Although the plot of Marvel Comics' upcoming "Secret Empire" event remains, well, a secret, the latest issue of "Civil War II: The Oath" reveals the future isn't bright.
The final sequence of the one-shot, by writer Nick Spencer and artist Rod Reis, evokes Nazi-esque imagery: Over the course of three silent pages, they show readers a future in which Hydra, under the watch of Steve Rogers/Captain America, has seized control of the United States, with its fascist tentacles reaching into every facet of our lives.
The American flag becomes progressively muddier, as the organization's logo overtakes the Stars and Stripes, providing a backdrop to images depicting Hydra's transformation of the news media into a propaganda machine, young children pledging their allegiance, and aliens imprisoned in internment camps. In one panel, children in Hydra shirts chase a young mutant down an alley.
The third page shows the U.S. Capitol partially destroyed, and Old Glory's transformation into a black-and-red Hydra flag complete. Hydra agents assemble below, offering salutes to a new world order in a scene reminiscent of the Nuremberg Rally.
The final page consists of the Secret Empire logo on field of black, with Hydra's familiar tentacled skull hidden in the star on Captain America's shield.
This vision stands in stark contrast to the last promotional image released by Marvel. An illustration by artist John Cassaday presented Spider-Man, Captain America (Steve Rogers), Captain Marvel, Old Man Logan, Rocket Raccoon, Black Bolt and Deadpool apparently working together as a team. Yes, the look on their faces is serious, but saving the world and perplexing its citizens is no laughing matter. However, considering what Rogers has planned for America once he deposes Red Skull and takes over Hydra, it appears the image may be less an uplifting message of disparate heroes from across the Marvel Universe uniting to fight the good fight, and more like a team duped, mind-controlled or otherwise coerced into pressing forward with Steve Rogers' master plan.
No additional details about "Secret Empire" have been announced. The subversive organization known as the Secret Empire has been a fixture of Marvel Comics since 1966, when it was introduced as a subsidiary of Hydra devoted to conquering the United States. Usually headed by a supreme leader referred to as Number One, the Secret Empire over the years has clashed with S.H.I.E.L.D. and numerous Marvel heroes, including Captain America, the Incredible Hulk, the X-Men, Moon Knight, The Punisher, Secret Avengers and Hawkeye/Kate Bishop.