Secret Empire #10 NM Sorrentino Hydra Heroes Variant Cover Nick Spencer MCU Capt


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Secret Empire (2017 Marvel) #10E

Published Oct 2017 by Marvel
Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Steve McNiven
Cover by Andrea Sorrentino
44 pages, full color

Can there be any redemption for Captain America as the SECRET EMPIRE starts to crumble?

Featured Characters:
Captain America (Steve Rogers) (Main story and flashback)
Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers)
Black Panther (T’Challa)
Spider-Man (Peter Parker)
Thor (Jane Foster)
Underground (Last appearance) (Main story and flashback)
Iron Man (Tony Stark A.I.) (Hologram) (Main story and flashback)
Hawkeye (Clint Barton) (Main story and flashback)
Captain America (Sam Wilson) (Main story and flashback)
Ant-Man (Scott Lang) (Main story and flashback)
The Thing (Ben Grimm)
Giant-Man (Raz Malhotra)
Patriot (Shaun Lucas)
Luke Cage
Iron Fist (Danny Rand)
Rocket Raccoon
Storm (Ororo Munroe)
Red Room (Last appearance)
Hulk (Amadeus Cho)
Spider-Man (Miles Morales)
Ironheart (Riri Williams)
Wasp (Nadia Van Dyne)
Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan)
Marvel Girl (Jean Grey) (Past)
Winter Soldier (Bucky Barnes) (Main story and flashback)
Hydra (Prime Marvel Universe) (Main story and flashback)
Hydra Supreme (Steve Rogers) (Main story and flashback)
Madame Hydra (Elisa Sinclair) (Only in flashback)
Daily Bugle (Named only) (Vision)
New York Bulletin (Named only) (Vision)
Hydra (Kobik’s Timeline) (Vision)
Fantastic Four (First appearance; photo in vision)
Invisible Woman (Sue Storm) (First appearance; photo in vision)
Doctor Doom (Victor von Doom) (First appearance; photo in vision)
Human Torch (Johnny Storm) (First appearance; photo in vision)
The Thing (Ben Grimm) (First appearance; photo in vision)
Avengers (First appearance; photo in vision)
Wasp (Janet Van Dyne) (First appearance; photo in vision)
Ant-Man (Hank Pym) (First appearance; photo in vision)
Thor (First appearance; photo in vision)
Hulk (Bruce Banner) (First appearance; photo in vision)
Iron Man (Tony Stark) (First appearance; photo in vision)
Spider-Man (Peter Parker) (First appearance; photo in vision)
Arnim Zola (First appearance; photo in vision)
The Catalyst (Michel de Nostredame) (Vision)
The Father (Isaac Newton) (Vision)
Kraken (Daniel Whitehall) (Vision)
Charles Xavier (First appearance; photo in vision)
Erik Lehnsherr (First appearance; photo in vision)
Abraham Lincoln (Statue)
Thanos (Recap)
Black Widow (Natasha Romanoff) (Recap)
Rick Jones (Recap)
Hawkeye (Kate Bishop)
Wolverine (Laura Kinney)
Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff)
Nova (Sam Alexander)
Barf (Brian McAllister)
Jason McAllister
Marcus Festerman
Harris (First appearance)
Ms. Peters
Anna (Jason’s classmate)

This issue marks the third time Steve Rogers has wielded Mjolnir (the first occurred in Thor #390 and the second in Fear Itself #7).

Ordering the members of the resistance to stand down, the Hydra Supreme Steve Rogers urges his former allies to surrender, claiming that they are in the wrong side and that there’s nothing they can do to stop Hydra from using the Cosmic Cube to rewrite history. Logan interrupts him, arguing he won’t get much support from the people on the scene. Hawkeye yells “Avengers Assemble!,” and the heroes join him in swarming Steve. However, he swiftly knocks them all down with the power from the almost-completed Cosmic Cube.

