaking personal crises and devastating super powered fracas, Janet has even survived death to arrive at this moment.

“Janet’s one of the most experienced Avengers around,” Zub reminds. “Invasions, overwhelming odds, and heroes on the defensive? Been there, done that. Add in her ability to slip in unseen and take out opponents from the inside—Janet’s got this.”

Doctor Voodoo: A mystic capable of wielding great power, Voodoo has a secret weapon many might not recognize on first blush. That “Doctor” in his name is not a hollow honorific; Jericho Drumm earned it in Psychology, making him able to address the struggles within the people surrounding him, not just the battle raging around them.

“Supernatural monsters and spirits are Jericho’s specialty,” argues the writer. “He’s been Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme, and those mystic skills and spells will serve him well against creatures from the Darkforce dimension.”

Rogue: Rogue has been a villain. Rogue has hurt those around her with her powers. Rogue has seen friends fall and ideals be dashed; mentors betray and teammates corrupted. But she has also witnessed acts of heroics both big and small. She has overcome her questionable past to become a defender of others. She has hit the brink and returned. Darkness—literal or internal—has not bested her yet.

“Rogue handled demons invading New York way back in Inferno,” concludes Zub. “She has super strength, flight, and an upbeat attitude to stick things out when darkness looms around every corner.”

See how the team fares in UNCANNY AVENGERS #25 by Jim Zub and Kim Jacinto!

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