Now that Marvel’s Secret Empire is well underway, the crossover event’s larger story is finally beginning to take shape—and we’re learning which heroes are striking back against Hydra’s fascistic, Nazi-esque regime.
Like most crossover events, the specific plot details of Secret Empire can be difficult to follow, because there are multiple issues across 33 different series that are all involved in the storyline. Currently, though, Secret Empire’s most important developments are (thankfully) taking place in a handful of one-shot books: Secret Empire: United, Secret Empire: Uprising, and Secret Empire: Underground. The Resistance is fighting back under the leadership of three women who all have very different, very specific ideas about how to take Hydra down.
After revealing that he’s Hydra’s supreme leader, Steve Rogers launched a multi-pronged attack on the world’s heroes to ensure that he could begin taking over the world with ease. All of NYC (and the Defenders) were quickly trapped within the Darkforce dimension. Marvel’s cosmic bruisers are locked out of the planet on the other side of a massive shield, and Hydra’s now patrolling most major cities looking for dissidents.
All of this has left the Resistance scattered across the world and forced them to adopt unique approaches to fighting the good fight.
Of the various branches of the Resistance, the one overseen by Black Widow is taking the most traditional and logical approach to dealing with Hydra’s new world order. Though everyone knows that for every Hydra head you cut off, two more take its place, Black Widow’s primary goal is to assassinate Steve Rogers in hopes of destabilizing Hydra and exposing its vulnerabilities.
With most of the proper Avengers either missing or inexplicably working for Steve, Widow recruits the next generation of heroes—the Champions—to help her make a move on Steve Rogers. Their plan to infiltrate Hydra’s youth choir for a shot at killing him at close range is inspired. It not only highlights the discomfiting parallels between Hydra and the Nazi party’s youth outreach, it also gives the Champions a mission that makes sense and forces them to grow as a team.
Though they’ve handled missions before, Widow’s training in a makeshift Red Room makes them all realize that none of them are quite ready to do what might need to be done to make things right. Non-lethal attacks, Widow explains to Miles Morales, are something that real heroes don’t always have the luxury of relying on, especially when dealing with Hydra.
On the ground, there are Hydra foot soldiers carrying out the day to day tasks to transform the world into a dystopia, but behind the scenes, Steve Rogers is playing a much larger game. Specifically, he’s searching for fragments of the Cosmic Cube that he hopes will make it impossible to challenge his reign. The only problem is that he isn’t the only one who knows about the shards and he definitely isn’t the only person in possession of one.
After Ultron decided to hand his fragment over to the Resistance, both sides of Secret Empire’s conflict now have a piece—and are locked in a desperate race to find the rest. This week’s Underground opens with Mockingbird leading Hercules, Quicksilver, Sam Wilson, and Ant-Man into the Savage Land, where they suspect that Sauron (the dinosaur man, not the all-seeing eye) is hiding a shard.
Mockingbird is the kind of leader that you want spearheading your revolution: cool-headed enough to formulate a plan that probably won’t get you killed, and quick enough to come up with a new plan when it seems as if your death’s imminent. She understands that gathering enough of the Cosmic Cube could easily help the Resistance take on Hydra despite being outnumbered. Though her strategy relies mostly on cunning, skill, and a little bit of luck, it’s the plan most likely to eventually bring Secret Empire to a close.
While Hydra’s systematically rounding up Inhumans and shipping them off to internment camps, mutants have actually been faring pretty well in the aftermath of Hydra’s takeover. With the creation of New Tian, a sovereign nation of mutants located on the West Coast, American mutants had the chance to beeline to a safe haven physically removed from Hydra’s grasp.
As Secret Empire: United unfolds, though, we learn that there are border tensions between New Tian and Hydra’s America, because of course there are. When Sunfire is captured by an unsanctioned attack on a Hydra checkpoint, Xorn, the king of New Tian, authorizes a black ops mission to break into the Hydra holding center to rescue him.
The rescue mission is an unlikely success, but toward the end of United, it’s revealed that Xorn and Steve Rogers are, in a way, working with one another to maintain trade agreements and the exchange of intel. Not only that, but Xorn is actually Emma Frost—who, unbeknownst to Rogers, is hiding a substantial chunk of the Cosmic Cube as well.
In truth, the various parts of the Resistance are united only in their opposition to Hydra. They aren’t working with a single cohesive plan, but are all striving for similar goals of saving the world.
Secret Empire’s glamorization of fascism can feel inappropriate and all too familiar in the real-world political climate created by the Trump administration. In a way, though, these stories of resistance speak to the hope held by some: that regardless of how intensely despotic strongmen try to stomp out others’ freedoms, there’s always someone out there willing to stand up for what’s right.