Rogers blasts a wave of energy that wipes out the heroes and remakes the world into Hydra’s image. Glimpses of this world include the Fantastic Four with Doctor Doom rather than Mr. Fantastic, Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr having been executed, the Avengers being assembled by Hydra, and Arnim Zola creating the radioactive spider. As the wave of energy envelops different landmarks of Washington, D.C., they change their appearance. The Capitol appears rebuilt, a statue of Nostradamus leans over the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, the Washington Monument becomes spiralled, and Sir Isaac Newton sits in the place of Abraham Lincoln.

Steve’s prideful observation of the fruits of his labor is interrupted by Captain America, still standing holding the last fragment of the Cosmic Cube. Ant-Man and the Winter Soldier observe from behind as Sam walks up to Steve. Sam kneels in front of Rogers, and hands over the Cosmic Cube fragment as he gives the Hydra salute. Surprised, Steve accepts Sam’s offering, though also demands he give him his shield. Rogers pushes the shard into the chestpiece containing the rest. The surge of power flowing through Steve is abruptly cut short, and he falls into the ground, noticing the Cube is gone from his armor. Ant-Man appears in front of Rogers, returning from his miniature size. The Winter Soldier soon follows, returning to the scene through a portal.

It is shown that moments earlier, as Sam handed over the Cube fragment, Ant-Man helped Bucky go subatomic size and penetrate Rogers’ chest piece when he inserted the fragment into it.

Even earlier before, days prior at the Triskelion, the Winter Soldier was explaining a plan to Captain America, Hawkeye and Iron Man. Believing that if the Cosmic Cube fragments were reunited Kobik would bring herself back to life, Bucky explained that with her laid her memory of the real Steve Rogers, and that bringing him back was only a matter of managing to reach them.

Inside Kobik’s mindscape, the world crumbled around Steve as he raced to find the little girl. Rogers found her sheltered inside a daycare, expressing her anguish over having messed up. Having believed Hydra was good, she unwittingly transformed Rogers into something horrible. When Kobik suggested remaining in hiding inside her mindscape, Steve shut down the idea, arguing the only way to face fascists is to stand and fight. Steve consoled Kobik, and she took his hand. As soon as they left the building, they heard Bucky’s voice from above. The sky ripped open, and Bucky extended his hand to Steve. Carrying Kobik, Steve reached Bucky, and everything turned white.

Back in the present, the Hydra Supreme angrily demands to know what Bucky did with the Cube. Kobik comes out of another portal, and reverts the changes Steve made to the world, much to his dismay. In front of the villainous Steve Rogers materialized the real Captain America. The two Rogers fight an arduous battle that is witnessed throughout the world. When the confrontation comes to a standstill, the Hydra Supreme reaches for Mjolnir to lift it as he once did when his reign began. Little did he know that during said instance, in reality Madame Hydra had used one of the Cosmic Cube fragments to alter Mjolnir’s enchantment. Now as he attempts to lift it, the Hydra Supreme fails miserably. Captain America snatches away the hammer, and uses it to deliver his villainous counterpart a blow that knocks him out.

After turning to his allies and apologizing for the actions of his evil counterpart, Steve hands over the shield back to Sam, and gives Mjolnir back to Thor. Using her powers, Kobik restores the past as it originally was, and gifts several of the heroes on the scene a journey through the Vanishing Point, seemingly returning immediately afterwards. Together again, all the heroes stand triumphant.

Several weeks later, the sense of normalcy returned to the restored United States. Memorials are held, wreckage is rebuilt, and the dead are mourned, namely Black Widow.

The Inhuman prisoners previously freed from captivity in New Attilan are processed by the American government. Brian McAllister soon returns to his brother Jason, and they head home. Brian finds his house vandalized and thrashed, but he tucks Jason into bed before going to sleep himself. The following day, Brian is woken up by a noise outside. When he steps outdoors, he finds Jason’s class and their teacher Ms. Peters cleaning up their house. Brian says they didn’t need to take the trouble, but Ms. Peters insists they did. Jason and Marcus Festerman meanwhile play on the street with an action figure of Sam Wilson, Captain America.

Interview: Nick Spencer on Marvel’s Secret Empire & Its Aftermath
Nick Spencer opens up about Secret Empire’s Marvel Universe aftermath, Steve Rogers’ Hydra Allies, and much more.

SPOILER WARNING: The following interview contains major spoilers for Secret Empire and Secret Empire: Omega, on sale now.

