SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Secret Empire #7, on sale now.
With three more issues remaining in Marvel Comics' summer event, Secret Empire #7 cranks the dial to eleven. Nick Spencer ramps up the action and the emotion, delivering a sermon about everything that makes Marvel great (and not so great), all the while promising better days to come as the company moves toward the Legacy reboot.
The bulk of the story is illustrated by Andrea Sorrentino. His taste for shadows and muted colors, with intermittent splashes of red, perfectly renders the bleakness of the events unfolding on Capitol Hill. Once again, Rod Reis has drawn the Echanted Forest sequences, while Joshua Cassara and Rachelle Rosenberg provide additional art to keep the whole thing rolling.
The issue is extremely dense, and contains some of the most gut-wrenching and awe-inspiring sequences in recent Marvel history, so lets dive right in.
Captain Marvel's Mea Culpa
Things are falling apart at the Alpha Flight Station. The Chitauri Wave keeps coming, its size and its frequency keep growing. The structural integrity of the base is severely compromised, and the team can’t break through the planetary shield to remove the queen eggs that are attracting the swarm.
Captain Marvel and her comrades are completely alone. Not only are they cut off from humanity below them, but nobody in our universe is willing to come to the Earth’s rescue. With no help coming from the stars, America Chavez and Monica Rambeau suggest fleeing to a friendlier, if weirder, dimension. But Carol is having none of it.
“I will not abandon ship,” she scolds the pair, but her insistence is not simply a matter of honoring the dictates of her command. Carol feels responsible for the Hydra takeover. In a sequence that mirrors Steve Rogers’ confession to a comatose Tony Stark in Civil War II: The Oath, she tells an unconscious Avril Kincaid that Captain America preyed on her need to be loved and to prove herself, in order to trick her into building the planetary shield.
In tears, Carol orders the insensate Quasar to wake up and prove that she is indeed the protector of the universe, but the injured Kincaid slumbers on.
The Old Man Who Would Win the War
In what appears to be his biggest feint so far, Nick Spencer reveals the identity of the old man who, per Natasha, would help win the war. But he is neither of the characters many have surmised. He is not a version of Bucky who escaped having his arm blown off on Zemo’s drone, and who grew to an old age. Nor is he a de-powered Steve Rogers who was not restored by Kobik.
In comparison to the above possibilities, the revelation is prosaic at best, despite the cleverness of Natasha’s plan. Her secret weapon is the Inhuman known as Mosaic, who has no body of his own, but who is able to inhabit and control the bodies of others. He is also limited by the capacities of his hosts, so it is especially cruel that Hydra trapped the former athlete in the infirm body of an elderly man.
Natasha’s liberation of Mosaic is therefore an act of mercy. It is also a stroke of strategic genius. Her plan is to have him sequentially inhabit the bodies of Hydra troops on Capitol Hill, causing them to turn against each other as the assassination attempt proceeds.
But does Spencer have another surprise in store for readers? He’s already faked us out on the identity of the mole in the midst of the resistance, and he’s given us a weaponized Bruce Banner who appears to somehow be an amalgam of his 616 and Ultimate Universe selves. Could he be hiding another Marvel character we haven’t seen in a while? After all, he has revealed the identity of the body’s last known occupant, but not of its original tenant.