The Secret Empire event by writer Nick Spencer and a roll call of amazing artists like Andrea Sorrentino, Leinil Francis Yu, Mark Brooks and others has been raging all summer long. The product of Nick Spencer's long and meticulously planned Steve Rogers saga, this all started in the pages of Avengers: Standoff! when Captain America was returned to his youthful self by a sentient Cosmic Cube named Kobik. But, unbeknownst to everyone, Kobik had re-written Steve's entire past to make him an agent of Hydra, who she believed to be good, thanks to the Red Skull's influence.
This new Steve's master plan was to seize the United States under Hydra's rule, something he executed flawless by imprisoning New York's heroes in the Darkforce dimension and locking the space heroes out of the planet. It was a massive coup that sent shockwaves throughout the Marvel universe, a war that has cost the lives of many characters already. And with two issues left to the series, there is ample room left for others to make the ultimate sacrifice. Today, CBR offers a casualty report of Secret Empire as it now stands, with eight characters who have died, and eight more who are likely to die by event's end.
SPOILER WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS up to Secret Empire #8.
16 DIED: BLACK WIDOW
Ever since the start of the Secret Empire event, Black Widow has led the Red Room, a new team of young heroes counting Miles Morales, Viv Vision, the new Wasp and Amadeus Cho among its ranks. This team had only one goal: to train like Natasha Romanoff had been trained, to take the fight directly to Hydra and take out the evil Captain America for good.
Pre-destined to be the one to kill Captain America on the steps of Capitol Hill by an Inhuman who had the power to see the future, Miles Morales took it upon himself to face his destiny -- and Captain America. But Widow didn't want to see him turned into a killer, so during the fight, she intervened to save Miles' life, and in the process was fatally struck by Hydra Cap in an absolutely devastating scene.
15 LIKELY: MILES MORALES
When Miles set out to let destiny take its course and face Captain America on the steps of Capitol Hill, he well and truly believed that he was doing the right thing for everyone. But Black Widow stepped in and stopped him from turning into something he was not, at the cost of her own life. This sent Miles on a rage-fueled beatdown of Hydra Cap, but he was arrested after he chose not to kill him.
Now, Miles Morales is Hydra's prisoner, along with his friends Amadeus Cho and Viv Vision from the Red Room. It's entirely possible that the guilt of Black Widow's death will weigh heavily on Miles. In the belly of the Hydra beast, Miles could see that there is only one way to make this right, to help free his friends. Only one way to save their lives... with his sacrifice.
14 DIED: RED SKULL
Before Captain America's Secret Empire could fully take form, before his assault could be launched on the country and the heroes that fight for it, he needed to remove one final piece from the chessboard to fully cement his place at the Hydra table. For a long time, the Red Skull was the man in charge, Hydra's Supreme Leader, and Steve was but his underling, doing his biding as he secretly plotted behind his back.
Hydra Cap had his own idea about what Hydra should stand for, an idea that greatly differed from what the Red Skull believed Hydra to be. When the time finally came to strike, when Steve was ready, he confronted a weakened Red Skull and he didn't hesitate to throw him out the window. Literally. Only then, with the death of the Red Skull, could the Secret Empire truly begin.
13 LIKELY: THE PUNISHER
To the shock of many fans, the Punisher stepped into the pages of Secret Empire as a Hydra enforcer. Choosing to follow Captain America under the banner of Hydra, Frank Castle added tentacles to his skull logo. It was later revealed that Frank had sided with him under the promise of using the re-assemble Cosmic Cube to bring his family back to life.
Castle was the one who took the fight to Black Widow when she attempted to assassinate Rogers from afar. He knew she wasn't his enemy, but the prospect of seeing his family again was enough for him to obey the evil Hydra Cap. But his involvement directly led to the death of Natasha, and that turn of events could prompt the Punisher to turn on Captain America... and place him at the mercy of the Captain's swift justice.
12 DIED: RICK JONES
Rick Jones may not be anyone's favorite Marvel character when compared to the likes of Thor, Iron Man and Spider-Man, but he has been a part of Marvel comics for a very long time. Introduced in the pages of The Incredible Hulk #1 in 1962, Rick was a sidekick not only to the Hulk, but through the years, he would also befriend Captain America and Captain Marvel as well.
