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Secret Empire #0: Review

Apr 2017
Nick Spencer, Daniel Acuna

Story Name:

(No title given)

Review & Comments

5 stars

Secret Empire #0 Review by (April 22, 2017)
Characters: SHIELD, Sharon Carter, Ironheart, Iron Man (AI Tony Stark). Alpha Flight: Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers), America Chavez, Spectrum, Blue Marvel, Quasar (Avril Kincaid), Hyperion. Guardians of the Galaxy: Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Star-Lord, Gamora. Defenders: Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, Daredevil, Spider-Woman, Cloak and Dagger. Uncanny Avengers: Rogue, Wasp (Nadia Pym).

Villains: Captain America (Steve Rogers), Baron Zemo, Kraken, Army of Evil (including Blacklight, Graviton, Mr. Hyde, Nitro)

Comments: The prologue was drawn by Rod Reis. Three comic issues serve as a prologue to this mega-event: UNCANNY AVENGERS #22, THUNDERBOLTS (Vol. 4) #12, and CAPTAIN AMERICA: STEVE ROGERS #16.

Review: And the controversy kicks into high gear.... As I said in the review of CAPTAIN AMERICA: STEVE ROGERS #16 I can only reiterate that this is a comic book story. I can understand the fuss up to a point—but I won't weigh in there. My opinion really isn't important on the major socio-political ramifications of this comic book story. So all I will offer is my opinion of this comic as a story—and on that count it is very good. The steps Cap takes to betray his friends and seize power are shocking and clearly laid out, creating maximum suspense and Daniel Acuna's dark and grim art suits the story perfectly. I found this to be one of the best starts to a big event from Marvel in years, maybe since FEAR ITSELF. I'm really excited to see what comes next and I don't have to take any of this seriously as I have a real life when I am not reading comic books. For now this is shaping up to be a great epic tale.

Secret Empire #0 Review by (April 22, 2017)
I'll try to piece together the storyline that led up to Secret Empire.

Red Skull died in Captain America: Reborn.
Prof X died in Avengers vs X-Men.
A clone of Red Skull was awakened to plague the Avengers Unity Squad in the 1st Uncanny Avengers series. He got hold of Prof X's brain and implanted the telepathic bit in his own, giving him the powers of Charles Xavier.
This led up to Avengers & X-Men: Axis.

SHIELD scientist Erik Selvig studied Cosmic Cube fragments, which merged to form a Cube Kobik in the shape of a little girl. But 1 of the Cubes was previously used by Red Skull - probably the 1 that merged him with Aleksander Lukin. Kobik secretly sought out Skull to be her friend, and he converted her to Hydra's POV.
Kobik converted Selvig, who persuaded SHIELD to create Pleasant Hill - the prison for brainwashed supervillains in Avengers: Standoff. And it was in Pleasant Hill that Kobik on RS's orders rejuvenated Steve Rogers and made him a member of Hydra.

Succeeding issues of CA:SR and now this issue have shown us what Kobik actually did, if I've understood it right. She changed the past back to Steve's birth so that he was brought up to follow Hydra. Hydra helped the Axis win WWII. But Kobik also caused the Allies to use a Cosmic Cube to rewrite things so *they* won the war. And this included giving Cap his proper life and personality, and the world a history that is identical to the Marvel 1. Which is why everyone remembers what occurred in the comics (and why almost all current comics series have been able to continue as though nothing happened).
This issue shows how Hydra planned a reaction to this (all within Kobik's design). As the Allies' Cube started work Hydra arranged for Cap to be their sleeper agent, revived by the Avengers and in place for Kobik to 'reawaken' his memories. Fans of Jonathan Hickman's SHIELD series will recognise the 2 characters with Cap and Kraken at the start of this issue in the underground room where this happens as Isaac Newton and Nostradamus. This is in the ruined Deviant city of Ashomia where Newton learned many secrets.

Kobik was 'rescued' from PH by Bucky Barnes who became her friend. And he formed the latest Thunderbolts team in the latest series of that name. Cap was hunting for Kobik but she kept him and Bucky apart because she rightly feared that her friend Bucky wouldn't like her if he discovered what she'd done to Steve.

In Kobik's 'reality' Steve was friends with Helmut Zemo, but in the Marvel reality they were enemies. In CA:SR Cap convinced him of the 'truth' and they became allies.

