Secret Empire #5 NM Sorrentino 1:25 Variant Cover Marvel Nick Spencer Hydra MCU


SKU: 14544 Category:


Secret Empire (2017 Marvel) #5D

Published Aug 2017 by Marvel
Limited 1 for 25 Retailer Incentive Variant Cover
Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Andrea Sorrentino and Rod Reis
Cover by Andrea Sorrentino
44 pages, full color

They thought they were safe! They thought they could handle anything that was thrown against them! But the united heroes of the Marvel Universe never reckoned on the dread power that Steve Rogers would unleash! THE SECRET EMPIRE WILL AMAZE YOU!

Featured Characters:
Red Room
Black Widow (Natasha Romanoff)
Spider-Man (Miles Morales)
Wasp (Nadia Van Dyne)
Ironheart (Riri Williams)
Falcon (Joaquín Torres)
Steve Rogers
The Underground
Ant-Man (Scott Lang)
Iron Man (Tony Stark A.I.) (Appears on a computer screen, TV, or hologram only)
Sam Wilson
Quicksilver (Pietro Maximoff)
Mockingbird (Bobbi Morse)
Shang-Chi (Main story and flashback) (Joins team)
Hawkeye (Clint Barton)
Shaun Lucas
Giant-Man (Raz Malhotra)
Black Panther (T’Challa)
Hydra Command
High Council
Viper (Ophelia Sarkissian)
Gorgon (Tomi Shishido)
Madame Hydra (Elisa Sinclair)
Arnim Zola
Captain America (Steve Rogers)
The Hand (Controlled by the Hive)
Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff) (Possessed by Chthon)
Vision (Controlled by Arnim Zola’s A.I. virus)
Mosaic (Morris Sackett) (Behind the scenes; possesses an unnamed old man)
Cassie Lang (Named only)
Sauron (Karl Lykos) (Recap)
High Evolutionary (Herbert Wyndham)
Knights of Wundagore
White Queen (Emma Frost) (Only in flashback)
Beast (Hank McCoy)
Hydra High Council
King Xorn (Recap)
The Underground
Tigra (Greer Nelson)
Wonder Man (Simon Williams)
Rescue (Pepper Potts)
The Thing (Ben Grimm)
Misty Knight (Mercedes Knight)
Stingray (Walter Newell)
Maria Hill (Behind the scenes)
Red Skull (Johann Schmidt)
Dr. Bruce Banner (Returns)

Inside a Hydra base in Washington, D.C., Viper is doing business with a group of men who are being given briefcases brimming with money. A henchman calls her attention, prompting her to apologize and leave the room. Viper soon comes face to face with Black Widow, who is chained to a chair after being captured while trying to steal a Hydra transport ship, as the henchman reports.

While Black Widow is being interrogated by Viper and her henchman, the Champions infiltrate a Hydra facility as part of a rescue mission. Viper soon realizes something is off as soon as Natasha discloses that she’s planning to murder Captain America. Natasha turns Viper’s attention to her unsanctioned narcotics operation, pondering what Rogers would do if he learned of it. Natasha then offers Viper the chance to join her enterprise in exchange of keeping her dealings under wraps. She additionally pointing out that Rogers’ death could provide Viper the opportunity to take the reins of Hydra once more. Viper gives in, kills her two escorts, and agrees to help Natasha. Meanwhile, the Champions break into a secure room using an access code and a hand scan taken from Viper. Ironheart comments how Natasha stated they’d find a person that would win them the war, who turns out to be a fragile old man in a hospital bed. Falcon doubts that they’ve found the person they’re looking for, but Natasha assures him that they have.

In the mysterious forest, Steve Rogers has continued his journey accompanied by the two strangers he met previously, whom he has now befriended.

Aboard the Underground’s transport, Ant-Man is sending his daughter Cassie updates on their quest for the Cosmic Cube fragments, recounting their visit to the Savage Land. Their next stop is Wakanda, where he expects they’ll get the shard with ease. However, when the Tony Stark A.I. has a hearing with Black Panther, T’Challa denies him the fragment, arguing that because the shard came to Wakanda, it’s rightfully theirs. When Black Panther rejects Tony’s claims that he’ll fix the situation, Stark remarks that unlike them, Hydra will not stop raiding Wakanda until they get the fragment. Black Panther makes a counteroffer, proposing Tony to surrender all of the shards when they finish collecting them. Stark refuses and walks away.