In the pages of Nick Spencer's Avengers: Standoff! event, Rick turned into a hacker/activist, and that led him to become a part of S.H.I.E.L.D. under Captain America's leadership. But when Steve Rogers' true allegiances to Hydra were revealed, Rick discovered that the Cosmic Cube was responsible for this drastic change and leaked the information to the Avengers -- something that directly led to his terrible death by firing squad.
11 LIKELY: HAWKEYE
Hawkeye is the unsung hero of Secret Empire, the opposite to Steve Rogers' Hydra Cap. When the country was falling, when Hydra was establishing its rule, Clint Barton tried to protect everyone he could, setting up a place where refugees could be safe. When he heard there was a chance to save Steve by finding the Cosmic Cube fragments, he also wanted to save his friend.
Protecting the people was his priority, especially when Hydra came crashing down on their underground hideout. With his friend, partner and sometimes-romantic-interest Natasha Romanoff now deceased, there is no telling the lengths Clint Barton will go to to avenge her. He will surely wish to take the fight directly to Steve Rogers, this time without hoping to save him. This could make him act recklessly, and that in turn could lead to this doom.
10 DIED: AGENT COULSON
S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson may have started out life on the big screen, but he proved to be such a popular character that he made the transition not only as the star of his own television show but in the Marvel comic book universe as well. As a very efficient agent, it was only a matter of time before Coulson discovered that the current director of S.H.I.E.L.D., Captain America, was in fact secretly working for Hydra.
With such sensitive information in his hands, Coulson turned into a liability and a threat to Steve Rogers, who was still hiding his trues allegiances at the time. To rectify this situation, Hydra Cap manipulated Deadpool into eliminating Coulson. Even Wade felt that what he was doing was wrong but, sadly, he respected Captain America too much to second-guess him.
9 LIKELY: QUICKSILVER
Quicksilver may not be the star of Secret Empire, but he's had a consistent role throughout the event. He joined Hawkeye and the AI Tony Stark's underground movement not because he wanted to help the people but because he wanted to help save his sister, Wanda Maximoff. Wanda has been possessed by an evil demon and is currently a part of Hydra Cap's Avengers team.
Pietro only wishes to help free his sister from the dark entity's grasp, but that battle is much harder said then done. He will no doubt have to face the might of his sister head-on if he has any hopes of saving her, and while we do believe he will be able to save her from Hydra and Captain America, the fight against her and the evil Avengers could prove fatal.
8 DIED: BLACKOUT
A crucial part of Hydra Cap's evil plan to take over the world was to trap most of New York's heroes like Doctor Strange, Cloak and Dagger and the Defenders trapped in the Darkforce dimension, a massive black bubble that covered the entire city. This malicious deed was made possible thanks to the involvement of supervillain Blackout, who has the power to manipulate this dark energy.
Hydra then went to great lengths to hide Blackout from the world, but leave it to a Maria Hill in search of redemption to make things right. When the situation was more than dire, when Hydra's total victory was nearly at hand, she found where Blackout was being held (thanks to Deadpool, another character in search of redemption -- see: Phil Coulson) and she didn't hesitate to put a bullet in his head, effectively severing his connection to the Darkforce, and freeing New York City.
7 LIKELY: ODINSON
Times have been rough for Unworthy Thor. After losing his hammer and his glorious hair, the former god of thunder has been looking for purpose. Harboring a great amount of respect for the mortal Steve Rogers – a man who proved worthy of Mjolnir when even he was not – Odinson chose to side with his fellow Avenger. But even then, he had reservations about Hydra's methods, actions and goals.
Similar to Frank Castle, Odinson has partly joined Hydra because of the promises they made him, one of which is to free Jane Foster from the place she is now stuck in. But when push came to shove, when Hydra attacked the underground compound, Odinson chose to disobey his orders and let Hawkeye and his refugees go. Whatever happens next, such an action could prove to cost him dearly.
6 DIED: MADAME HYDRA
When the AI Tony Stark activated the Clean Slate Protocol to self-destruct the resistance's secret base, his goal was to take out Steve Rogers. But Madame Hydra, a witch by the name of Elisa Sinclair, saw the explosion coming and rushed out of the Hydra ships to find Steve just in time and teleported him away. But it was too late for her.
