Back in May 2016, Marvel writer Nick Spencer shook the world with a horrific revelation. In Captain America: Steve Rogers #1, he revealed that Captain America was an agent of Hydra, and even hinted that he'd been part of Hydra all along. Needless to say, a firestorm of controversy ensued.
The second issue of Captain America: Steve Rogers explained how this seismic shift had happened. Captain America had been warped by the power of a living Cosmic Cube, and nothing could be the same again.
We've now learned that Marvel's 2017 Summer event will be called "Secret Empire", and it appears to be continuing this controversial Captain America story arc.
What Do We Know?
Comic books have a proud tradition for tackling political issues, and Nick Spencer's #CaptainAmerica run has firmly positioned itself as part of that tradition. He's set up two characters to carry the mantle of Captain America: Sam Wilson (formerly the Falcon) and, of course, Steve Rogers. Wilson has strongly represented Liberal America with his first enemies excitedly speaking about a certain "wall." Meanwhile, this controversial twist has literally turned Steve Rogers into the ultimate fascist.
The concept was a simple one. In 2016, possibly the most divisive election year in the history of the United States, Marvel used comics to explore the question of American self-identity. To call the reception 'controversial' would be an understatement. Tom Brevoort published a pretty chilling death threat on his Tumblr. For all that the internet raged against the idea, though, sales went through the roof. Retailers couldn't help pointing out the irony.
Marvel's Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing, David Gabriel, told ComicBook.com that he considered this a tremendous success.
“It was difficult to keep this big of a twist a secret until the very last minute. Since it hit, it’s been exciting to watch it take the world by storm. Sales have skyrocketed and despite a massive overprint, we’ve completely sold out of the 1st issue and will rush it back to print with 3 different covers.”
Hydra now effectively has two great leaders, the Red Skull and Captain America. The present-day Red Skull wields the telepathic might of the deceased Charles Xavier, and is currently going up against the Uncanny Avengers. He's used that telepathy to drive a rabble-rousing populist movement, and he's positioning himself for a major attack.
In contrast, Steve Rogers is ostensibly working for the #RedSkull, but has secretly been disobeying orders, building up allies of his own and positioning himself for a takeover. He may believe in the ideals of Hydra, but even now, Steve Rogers can't accept the Red Skull's leadership. The current Captain America: Steve Rogers arc, "Hail Hydra," is clearly setup for this event, and it looks like we're about to see some Hydra infighting begin.
In the background, meanwhile, is the still-unlimited power of Kobik, a living Cosmic Cube who has been brainwashed by the Red Skull!
2017's event, 'Secret Empire', sets itself against this formidable backdrop. Secret Empire teasers have included a notable tagline:
"A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand."
That may hint at a lot more than you think.
A House Divided
The quote was absorbed into popular American culture after it was used by President Abraham Lincoln as he spoke out against the slave trade. However, it a saying that's actually much older, and even appears in the New Testament.
Jesus's enemies accused him of casting out demons by the power of Satan, and in Mark 3, he responded simply:
“How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come."
If we apply that logic to what little we know of "Secret Empire," the "house divided" is clearly Hydra. Nevertheless, it raises the possibility that the world's #superheroes will continue to be unaware of Steve Rogers's villainy. By the time of the event, he will likely be in open war against the Red Skull. We could easily see both sides of Hydra attempting to purge the other, with the heroes recognizing the Red Skull as the bad guy, and assuming Steve Rogers to be trustworthy.
Spanning the Whole Range
As teasers continue to emerge, it's becoming clear that "Secret Empire" will span the whole Marvel range. Teasers have pointed to it affecting #SpiderMan, the #Avengers, the #GuardiansOfTheGalaxy, #TheDefenders, and even the #XMen.
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- From Stan Lee To James Gunn, What Are The Big Names In Marvel Saying About Captain America's Hydra Twist?
- Marvel's Captain America Hydra Revelation May Not Have Been A Mistake!
So far, we know very little about the 2017 Marvel summer event, but it seems to be a lot more organic than 2016's Civil War II, and flows out of an arc that has been building up momentum since May 2016. However controversial the so-called "HydraCap" twist may have been, it's clearly worked well for sales of the comic, and now the arc is taking center-stage in the Marvel Universe. #SecretEmpire should be a wild ride!
Are you excited for 'Secret Empire'?
(Sources: ComicBook.com; Poll Image Credit: Marvel Comics)