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After Civil War II, Marvel’s comic book superheroes have been divided … leaving the way open for a new force to seize power. Its name, as teased by the publisher late Friday afternoon? Secret Empire.
The teaser image, above, was released without any information beyond the line “A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand” — which isn’t just an Abraham Lincoln quote, but also a reference (and seeming rebuttal) to the promotional tagline for Marvel’s 2016 linewide Marvel Now! relaunch, which declared, “Divided We Stand.”
As the logo for the title — which features the shield of Captain America — demonstrates, Secret Empire is connected in some way to the current Captain America: Steve Rogers series, which has revealed that the original Captain America has been working for terrorist organization Hydra all along, thanks to some rewriting of history by an omnipotent being. That shouldn’t come as a surprise; not only has Marvel been teasing a big payoff to that plot thread for some months, but the name “Secret Empire” has a very specific Captain America-centric meaning for longtime Marvel fans.
The original Secret Empire was a 1970s creation of writer Steve Englehart during his time writing Captain America and the Falcon, as the series was called at the time. It was a suitably shadowy organization headed by none other than the president of the United States, as Englehart worked out his post-Watergate issues in the months following that real-life event. (Technically, the president in question wasn’t identified as Richard Nixon in the comic itself, but other Marvel comics of the time had shown him as the president, so … the Marvel version of Nixon was the head of the criminal underworld.) And now, it seems, it’s back in time for a Trump administration.
That likely isn’t a coincidence. Nick Spencer, the current writer of Marvel’s two Captain America series, isn’t afraid to offer political commentary in either book; just this week, his Captain America: Sam Wilson series has been criticized for a sequence where the hero fights against parodies of online social activists who spout dialogue like, “Your very presence is problematic in the extreme! I can’t even!”
Whether or not the head of the new Secret Empire turns out to hold the same political office as his predecessor remains a mystery, but given that Steve Rogers is currently a bad guy in disguise, what are the odds that he’s the new big bad that the Marvel Universe will have to come together to defeat?
Secret Empire will launch later this year.
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