Meanwhile Skull attacked the Unity Squad again in the 3rd UAv series. But they defeated him and in #22 they removed Xavier's telepathy from his brain. Cap took RS to CA:SR#15 and killed him as a rival for power in Hydra. And in #23 Cap took Deadpool from the team to become a Hydra agent in DP#31-34.

Zemo led a gang of supervillains against the Thunderbolts, captured Bucky and recruited Fixer and Moonstone. Kobik took Bucky back to WWII in their #11 and showed him the Hydra reality, expecting him to join Hydra so they could all be friends. But Bucky refused, and in #12 Zemo recaptured him - but Kobik was shattered into fragments again.
That led into CA:SR#16 where Zemo has Bucky, and Fixer and Selvig are recreating the Cosmic Cube. But Selvig hides Kobik and commits suicide so he can't be made to reveal where.

TBolts#12 and CA:SR#16 have been given the cover banner SE: Opening Salvo. The 3rd issue with that banner is US Av #5 where Cap visits the team to figure out how to control or neutralise them. This occurs before CA:SR#16 because Selvig is in it.

CA:SR also directs readers to #25 of the latest Amazing Spider-Man series where in 1 story the Otto Octavius clone allies with Hydra to get upgraded to Superior Octopus. If and how this will figure in SE remains to be seen.

There are other threads in CA:SR I've omitted like:- Cap being given the reigns of power. The Chitauri invasion seeking eggs that Hydra has. The Planetary Defence Shield. The new Quasar.
Some of these also bled into other series. Eg the PDS figured in the new Captain Marvel series.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Secret Empire #0 Synopsis by Peter Silvestro

Prologue 1945: Captain America Steve Rogers undertakes a trek to a snow-covered mountain in Japan; there he is met by Kraken and taken to a mysterious cave where he bathes in a glowing pool and is therefore protected from the Allies' use of the Cosmic Cube to change history, setting him up to be savior of Hydra someday in the future...

...and that future is now. Captain America, Director of SHIELD is on duty; Sharon Carter lists for him the three big problems they are facing: 1) the Chitauri invasion fleet is coming and the Planetary Defense Shield is out, thanks to a suicide bomber; Iron Man (AI Tony Stark) and Ironheart are trying to get it running again while Captain Marvel leads Alpha Flight against the enemy. 2) Supervillains held prisoner at Pleasant Hill have descended upon Manhattan with havoc to wreak; the Defenders and the Avengers Unity Team are at the scene. 3) Sokovia has been captured by Hydra and they are threatening nuclear strikes if they are not recognized by the UN. SHIELD Helicarriers are on their way. The President declares a state of emergency, giving Cap full command of US military and law enforcement agencies....

In space, the two most powerful heroes are taken down: Hyperion by concentrated laser fire and Quasar eaten by a dragon ship....

In Manhattan, Nitro sets himself off; Jessica Jones' quick reflexes hurl him away but the explosion is terrific.... Suddenly the bad guys start teleporting away....

The Planetary Defense Shield suddenly comes up, throwing its protective force around the world, creating a wall to the heroes' backs....

Then the Helicarrier Crescent, under Hydra's control, rams the Iliad (the Helicarrier Cap is on) and the latter's' crew start falling under the power of Dr Faustus' hypnotic voice. Cap reveals himself as the Hydra leader and orders a shocked Sharon locked up and kept safe. He informs Captain Marvel that she and her forces are trapped on the outside of the Shield and there will be more Chitauri coming for their captured Queen. Objective 1 accomplished: trapping the most powerful heroes in space. Baron Zemo uses the Darkhold to cast the Darkforce Dimension around New York. Objective 2 accomplished: many of the New York centered heroes are now isolated. Iron Man summons all of the Avengers who are still free to assemble and head for Washington as the Hydra Helicarriers arrive at the nation's capital to take over the government of the United States as Objective 3....

RobFJ with a roundup of tie-ins that belong with this issue:-

Deadpool #31
Back in #27 Phil Coulson started getting suspicious of Captain America. Now Cap sends DP to kill him. And he appears to succeed. This happens before Cap reveals his Hydra-ness in this issue.

