Secret Empire 0 pulls together threads from several different books which constitute the prologue. They are conveniently laid out here:

I only read the Steve Rogers issue and didn’t really feel like I needed to read the rest to follow what was going on in Secret Empire 0. In Steve Rogers 16 we see Cap’s secret plan start to coalesce as Hydra seeks to reassemble the Cosmic Cube without reawakening Kobik and Zemo appears to kill Bucky.

This brings us to Secret Empire 0 wherein it is outlined that the Cosmic Cube was apparently created by American scientists during the World War II era and used to create the reality that we know as the original Marvel Universe.  Hyrdra’s plan is to use Cap to “undo” that “fake” reality and restore the “true” reality in which Hydra conquers the world.  So they appear to be telling us that the entire Marvel Universe is all just one big EYKIW.

On the other hand, we are still getting the intro text page telling us that Kobik has rewritten reality.  In which case this whole Captain Hydra saga is just one big bad dream that can be Bobby Ewinged out of existence at any time.

In the meantime Nick Spencer has started knocking down the dominos that he has nicely put into place over the last year or so.  This isn’t just a bunch of random stuff thrown together to sell a summer crossover. There appears to have actually been a lot of planning that went into this.

Here’s the way it will unfold going forward:

It doesn't appear that there are too many tie-ins or spin-offs, although I suppose that could change but so far I'm on board for the main series and probably Uprising as well.

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Sort of like saving a lot in a computer RPG game.  So in a sense Tony will never be in real peril so long as there is a hard drive of his mind somewhere.

Rob Staeger (Grodd Mod) said:

Immortal in a sense, but LITERALLY rebootable. There are things that one AI might do that, should it be destroyed, would not be part of another AI's history. 

Sure... but all it takes is a writer to provide a condition to make that hard drive vulnerable -- through an EMP, or whatever -- and you've got a story. Or, heck, steal one and give it some new lines of code -- or infect the whole bunch of them -- and you've got a new iteration of Secret Empire.

He's not invulnerable, or necessarily immortal -- he just has different weaknesses than a human has. 

I'm sure Tony will have a new body shortly. I can't imagine Marvel leaivng him as an AI.

Then again, I couldn't imagine Marvel trashing the reputatiosn of both Captain America and Captain Marvel in the same 3 year period, so...

Randy Jackson said:

Then again, I couldn't imagine Marvel trashing the reputatiosn of both Captain America and Captain Marvel in the same 3 year period, so...

A little strange that they are doing this before the Captain Marvel movie* comes out and while Captain America is still a big deal in the Marvel movies.

* When they come out with the Captain Marvel movie, starring Oscar winner Brie Larson, people will expect it to live up to Wonder Woman movie standards.

I think they've determined that comics do not affect movies.  Carol's had a negative rep since cw1 and I don't think secret empire is going to change that, not after her actions before secret empire, but that's among comic fans.  Tony's villainy never bothered the box office for the Iron Man movies after all.

Rob Staeger (Grodd Mod) said:

He's not invulnerable, or necessarily immortal -- he just has different weaknesses than a human has. 

Yeah, I guess technically you could say he's not immortal because each new AI would be a different entity.

But at the same time, any story in which Tony Stark is in peril has no drama to it because the reader knows there could just be another copy of him on a hard drive somewhere that no one knows about. Granted it's a sort of "internal story logic" form of drama because we know no one ever dies in the comics anyway.  In that sense they're all immortal.

I think the whole AI thing does open up some interesting story possibilities but at some point they're going to have to put a moratorium on it or they will be moving too far away from the core essence of the character.

The people who are aware of Captain Marvel now are  drop in the bucket to those who'll be aware of her once the movie's marketing starts. And it's not happening till 2019, regardless -- Civil War II will be a distant memory by then. 

And plus -- while she was in the wrong, her motives weren't evil, and from what I remember she handled herself well during CWII. I don't think a lot of character rehabilitation is needed in her case.  

  I believe that the motives are less important than the acts.  The fact that the person kicking your teeth down your throat may not be evil or even that they'll feel really bad about it later on doesn't help with either the immediate pain or the dental bills.

Rob Staeger (Grodd Mod) said:

The people who are aware of Captain Marvel now are  drop in the bucket to those who'll be aware of her once the movie's marketing starts. And it's not happening till 2019, regardless -- Civil War II will be a distant memory by then. 

And plus -- while she was in the wrong, her motives weren't evil, and from what I remember she handled herself well during CWII. I don't think a lot of character rehabilitation is needed in her case.  

The problem with both Civil Wars (and likely to be the same problem with the next one--I'm sure there will be one) was not the idea, but the execution.

Watching Captain America: Civil War showed me how that story could have been handled thoughtfully and elegantly without depicting any of the characters as villains. There was nuance, there was subtlety, and while my opinion about who was right stayed the same, I was able to empathize with the other side.