Marvel Comics’ Secret Empire, by writer Nick Spencer and a team of all-star artists, truly lived up to the idea of what events could and should be. Over the course of ten issues and a number of tie-ins, Spencer and his collaborators chronicled life in an America that had been conquered by Hydra and its leader, a Cosmic Cube-altered Captain America. Readers witnessed the exploits of a resistance army of heroes trying to end Hydra’s rule and change Steve Rogers back to the hero they remembered, and how the high stakes superhero adventure impacted the life of a single American family. On top of that, the series was a culmination of a long form Captain America tale that Spencer began telling back in the 2016 Avengers family event, Avengers Standoff.

Today, Spencer joins CBR for the first half of a two part chat about some of those events and their immediate aftermath. In part one of our in-depth look at Secret Empire, we examine the controversy surrounding the series, the changes the living Cosmic Cube fragment known as Kobik made to the Marvel Universe in Secret Empire #10, how the true Steve Rogers feels about what happened while his reality was rewritten, and some of HydraCap’s interesting allies.

CBR: So Nick, you’ve pretty much wrapped your first big Marvel event! Overall, it felt like Secret Empire — and the larger Captain America tale you’ve been telling since 2016 — was about Cap’s true role in the Marvel Universe: to inspire. Is that what you were aiming for?

Nick Spencer: Absolutely. I think despite it being about putting Steve and all the other heroes of the Marvel Universe through something horrible, what we hoped was that through the inversion you could kind of see the importance and value of Steve Rogers both as a symbol and as a man; that you could see through this cracked mirror version just what it was that made Steve such a good and noble person. We hoped that you could see why he’s the hero everyone looks to when danger is around.

CBR: A lot of the inspirational moments in Secret Empire came from finding hope in some pretty dark places, leading to Secret Empire being pretty controversial. What was it like watching the conversation around the series develop as the book progressed?

Nick Spencer: You know when you’re doing a story like this, it’s not going to be easy on folks. You certainly understand that people are going to be upset. There’s no getting around it. What we did to Captain America here was a horrible thing. This was a huge ordeal and trial for him.

People are protective of these characters, and they’re passionate about them. These characters mean a lot to them personally. So seeing people up in arms about something bad happening to Captain America was just part of the terrain of the job. That said, we all felt from the beginning, and now that we’re at the end we still feel this way, that this was very much a story worth telling. We had a solid plan for how to bring the heroes through this, how to give them a big win, restore Steve, and hopefully give the Marvel Universe something of a fresh start going forward; a fresh outlook.

Now that the heroes have been through this and confronted a lot of their regrets and demons, they can come back stronger than ever.

CBR: The seeds of Secret Empire were planted back in Avengers: Standoff. As this story moved towards its final act, many of the major players from Standoff came back into play, from Bucky, to Maria Hill, to Kobik, to the new Quasar. Was that always your intention?

Nick Spencer: It was important to me that as we neared the endgame on Secret Empire that we were rewarding the folks who had been with us since Captain America: Sam Wilson and Standoff, and to make sure that those characters were actually part of the payoff. Plus, a lot of those characters are important characters in their relation to Steve Rogers. So it really made sense as we got to our endgame that we kind of shined a light back on them and made sure they were an important part of our resolution.

CBR: In that final resolution Kobik helped undo some of the damage she wrought by altering history, but there’s a panel on one of the final pages that talks about her leaving the scars and wreckage. On that panel we see the ruins of Las Vegas, Black Widow, and Rick Jones. We also see a funeral on that page for a redheaded female character. So can you clarify? Is Black Widow still dead?

Nick Spencer: That is Black Widow’s funeral, and that panel is really meant to highlight the various things that have been lost. So you’re seeing Las Vegas. You’re seeing Black Widow and Rick Jones. Those are things that Kobik is not undoing.

We didn’t want the event to have no longterm consequences or repercussions. We wanted to make sure that at the end of this somebody didn’t just shake a Cosmic Cube and everything is better. The heroes have definitely had a big win here. It’s definitely a turning point for them, but there are still challenges ahead and there are definitely still things that they’ve lost. So that’s really where the heroes are, and that panel is really meant to convey what has been lost and what is still lost.