Mighty Captain Marvel #5
CM welcomes some new recruits to Alpha Flight Station, and then they get attacked by the Chitauri and stranded outside the Planetary Shield by Captain America.

US Avengers #6
Cannonball returns to Earth space to become a casualty of the Chitauri invasion alongside Hyperion and Quasar. Hydra-Cap has the team's helicarrier ready to 'defend' Washington DC. A Hydra mole in AIM shoots Citizen V/Sunspot. Dr Faustus mind-controls the rest of AIM. Red Hulk's 'upgrade' turns him against the rest of the USAv.

SE: Brave New World #3 (Starbrand story)
Starbrand sees Hyperion brought in injured. He fails to penetrate the Shield.

Amazing Spider-Man #29
Superior Octopus leads Hydra troops to take over Parker Industries HQ. Doc Ock wants his company back, and when Peter refuses Ock initiates the Darkforce bubble. Then the Avengers call Spidey to Washington.

SE: Brave New World #3 (J Jonah Jameson story)
The daily Bugle reports on the super-villain attack on New York and the early hours of the Darkforce blackout.

Uncanny Avengers #24-25
Most of the team are trapped in New York by the Darkforce bubble. Except Deadpool who went with Captain America last issue, and Quicksilver who's with the Washington forces. Dr Voodoo immediately gets taken over by dark forces, but the team save him from possession.

X-Men Gold #7-8
As the Darkforce covers Manhattan some X-Men leave the Mansion to fight demons. But the new X-Cutioner chooses this time to start killing their students.

Free Comic Book Day 2017: Secret Empire
This directly follows this issue and describes the battle for Washington DC. Which ends with Hydra-Cap lifting Thor's hammer - because he's worthy! And Jane-Thor disappears somewhere.

Avengers #9
Female Thor ends up without her hammer on another world under the rule of a tyrant. She sacrifices a chance to get home to defeat the tyrant, and she won't be brought back to Earth until SE#10.

US Avengers #7
Only Enigma and Squirrel Girl escape the battle of Washington to join the French Resistance.

Amazing Spider-Man #30
Spidey tells the Washington heroes to form a Resistance and then goes off to protect his worldwide business premises from takeover by Superior Octopus and Hydra.

Amazing Spider-Man #31
Peter destroys Parker Industries rather than let Doc Ock have it.

SE: Brave New World #1 (Gwenpool story)
Hydra kidnap Gwenpool and takeover a TV station to broadcast propaganda. Things don't go as planned. This and the next tale probably belong in the early (not so effective) phase of the Hydra's conquest.

SE: Brave New World #2 (Hydra Bob story)
HB and others try to arrest an Inhuman woman, and he accidentally succeeds.

SE: Brave New World #1 (Giant-Man story)
This story 12 days in tells how Raz Maholtra hits rock bottom but then joins the Underground with his family (before SE#1)

Champions #10
Nova is with Captain Marvel in space. Cyclops is sort-of with the X-Men in New Tian. Hulk, Spider-Man (Morales) and Viv Vision hunt for Ms Marvel in an internment camp for Inhumans. This must be before they are part of the Underground in SE#1. They don't find Kamala Khan. We know she'll be with the Secret Warriors, but I don't know where she is now.

The above items happen straight after SE#0 or have to occur before SE#1.

Clive_Reston on the Marvel Chronology Project Forum has pointed out that in the real world it would take Hydra weeks or months to get the populace following the rules (or understanding what rules they're supposed to follow) in SE#1. Thus he includes other stuff here that supposedly happens in the 1st few weeks after SE#0. But SE#1 doesn't say how long it is after SE#0. I prefer to think that in the unrealistic comic world Hydra *could* get things done a lot faster. But not so fast that the whole of SE only lasts the few days that XM:G#8 suggests.

This also shortens the time that Captain Marvel and friends have to survive the Chitauri assault (I'm assuming that Alpha Station has enough supplies to keep them going), and the amount of time Dagger has been providing light for the whole of Manhattan.

Preview Pages
Click sample interior pages to enlarge them:

Daniel Acuna
Daniel Acuna
Daniel Acuna
Mark Brooks (Cover Penciler)
Mark Brooks (Cover Inker)
Mark Brooks (Cover Colorist)


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

> Secret Empire: Book info and issue index

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