Contrast that with Civil War, where we got Clone Thor killing off Bill Foster, Tony and other members of the Illuminati practically twirling their mustaches, and both sides acting like 5 year-olds. After that was over, I didn't want to read stories with Tony Stark,Reed Richards, etc. in them.

It's exactly how I feel about Carol right now.  She was written so terribly in CWII that it's hard to believe she wasn't locked away afterwards, not to mention that half of the Marvel Universe shouldn't be talking to her. Yes, it won't affect the movie at all, but we're talking about the comics. Stories like this don't help as they're being executed.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

I was more upset that Doctor Strange bartered his "sanctum sanctorum" (and the thought of it being sub-divided into condominiums!) than I was to see Captain America shot (because I knew he’d survive).

IIRC, when they first introduced his sanctum sanctorum it wasn't visible to the general public. I think it was in between buildings and bigger than the space between the buildings. I'd like to see someone build condos on that.

I've avoided this thread because I hate the concept with every fiber of my being, but today I thought "what the heck." Here are some responses:

Detective 445: Pulled this from How to Love Comics. I read that Marvel was planning to pull back on the tie-ins for Secret Empire but this actually still looks like kind of a lot to me.  I did see a preview for Secret Warriors that sucked me in though, so I'll probably be getting that. (List follows)

That is way, way too many tie-ins. Even if this was a story I wanted to read, I wouldn't want to read this much of it. As it is, though, I do not want to read a story where Captain America is a Hydra agent, now or ever, so I'll just be saving time and money. Frankly, this just looks like gouging.

Detective 445: I read an article the other day that talked about some readers being offended by this story because they believe it somehow indicates that Marvel is endorsing fascism.  I can't really wrap my head around the logic that would lead to someone to believe that.  Are they also endorsing vigilantism because they publish Punisher comics?

But it did make me wonder about what exactly the ideology of Hydra is.  A round of Googling didn't help to pin it down much. It seems clear that this is an organization that wants to control the world. But beyond that it's pretty fuzzy to me. There are various factions of Hydra that have pursued different agendas. Obviously there is a fascist/nazi sector along with offshoots like A.I.M and some others.  But what exactly is Captain Hydra's umm... Hydra all about? Clearly he's not in agreement with the Red Skull's version. We've been given bits and pieces in Kobik influenced flashbacks but I don't feel like it's been fully explained yet.

I don't care how they re-write Hydra's history, they are Nazis. They've got the fanatical leader worship, the showpiece uniforms and rituals, the fascism. And that's today. They were certainly aligned with the Nazis in WWII (the original origin), so however or whenever they started, Nazi-style fascism is their core belief system. You only have to look at one of the "Hail Hydra" parades/rituals to see Lisa Riefenstahl-style theatrics at work.

Here's more: Secret Empire reminds me strongly of the second half of the last season of SHIELD, where our intrepid agents were trapped in a computer-generated reality where Hydra won. Sound familiar? Anyway, a shoolkid asks Agent SImmons if Hydra people are Nazis. She responds:

"“They’re all Nazis. Every one of them. Don’t you let anyone forget it.”

And in the show, Hydra started in the Middle Ages or earlier, as an alien from another dimension promised eternal life if its worshippers would bring it over to Earth. But, per Agent Simmons, they are still Nazis.

Jeff of Earth-J: The introductory page of issue #0 spells out the [current] philosophy of [the current version of] Hydra: the strong should rule the weak for the benefit of all.

Still sounds like Nazis to me. Adolf Hitler and Donald Trump both have/had a fetish about "strength," about looking strong and sounding strong. Make of that what you will. (You can probably guess my opinion.)

Rob Staeger: But yeah, a story where fascism isn't wearing the easily recognizable face of the Red Skull, but instead wraps itself in the flag? That seems like a story worth telling.

I agree, although I can't swallow my revulsion at Captain Hydra enough to read it. Still, I'm sure you (and Nick Spencer) know the famous Sinclair Lewis quote: "When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."

Detective 445: I don't know if Marvel thinks fascism sells. But they definitely think that controversy sells. And having controversy that has ties to current events is a pretty good sales gimmick.

I think this is spot on, too. It's the "any publicity is good publicity train of thought." Which, incidentally, I think only works to a certain degree before it rebounds.

Detective 445: I think we’ve already gone far enough down the rabbit hole that the only way to end this story will be with a complete reboot.

You wrote this after Secret Empire #1, 'Tec, before things got exponentially worse. Subsequent events serve only to underscore your early insight. Yes, the Restart Button is the only option now. Maybe Wanda will whisper "no more Hydra."

Detective 445: Once again I'm mystified as to why some readers are so outraged over the whole thing.

I'm not outraged, I'm just sickened beyond my capacity to deal. That's partly because of the timing: The 2016 election and our pro-Russia, proto-fascist, vile sewage-in-human-form president makes me sick on a daily basis. I just can't handle any more betrayal of American values in my diet at the present time.