This new version of Madame Hydra was created as part of Steve Rogers' revised history thanks to the modifications of Kobik the Cosmic Cube. She was a mother figure to Steve from a young age, and she guided him on the path to become not just a part of Hydra, but its very Supreme Leader. Loving Steve as a son, she did not hesitate to sacrifice herself to protect him.
5 LIKELY: SAM WILSON
Sam Wilson took on the mantle of Captain America when his friend Steve Rogers handed him the red, white and blue shield. Sam tried his absolute best, gave it his all to live up to the mantle, but he felt like he had failed, and so he quit being Captain America. He gave up the wings and the shield and instead worked in the dark to help smuggle people out of the Hydra-ruled country.
But as the stakes kept rising and the Avengers' situation kept worsening, Sam was thrust back into the thick of the action. Still shaken and unsure of himself, he finally decided to grab the shield, once again assuming his responsibility as Captain America, and take the fight to Hydra. But, in search of redemption, such a confrontation could cost Sam his very life. And as we have seen, it almost already has.
4 DIED: BUCKY BARNES
If there was one hero who could have turned the tide of Secret Empire, one hero who could have slipped undetected through the Hydra cracks and faced Steve -- and had a real shot at actually talking him out of his entire, awful plan -- it would have been Bucky Barnes, Steve's oldest friend, sidekick and partner. It's a safe bet that Steve knew this, which is why he arranged for Bucky's death before making his move.
In the pages of Captain America: Steve Rogers #16, the opening salvo of Secret Empire, Steve allowed Baron Zemo to avenge the death of his father by killing Bucky the exact same way Zemo senior had been killed in the past: strapped to a missile that exploded overseas. Although... SPOILER WARNING: Bucky has returned!
3 LIKELY: CAPTAIN MARVEL
Sam Wilson isn't the only superhero in search of redemption. Carol Danvers took quite the emotional beating when she sided against Tony Stark in Civil War II, and many fans saw that her character lessened had been for it. In the pages of Secret Empire #7, Carol went so far as to admit to the mistakes she had made, mistakes that gave Steve Rogers the opportunity to seize control of the country.
Responsible for the safety of the entire Alpha Flight crew who were locked out of the planet thanks to the Planetary Defense Shield, facing wave after wave of Chitauri forces, Captain Marvel had quite the battle on her hands. Now that the shield is down, Carol is primed to join the battle once again, but with so much to make up for, Carol may just come to make the ultimate sacrifice to save the lives of her crew and everyone else on Earth.
2 DIED: CAPTAIN AMERICA
Steve Rogers is a fan-favorite character, with a reputation in the Marvel universe as maybe not the most powerful superhero, but the one with the strongest resolve. He is an inspiration to all, and that is something that has earned him the respect of all of his fellow heroes and fans, inside and outside of the comic books. But when his entire history was altered by Kobik the Cosmic Cube, Steve was no longer this person.
Now a villain at the head of Hydra, Captain America's heroic and respectful personality has been tarnished and discarded as the character has laid waste to the country and his friends. Acts that some may see as irredeemable. It doesn't matter that Steve was changed by Kobik, some people truly believe that Captain America, the man and the idea, died with the arrival of his evil, Hydra-fied alternate self.
1 LIKELY: CAPTAIN AMERICA
It's been almost two years since Steve Rogers proclaimed "Hail Hydra" in secret, and now he is at the head of the entire country and running the Avengers into the ground to the point of near defeat. He has ordered the deaths of hundreds, thousands even. He has imprisoned the Inhumans and corrupted some of his friends so that they may join his cause. He has killed friends, partners and Avengers, both indirectly, and directly.
Hydra Cap is one the greatest villains the Avengers have ever faced. He won the war before the event was truly underway, but his goals are far greater. Thankfully there are still a few Avengers out there who still wish to stop him, and we have no doubt that they will emerge successful. But only when Hydra Cap pays for his crimes and is destroyed will the Secret Empire truly be over.
Who else do you think will die in the pages of Secret Empire? Let us know in the comments!