Scott’s recount continues, revealing the later days of their quest saw the heroes come out empty handed, following adventures which involved fighting the High Evolutionary and breaking into vaults. Now in Madripoor, the Underground makes their way through an army of Hand ninja being controlled by Hive. The enemies are taken down as soon as Iron Man knocks out Hive, leaving only Gorgon standing. While severely hurt, Hercules lunges him, and manages to knock him down before being turned into stone. Iron Man prepares to free Shang-Chi, the prisoner of Hydra and supposed owner of a fragment. However, he reveals he doesn’t possess it anymore, and he can’t even remember who stole it. Cue a flashback showing Emma Frost taking the fragment from an unconscious Shang-Chi. In light of another failure, Sam Wilson holds a vote to decide whether to continue or return to The Mount, making emphasis on the previous six dead ends they encountered over the past weeks. Iron Man concedes when most of his teammates agree to desist, but remarks that they’re not only giving up on a mission, but also on Steve Rogers.

In Washington, D.C., Captain America meets up with New Tian ambassador Beast in the site where Mjolnir lays still. When Beast wonders why did he leave the hammer there, Steve answers the weapon’s inscription states “whosoever,” so anybody is welcome to try to pick it up. Rogers gets to the point of their meeting, revealing that Kraken has reported New Tian is in possession of something that belongs to them, implying the Cube fragment. When Beast asks for a clarification, Steve turns to Mjolnir, hinting at the destruction he could bring to New Tian with it. Hank questions if Steve is threatening him, and Rogers denies the accusation, simply explaining that he wants Hank to remember his compassion and spare his people of destruction. A helicopter lands on the scene, and as Captain America proceeds to leave, Beast wonders how difficult must it be for him to resist the urge to pick up Mjolnir and play god. Steve replies that’s hardly the case, as he doesn’t need the hammer for that.

Aboard the helicopter, Madame Hydra gives Steve an update on Hydra’s Avengers. Scarlet Witch remains in Chthon’s control, though slightly unhinged; the virus designed by Arnim Zola continues keeping Vision under Hydra’s control, with occasional attempts to break free. As for Odinson, he’s praying to Odin, sharing his troubles. While aware of the evil posed by Hydra’s regime, they have promised him the chance to save Jane Foster from the alternate dimension where she has been left stranded, as well as the restoration of Midgard’s connection to Asgard. Furthermore, he’s confused by Rogers’ ability to wield Mjolnir, even when he couldn’t. Now aboard a Hydra Helicarrier, Madame Hydra comments she and Doctor Faustus has tried to subvert Odinson to no avail, as he’s still a god. Steve prepares to leave, but not before Elisa shows her support for him once again, commenting that even if she could never replace his mother, Elisa has always regarded him as a son.

Iron Man’s team eventually returns to The Mount. After reuniting with the rest of the Underground, they give Hawkeye the news that their mission was unsuccessful, much to his dismay. Iron Man returns to his lab, and encounters Giant-Man trying to build a time capsule, which he intends to bury, so in the far future when Hydra’s regime eventually falls, it can send a warning to the past. When Shaun Lucas turns the conversation to the result of the mission, Giant-Man and Iron Man reveal that in reality they never had a Cosmic Cube-tracking device, and were simply following Rick Jones’ best leads. He had pretended the search was going to be precise so to foster hope. Tony is interrupted when he detects hostiles and rushes to get the base’s shields up, all while Mockingbird sneakily contacts somebody through a communicator. In the horizon, thee Hydra Helicarriers appear and open fire on the base. Zola notes that according to their intel, the blasts won’t be enough to bring down their defenses, so Captain America prepares to unleash their secret weapon.

Back in the mysterious forest, Steve Rogers and his allies are walking through a path when he notices a set of wires. He can’t warn one of his companions in time, who steps on it, causing a net to swoop him away. The other man is taken out by a poisoned dart. Before he can properly react, Steve is knocked down from behind with a club. The attacker reveals himself to be the Red Skull, though he claims he’s Rogers’ salvation, and that he’ll free Steve from this place.

Back inside the Hydra Helicarrier, Zola walks Captain America to the door of a vault, commenting that their subject is awake but disoriented, and that whichever procedure they’ve done is only temporary, which will cause his condition to degrade quickly. Rogers brushes off Zola’s concerns, guaranteeing they only need their subject for a short time to bring down the Underground. As the doors of the vault open, the person revealed to be on the other side is none other than Bruce Banner.

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.

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.