Not that fans are happy with the development. It was one thing to turn Captain America into a Hydra agent. It was another to reveal that the entirety of Marvel Comics history was a lie and that Steve Rogers — along with Hydra — were the true winners of World War II.
Secret Empire #1 takes place about a year after the Captain set off a chain of events that would put Hydra back in control. History books have been fixed, Big Brother is even bigger, and anyone exhibiting any forms of superpowers must register with the government.
Many of Earth’s mightiest heroes are still in space, locked out by a global shield. Those on Earth unwilling to accept the new way of things have either been imprisoned or have been forced into hiding, hoping to maintain some safety from the Dreadnoughts, Hydra’s Sentinel-like robots.
Former Avengers Black Widow and Hawkeye have turned the Pantheon hide-out into the headquarters for the Underground — a resistance movement led by a hologram programmed to mimic Tony Stark. When Rayshaun Lucas, a teen with a drive filled with stolen Hydra files, arrives to share what he’s found, things take a turn for the worse as Captain America tightens his grip and orders Hydra to level an entire city.
If you found it hard to swallow Captain America’s revision — or correction, rather — this issue won’t help you stomach it any better. Steve Rogers, as resolute as he may seem while taking on threats with his new Avengers squad, seems awfully torn for a guy who’s achieved his dream of owning the world.
In his rightful place as the Supreme Leader of Hydra and the known un-free world, Rogers should be reveling in his victory. Instead, the clear and present conflict in Secret Empire #1 is that Rogers has no friends.
While the art by Steve McNiven is pretty stellar, the direction of the story is starting to look shaky. Rogers’ back and forth opens the door for an out, and it’s giving me a chilling sense of deja-vu, and I’m not just talking about how I think this story will resolve.
Captain America becoming Captain Hydra might not be the most well-received storyline in the company’s history, but there is ground being broken here. Instead of some boondoggle, what if Marvel triple-downed on this storyline and made it a long-lasting one? What if he became the big bad of the Marvel Universe for another year or so?
Fans may feel uncomfortable with the way of things, and they should. We’re talking about Captain America, here. But the last thing this company needs right now is some hackneyed conclusion with a trace-buster-buster twist where it’s revealed that Captain America wasn’t really Hydra after all.
No other company would dare to do such a thing, which is why it would be amazing to see this happen. Imagine this story playing out with huge ripples throughout the Marvel Universe. We’ve seen interstellar threats come to Earth — what if we were watching the rise of a bigger, worser threat? Imagine Hydra’s tentacles reaching out to the farthest parts of the universe, and the changing tide spurs Thanos and his peers to become the new Guardians of the Galaxy.