Kobik’s thinking in this situation is that while the Cosmic Cube was used to turn Steve into a Hydra agent, it wasn’t used to convince anyone to go along with any of the many things that became the heroes and the United States of the Marvel Universe’s undoing. People made their own decisions. They decided to put too much power in one man’s hands. A lot of the folks on the ground in the Marvel Universe decided to really embrace an ideology that Steve was suddenly introducing into the public conversation. And a lot of heroes, after being so divided and broken in Civil War II, decided that instead of fixing those problems and healing those wounds, they would simply delegate everything to Steve.

So there’s a responsibility to be shared here. It wasn’t as simple as, “A Cube made things bad.” Steve did one thing, and then a lot of others did the rest. So, to me, it was important that there were still some lingering consequences. And how we deal with those in the stories that spring out of this is a big part of what’s ahead in Marvel Legacy.

CBR: How much responsibility does the newly restored Steve Rogers feel for what went down? He didn’t do the many horrible things that his Hydra altered counterpart did, but I can still see him blaming himself for things like the death of Black Widow.

Nick Spencer: One of the most interesting things here will be exploring the level of responsibility or blame that Steve feels going forward. Steve had no conscious involvement in any of this and no culpability per se, but there’s still going to be heavy regrets and big questions that he’s going to be asking. We dig into that stuff in Secret Empire: Omega. We examine questions that will leave Steve pondering if what he does is worthwhile. If it can be twisted and perverted like this, that’s a very dangerous down side to what he does. It’s never really been exposed to this degree before.

CBR: Now that Steve has been restored, I’m curious about what becomes of some of the people that were in Hydra Steve’s orbit like Baron Zemo. What can you tell us about his condition in the aftermath of the downfall of his “best friend,” the Hydra altered Cap?

Nick Spencer: You won’t see a whole lot of Zemo in Secret Empire: Omega, but going forward his life has been fundamentally altered. He very much bought into the belief that he was Steve’s best friend, and that he had a loving and healthy relationship with his father, and that he belonged to something bigger than himself. Those are the kinds of things that Zemo has been struggling to find in his life for as long as we’ve known him as a character. So for him to now have this belief that Steve is his best friend and they have this shared history is not something a guy as dogmatic as Zemo is going to give up on easily

Zemo’s perception of history was always only based on what Steve told him. The Cube didn’t do anything supernatural to make him believe those things. Steve sat on the other side of his cell for an extended amount of time telling these stories and Zemo decided to believe them. There’s an important moment towards the end of Captain America: Steve Rogers where Zemo says, “I believe these things to be true. And if they’re not true I’ll make them true.”

Those aren’t necessarily my stories to write, but I think there’s an enormous amount of story potential in Zemo discovering the religion of this world that was. Because Hydra now has a belief system that’s a lot more firm and carries a lot more sort of religious fervor than any they’ve had before. Now, if you’re loyal to Hydra, you believe that this world was stolen from you. You believe that your side won World War II, that you were on the verge of taking over the world, and the allies used the Cosmic Cube to change history.

We know that’s not true. We know that was a manifestation of Kobik, but if you’re Hydra and you choose to believe this now you’re not really fighting to take over the world. You’re fighting to take back the world. That was one of the things we get out this that we really liked. We got more of a firmed up ideology for Hydra that’s rooted in this belief in this alternate history that Kobik created.

CBR: Another very interesting ally of Hydra Steve’s was the Punisher. What inspired you to bring Frank Castle into Secret Empire and use him in the way you did?

Nick Spencer: I was looking for a hero that I thought would cross that line and made the best kind of story sense. There’s obviously opinions on all sides of this. You have certain fans of the character saying, “He would never do this.” Then you have other fans saying, “Yeah, I think he would.” So there’s a lot of differing opinions on Frank’s motivations.

I saw Frank as getting hit by a few things. The first is that it’s been long established that Frank holds Cap as a hero, and I always thought that was an intriguing part of his character because it’s the idealism he still won’t let go of. So this was all coming from the man Frank maybe looks up to the most in the world.