Again, I'm not outraged. I just don't want to read it right now, when I'm in a perpetual state of despair already about these very themes. I can't speak for others.

Jeff of Earth-J: For the record, the "bad neat idea" I was referring to is Rick Remender's run, specifically the "Dimension Z" arc.

God, yes. Send Cap off Earth for a pointless battle with second banana Arnim Zola for umpty-ump issues? Saddle Cap with a son that isn't even his? (That trick never works! See "Chris Kent," now replaced with a biological son. See all the Robins, now replaced with a biological son.) Separate him romantically from Agent Carter by 20 years? Give Falcon a new gf who is immediately fridged? All these "neat" ideas were terrible, IMHO.

Rob Staeger: And yet, in the Marvel Universe, Hydra could have access to magic. And also mind-control tech, and emotion-pushing tech like the Hate-Monger used to use.

Agreed, story-wise. But I don't think you need that stuff for a convincing story. As the real world shows -- need I mention Charlottesville? -- human beings, even Americans, don't need any outside agencies to be despicable. And, frankly, I don't want to give people acting badly any excuses, like mind control or Satan. But sure, if the story needs it, or the reader needs it, there are excuses a-plenty in this fictional world.

Rob Staeger: Oh, definitely, yes. The Cosmic Cube is already in play, so what more do you need?

That's probably how we'll get out of it, too.

Jeff of Earth-J: I found this entire issue somewhat disturbing.

From the description, I would too. Don't you know that Donald Trump would happily lock up any reporter that doesn't ask fawning questions? What's scary is that his party has the apparatus of government, especially the Supreme Court, who can limit "free speech" any way they want to. This could still happen, in our world, and soon.

Detetive 445: Apparently some of them have a secret plan to meet up with Hank Pym, who appears to have merged with Ultron. Don't know if that already happened prior to Secret Empire.

It happened in the graphic novel Avengers: Rage of Ultron a few years ago.

Jeff of Earth-J: I’m still convinced that the one identified as “Hercules” is, in fact, Wil Wheaton.


Philip Portelli: Re-altering reality may undo those acts and create yet another menace.

That's an excellent insight, Philip. I don't now if they'll use it, but it would certainly follow the "Law of Unintended Consequences."

Mark Ogilvie: Will this be a way to bring back Prof X?  I'm not sure if he's still dead or not.

He's very dead, Mark, with his brain scooped out of his corpse and used to give Red Skull his mutant powers. But it's been announced that Prof. X will return, so you're probably right that this is how it will be done.

Detective 445: Didn't DC have a book called Brave New World that spun out of one of their Crisis events?


Rob Staeger: BTW, DC *did* publish a Brave New World -- a giant-size special for a buck, previewing a bunch of the One Year Later titles (Uncle Sam & the Freedom Fighters, All-New Atom, Trials of Shazam, Martian Manhunter, etc.).

Funny how virtually all of those new titles got canceled within a year.

Richard Willis: Didn't DC flood/destroy San Diego at one point?

Yep, they called it "Sub Diego" and it was patrolled by Aquaman and Aquagirl (who was a surface girl who spontaneously mutated, or something). That was one or two reboots ago.

Detective 445: IIRC DC also dropped a bomb on Bludhaven during one of their events. 

They also destroyed Montevideo. But it got better.

Marvel also destroyed Stamford, CT, a real city, and as far as I now it's still destroyed.

Mark Ogilvie: in the original Avengers/Defenders crossover didn't they have to assemble something as well?

They were fighting over and re-assembling the parts of Prester John's Evil Eye, but it turned out to be a trick by Loki and Dormammu.

Mark Ogilvie: Any hint as to why Mockingbird is the traitor?

Do we know why any Avengers are working with Stevil? I fead the FCBD issue, and it showed a number of them. Vision, Scarlet Witch, Odinson one or two others. Do we know?

Detective 445: The intro page warns us to read Secret Empire #7 before reading this issue. I personally recommend not reading this issue at all. 


Randy Jackson: Despite all that's been said, I think at the end of the day Kobik waves her magic wand and everything is reset.

Yes, that does seem almost inevitable now. No way does Black Widow stay dead.

Detective 445: IIRC, there was originally supposed to be only one digital backup of Tony Stark's mind. But now it seems like we keep finding out about more and more secret backups. So they've effectively made him immortal.

That is sort of how computers work. Put it in the cloud, and access it from anywhere.

Well, that was fun. Keep the summaries going, guys! They are appreciated!

The only thing out of 'Secret Empire' I picked up was the plastic promotional glow-in-the-dark Cosmic Cube.
Now that I have the 9 Lantern Rings from the Blackest Night event, two of the glow-in-the-dark Watcher's Eyes promotionals from the Original Sin event, I should get something that represents the Inifnity Gems. I'll probably use generic gaming-stones in the right colors.

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