Very few comic book storylines have managed to cause the kind of stir that Marvel's Secret Empire has. Last year, Captain America — the epitome of good and righteousness — was turned into a covert Hydra operative hellbent on taking over the world. In his new villainous role, Cap was pivotal in the death of numerous people, including fellow heroes like Bruce Banner and Black Widow. With Steve Rogers's popularity at an all-time high thanks to the MCU, however, the story was extremely controversial.
In a rare occurrence, both #comicbook fans and the general public came together to criticize the storyline and demand to have Steve Rogers back. Well, there's good news for anyone who wanted to see that happen: Secret Empire #10 has been released, and the true Cap has returned.
Note: The article contains spoilers for Secret Empire #10.
Captain America Is Finally Back
To give you some backstory, #SecretEmpire issue #9 showed the Avengers confronting Hydra Cap as he tried to reshape the world in his image, aided by the Cosmic Cube fragments that he possessed. Going into issue #10, the combined forces of our heroes weren't enough to stop the Cosmic Cube-powered Hydra Cap from accomplishing his goals.
With Earth's Mightiest Heroes down for the count, Hydra Cap reinvented history and rearranged pivotal events in the #MarvelComics universe — such as Peter Parker's spider bite, the Fantastic Four's return to Earth following their power-granting space expedition, and even the Avengers' first team-up.
The Avengers Had One More Ace Up Their Sleeves
Hydra Cap still needed the last fragment of the Cosmic Cube — so Sam Wilson, Bucky Barnes and #AntMan came up with a plan to get the real Steve Rogers back into our reality: go inside the Cosmic Cube. With the help of Scott Lang's shrinking technology, Barnes succeeded, and he pulled both Steve and Kobik –– the living representation of the Cosmic Cube –– out of their imprisonment.
At that moment, the true Steve Rogers was back in play, and ready to beat the living crap out of his evil self. On a side note, the story had a clever way of raising the battle's stakes, as it's made it clear that both fighters were equally matched.
Following a few brutal blows, Hydra Cap got the upper hand. But when everything seemed to be lost, good Steve got ahold of Thor's hammer. Our hero then raised Mjölnr and with one fist bump-inspiring swing, took out his bloodthirsty opponent.
After that, Kobik restored the world back to its normal state; Iron Man and his fellow Avengers finally got their reunion with Steve Rogers. Following that, the issue touched on the aftermath of evil Captain America's actions. While there were some things that could be fixed, others sadly couldn't, such as Natasha Romanoff's death.
And that is how Steve Rogers came back to the #Marvel Universe.
Was The Payoff Worth It?
Following a year of backlash, that's the most important question here. Was the ending worth all of the criticism and controversy surrounding the storyline? There were certainly inspiring moments. Leading up to the battle, for example, we saw Sam Wilson walking up to Nazi Cap, mirroring the panel in the Infinity Gauntlet storyline in which Steve Rogers bravely faced Thanos by himself.
As for the long-awaited confrontation between the two Captains, well, it definitely had some weight to it, both emotionally and physically, and the aspect of bringing #SteveRogers back was handled especially well. Overall, it was great to see him reclaiming his place as the true Captain America after all of the atrocities and backstabbing.
With that said, the resolution felt a bit lacking. At its core, it was a fight between our main hero and his dark reflection. That's not inherently a bad thing, but we've seen that approach numerous times in superhero stories already. In fact, we saw it happen during 2009's Captain America: Reborn. (A few years after his apparent death during the 2006 Civil War event, #RedSkull took control of Steve Rogers's body, and the hero had to fight his nemesis to regain control of himself.)
Taking that into account, Secret Empire — as a storyline that was surrounded in so much controversy and promised to be a turning point for the character and the idea of Captain America — should have been something fresh and unexpected, not something we'd seen before.
What's Next For Captain America?
OK, so the evil Cap's gone now, but what's the next step for the walking, talking American dream? Well, Cap will be part of Marvel's relaunch, "Legacy." Recently, the writer of his new series, #MarkWaid, revealed that Steve Rogers will be out on his own, trying to find a home for himself while tackling more grounded issues:
"The through line basically is Cap is tired of being [...] the Marvel Universe's biggest couch surfer. He's not really had a place of residence other than Avengers Mansion for a long long time, so [he's] sort of out in America [...] going from town to town, city to city [...] looking for the place to land. 'If I'm going to be a part of America, if I'm going to be Captain America, I need to be part of the country.'"
Waid also revealed that even though the #SecretEmpire aftermath will be somewhat explored, it won't be taking a front seat to the new storyline. This will be a rebirth for Cap, and a return to his lighthearted roots. Hopefully this new run won't be raising as many eyebrows as its predecessors. If you want to follow Cap's new, Hydra-free adventures, Captain America #695 will be released this November.
How do you feel about Captain America finally being back? Did you find the issue satisfying? Let me know in the comments!