The second was that Steve would come to him in the same way he approached Zemo; by telling him everything he wanted to hear. He would offer approval and say, “I think you’ve been right all these years in the way you’ve been fighting this war on crime. Not only do I accept that you do this, I’m going to help you do it. I’m going to give you whatever resources you need, and I’m going to give you unlimited power to conduct this war. All I care about is that the job gets done.” I imagine that’s an enormously tempting offer for Frank. While he may have had any number of problems with previous iterations of Hydra, I think he would look at what Steve was doing in terms of the law enforcement aspect of it, and see a lot to like.

The final thing that moved Frank into Steve’s camp is the fact that every time Steve did something of major consequences that lost lives or that we’d look at and go, “That’s evil and horrible!” Steve would say, “All these things are short term solutions. Once I have the Cosmic Cube, I’m going to create a better world.” I think for Frank, that temptation would really be the last nail in his coffin per se. Once he heard that and could kind of see that world in the back of his head he would do anything for it.

The reasons for that are pretty obvious. He’s got a lot of emotional scars himself, and he often insists that he would never take it all back, but I think a really strong case is made when somebody is holding all of that in front of you and says, “I can give it all back to you and you’d have the life you always wanted.”

Ultimately, this was the decision that Frank made, and we all felt like the reasons and justification for it were pretty strong. Plus, I think one of the reasons the Punisher is one of the best characters in the Marvel Universe is that he can be viewed so many different ways. I think he gave us a really huge moment in the series. That scene revealing him at the end of the third issue is one of my favorites in the book

The question now really is, what does Frank do from here? How does he feel about how things have played out since then? He’s not the happiest camper is what I can safely say.

CBR: The other ally of Hydra Steve that I found especially interesting was his mother figure, Elisa Sinclair, AKA Madame Hydra. I feel like the surface has just been scratched with that character, especially when you consider her connections to the Elder Gods. Have we truly seen the last of her?

Nick Spencer: Never say never with a character like that, who seems to have survived an awful lot. As one of the creators of that character, I will say it has been enormously rewarding to see people respond to her and watch her make a strong impression. That mantle of Madame Hydra has been passed around to a few characters, so I think to have somebody in that identity that will always be strongly associated with it and really fit it is going to be helpful in future Hydra stories. Dead or alive, her importance to Hydra is pretty clear.

That’s true also for the new Kraken we introduced. We did not reveal his identity throughout the series, so that character is kind of a lingering mystery in the Marvel Universe that could be confronted one of these days.

Marvel Comics’ Secret Empire series was a sweeping event that examined what happens to Earth (and the outer space surrounding it) when an evil version of Captain America takes control of both Hydra and the USA. OF course, that meant it involved a huge cast of characters, while its aggressive shipping schedule meant writer Nick Spencer was collaborating with an all-star team of artists. Those artists brought to life a number of intense action scenes involving costumed heroes and villains, but some of the series most pivotal moments involved an average American (who just so happens to be a new Inhuman) and his little brother.

In part two of our in-depth look at Secret Empire and it’s aftermath, Spencer joins us to discuss the importance of the scenes involving those characters, how the simple act of heroes being heroes won the day, working with his team of artistic collaborators, and the final installments of the long form Captain America story he began telling last year: Secret Empire: Omega and the one-shot Generations: Sam Wilson Captain America & Steve Rogers Captain America.

CBR: A number of superheroes played important roles in Secret Empire, but two characters that ended up being pivotal to the event were average Americans; Brian “Barf” McAllister, and his little brother Jason. What can you tell us about the evolution of their characters, and who came up with Brian’s unique Inhuman power?

Nick Spencer: Laughs I’ll take the blame for that. I think when you do these big event stories that involve all the heroes and all the spectacle I think it’s really important to give them a human core and somebody at the center of it that’s relatable and can show you what this all looks like from the ground looking up. So Brian McAllister was really our way in; to show you in those first pages of Secret Empire #1 just how the world has changed and how much different it is now.

