Marvel’s Secret Empire is a Red Herring
by Bryan Scheidler
Over the last year, Marvel has been testing the will of their fans with the mess that is Captain America. What started as one of the most puzzling reveals in recent comic history has turned into a story decision that seems unbelievable? If you aren’t familiar with what Marvel has done, here is the cliff notes version. First Steve Rogers was revealed as a Secret Hydra Agent after the Red Skull used a cosmic cube to change his past. They then doubled down and claimed that it was originally the allies that used a cosmic cube to change the fate of Captain America and the outcome of the war.
These changes have been very distressing for many fans of Captain America and what he stands for. Marvel has claimed that this Steve Rogers isn’t a clone or a dopple-ganger, brainwashed or hexed but is in fact the real Steve Rogers. This claim has become even more confusing based on the reveal on the final page of Secret Empire #2 where we meet another Steve Rogers trying to find his way home. Was this Marvel attempting to suggest Rogers was split in two? Or maybe this was actually us seeing the good persona of Rogers lost somewhere inside of his own head. It is hard to understand what Marvel’s plan is and how they will bring back the Steve Rogers that punched Hitler in the face since they make it more and more confusing with each issue. The reality though is it doesn’t make one bit of difference what they do here, because it is all a big distraction form the real story they are building to.
Marvel is no stranger to major crossover events. For the last 15 years or so they have jumped from one event to the next barely giving characters a break. Secret Empire is no different; it is a major event in the Marvel universe except that it is only chapter 1. If you have been reading Marvel’s The Ultimates (series 1 and 2) then you are aware of a danger on a level not seen in the multiverse before. It is this danger that is the real story and will be the true undoing of everything happening in Secret Empire. It is a complicated story so once again, the cliff notes version.
After Marvel’s Secret Wars, Reed Richards used the god-like power he obtained to reboot the Marvel Multiverse (see why this makes him a total dick HERE). This would be the 8th time the cosmos was restarted and the 7th multiverse. Just like the Multiverse is represented by the entity known as Eternity, the first cosmos to ever exist also had a representation and it called itself the First Firmament. Despite being all that was, The First Firmament was lonely and created followers to worship him, the Aspirants. The Aspirants broke off into two groups, the first were strict followers of the Firmament and his desires. The second became known as the Celestials, the giant god-like entities we have known of and they desired to create lesser beings and allow them to evolve to greater heights. The two groups broke into a war, a war that shattered the Firmament. In order to save itself, the Firmament went into hiding. The pieces that broke off of him would eventually become the first multiverse.
How does the history lesson of the Multiverse apply to the “Secret Empire” story? The answer to that is a simple revenge story. After the destruction of the last multiverse, the Firmament saw its chance to strike and regain its power as the sole universe. With Eternity in a weakened state, the Firmament bound him in chains. It was at this time that the Firmament began corrupting the entire timeline of the multiverse, sending his minions into it to corrupt its inner workings, weakening it so that it may be destroyed. If you were the ancient manifestation of the first cosmos trying to seed chaos in the current Multiverse so you could destroy it what is the one place you would want distracted in order to complete your plans? Of course you would focus on Earth. Earth is the one planet that meddles in all cosmic, multi-dimensional, and temporal affairs. More than that, it is a nexus of all matters of consequence in every universe. Earth and her heroes are the biggest threat to the plans of the Firmament and needed to be sidelined, and what better way to do that then by corrupting the incorruptible hero of Captain America, and destroying the hero community that would eventually rise up against him.
America Chavez explained it best at the end of The Ultimates 2 #6 “Someone started a war today—A war on every level of reality” and that is exactly what we are seeing in Secret Empire. To me the most significant piece of evidence that proves this is the character Elisa Sinclair. Elisa by her own admission claims to be a powerful ancient witch who was in league with the Elder gods and Chthon of the Dark Dimension. Elisa is a witch who seemingly appeared out of nowhere, like she was placed into the timeline of this multiverse in order to cause chaos.
What all of this means is the Secret Empire storyline is just a distraction. Whatever happens with the two different Steve Rogers may be interesting, but will ultimately be a small part in the bigger picture, the War with the First Firmament. If you don’t agree with me then answer this question: If Marvel didn’t intend for all of this to be undone at some point by some means more powerful than the cosmic cube, then why would they be so thoroughly destroying their universe and characters? One truth about comics is they almost always return to a status quo. Once the war with the Firmament is over, you can fully expect for the Steve Rogers we know and love to be back in his full glory.
Author: Bryan Scheidler
Editor: Stephanie Tait