ByTom Bacon, writer at Creators.co
I'm a film-and-TV fan who grew up with a deep love of superhero comics! Follow me on Twitter @TomABacon or on Facebook @tombaconsuperheroes!
Tom Bacon

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. It didn't take long for the truth to be revealed — Captain America had been warped by the power of a Cosmic Cube, and nothing could be the same again!

Spinning out of this shocking revelation, we now know that Marvel's 2017 Summer event will be called "Secret Empire", and it will be the climax of this controversial Captain America story arc.

Getting The Pieces In Place

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.”

More recently, Spencer has moved Captain America into a very dangerous, powerful position. He's been made Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., at the same time that the Government has passed a controversial S.H.I.E.L.D. Act expanding their remit. Now, in the event of a national emergency S.H.I.E.L.D. takes charge.

What's Next?

The truth is breaking out. [Credit: Marvel Comics]
The truth is breaking out. [Credit: Marvel Comics]

Right now, Hydra effectively has two great leaders — the #RedSkull (who wields the telepathic might of the deceased Charles Xavier) and Captain America himself. The Red Skull is using his telepathy to drive a rabble-rousing populist movement in the US, and a dangerous Hydra army in Eastern Europe, and he's positioning himself for a major attack. In contrast, Steve Rogers 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 everything come to a head. When Hydra launch not one, not two, but three separate strikes, Captain America invokes the power he's been given by the S.H.I.E.L.D. act.

The cover for the first issue! [Credit: Marvel Comics]
The cover for the first issue! [Credit: Marvel Comics]

According to Marvel’s Senior Vice President Tom Brevoort, Captain America's plan is about to come to a head.

"Steve has been kind of lining his dominoes up around the Marvel Universe to be able to make his move and bring about a Hydra revolution, a takeover. At the point of ‘Secret Empire,’ they are ready to go. That’s the moment we hit as we go in.”

For all it's clear the heroes will be under heavy assault, the political slant will clearly continue - with solicits suggesting that Sam Wilson will take charge of a ground-level resistance.

A leaked cover for 'Captain America: Sam Wilson' #22! [Credit: Marvel Comics, released to CBR]
A leaked cover for 'Captain America: Sam Wilson' #22! [Credit: Marvel Comics, released to CBR]

Here's the really interesting thing, though; 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

[Credit: Marvel Comics]
[Credit: Marvel Comics]

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."

Atwork from 'Secret Empire' #1, by Andrea Sorrentino. [Credit: Marvel Comics]
Atwork from 'Secret Empire' #1, by Andrea Sorrentino. [Credit: Marvel Comics]

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.

Supporting this argument, Brevoort insists that this event won't feature 'hero-on-hero' battles.

"This is very much more an old school story. You will know who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. This is not heroes fighting heroes, this is heroes fighting a bad guy… We saw this moment as our chance to rally the entire Marvel Universe, which has been fragmented of late."

It's a legitimate criticism, and really makes it sound as though this event could serve a very positive purpose for the broader Marvel Universe.

Spanning the Whole Range

[Credit: Marvel Comics]
[Credit: Marvel Comics]

We now know that the core title will be launching in May with Secret Empire #0, which leads into a core eight-issue miniseres, ending in August. Teasers have indicated the event will span the whole Marvel range, affecting #SpiderMan, the #Avengers, the #GuardiansOfTheGalaxy, #TheDefenders, and even the #XMen.

See also:

So far, we're only beginning to get a sense of what to expect from the 2017 Marvel summer event. That said, it's clearly a lot more organic than 2016's Civil War II, and flows out of an arc that's been building up considerable 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!

Poll

Are you excited for 'Secret Empire'?

(Sources: ComicBook.com, CBR; Poll Image Credit: Marvel Comics)