Steve McNiven did an incredible job on that opening sequence. Then we followed Brian through Captain America: Steve Rogers and then back into Captain America #25. Then we close Secret Empire #10 with the reunion with his brother. Hopefully through all that you could see this was the emotional underpinning of the book. You guys did a really nice article about how they really were the heart and soul of the series.

I think it’s really important to never lose sight of the fact that we’re supposed to be telling stories about heroes saving lives; putting themselves in danger to help others. Sometimes a lot of us here can focus on revenge, double crosses, grudges, and heroes being hunted by some other powers. You can read a book and be like, “Did they ever save any innocent people in that story? Did they ever do any objective good?” That’s really important to me. I want to try and find ways, especially in a story like this, to make sure that people know this is what that’s about.

If you take the scene where the heroes get to the Inhuman camp and meet Brian, and he vomits up the last remaining Cube fragment totally out of context A) it’s ridiculous and B) it looks like we conveniently dropped a Deus Ex Machina on you. It’s really more of a Chekov’s Gun in that we showed it to you at the start of the story. We tried to play fair and show you that this was out there, but really the point of that part of the story is that Sam Wilson puts the Captain America suit back on, he rallies the heroes, and shows them that nothing that they have a plan for at that moment is going to defeat Hydra, but what they can do is save some people’s lives. He says, “There’s an Inhuman prison not that far from here. Let’s go be heroes. Maybe it will get us killed, but let’s go rescue some people.”

That’s really what leads to the last Cube fragment. Brian barfing it up is a fun, convenient moment, but really it’s the karmic reward for these heroes who after years of infighting decide to do what they’re supposed to do, which is go help people. What Brian does does is the reward for that. It’s really what turned that ending around and that comes down to Sam Wilson making that call and convincing the heroes to do it.

If reports are to be believed, Chris Evans is going to return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Captain America. However, with Cap’s storyline coming to a beautiful conclusion by the end of Avengers: Endgame, it remains uncertain where he would fit in. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will be addressing the fallout of a world without Steve Rogers, making it fairly clear that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is ready to show what the world would be like after this character is gone.

If Evans returns, it will surely be in a limited capacity — perhaps a one-off role. Thankfully, with a complex multiverse full of alternate iterations of characters, Evans could return one more time as an alternate version of Captain America, maybe even an evil one. In that sense, it’s possible that during the events of Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, the evil Hydra version of Captain America from Secret Empire finds his way into the main MCU continuity.

Secret Empire was an event that saw the Red Skull manipulate Kobik, the Cosmic Cube after gaining sentience, into rewriting Captain America’s memories, convincing him he was an agent of Hydra from a reality where the organization won World War II. Through Captain America, Hydra then manipulates the entire world, orchestrating a massive takeover of Earth. Ultimately, the Hydra Captain America assembles a Cosmic Cube of his own by gathering fragments throughout the world, only for Falcon and a team of other heroes to use is to restore the original Cap. The story ends with the real Captain America punching out the evil one, restoring peace and order to the planet.

Obviously, with the Cosmic Cube being replaced in the MCU with the Tesseract, a now-destroyed Infinity Stone, it’s impossible to really introduce Hydra Cap the same way. This leaves the only logical way to bring him into the fold being through Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. This route would immediately solve some of the key complaints about Secret Empire. For one, there would be no illusion that this Captain America is the same Captain America that fans spent years growing to love, which would avoid the sense of betrayal that many felt before Secret Empire.

From there, the question becomes if Hydra will return to the MCU. Depending on how Zemo’s plans in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier pan out, it could be that Hydra is already on its way back. However, evil Cap could offer a the organization chance to return behind the man who initially destroyed their ranks.

Hydra Cap would work great in the current landscape of the MCU to how the franchise deals with the themes of its own legacy. The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, Ironheart, Armor Wars, Spider-Man 3 and Black Panther 2 will all be addressing legacy, touching on how the new generation moves on and grows from what came before.

What an evil Captain America offers is the idea that the MCU would be a very different landscape had certain key events occurred in a different way. This could then lead to the heroes of the universe, including Bucky Barnes and the new Captain America, Sam Wilson, having to face one of their dearest friends in order to stop the rise of Hydra once again.

Near mint, 1st print. Bagged & Boarded.