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Secret Empire is the 2017 Marvel Comics Crisis Crossover event, spinning off from the events of Captain America: Steve Rogers and Civil War II.

During the events of Avengers Standoff, Steve Rogers had his youth and Super Soldier serum restored and, at the behest of the replacement Captain America Sam Wilson, returned to duty as the other Captain America. However, what no one knew was that the one who restored Captain America, the young humanoid Cosmic Cube Kobik, had actually transformed Steve into a sleeper agent of the terrorist organization HYDRA via Cosmic Retcon.

After the events of Civil War II, Maria Hill was removed as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Steve was installed as Director after Sharon Carter passed up the offer.

However, that was a VERY bad thing - with Steve at the controls, he seeks to further his goals to rescue HYDRA from itself and take over the world. Now the heroes, broken by the events of said Civil War, must unite to save the day. Can they stop this HYDRA vs. HYDRA civil war and save Steve Rogers from himself?

The main series was a ten-issue mini-series that started with an issue 0 in April, then continued on bi-monthly until August. There were multiple tie-ins involving, at the very least, X-Men, Spider-Man, The Avengers, Champions, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Inhumans and The Defenders.

    Titles Involved 

Main Title

  • Free Comic Book Day: Secret Empire/Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man
  • Secret Empire #0-10


  • Secret Empire: Brave New World #1-5.


  • Secret Empire: Uprising
  • Secret Empire: Underground
  • Secret Empire: United
  • Secret Empire: Omega


Directly following this event was Generations (Marvel Comics), which led to a new rebranding for Marvel, known as Marvel Legacy.

Examples of tropes in Secret Empire include:

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  • 11th-Hour Ranger: Lampshaded pretty hilariously with Peter Parker. Due to having to deal with the Hydra-aligned Otto Octavious attempting a Hostile Takeover of Parker's Industries in his own series, Peter ends up the missing majority of the Event. He literally doesn't appear until the penultimate issue, asking what he's missed out on.
  • Aborted Arc: As part of the event a new version of the Kraken was introduced, his identity was supposed to be revealed but that never happened. According to Word of God, it may yet be shed light upon at a later date.
  • Action Bomb: A.I. Tony performs a Heroic Sacrifice after the resistance hideout caves in on him and Steve, hoping to kill them both by igniting a bomb. Due to Madame Hydra's intervention, it doesn't work.
  • Affably Evil: Inititally, Steve remains polite and friendly when talking to Sharon and Rick Jones. This changes over the course of the event, with him becoming increasingly unhinged and prone to ranting and self-pity.
  • The Alcoholic: Played With. As he's a hologram, and thus unable to consume alcohol, A.I. Tony has recalibrated his behavioral modifiers to express his emotional response to their current situation. The rest of the resistance even calls him "The Drunk".
  • Alien Invasion: Steve Rogers has the Chitauri invading Earth to further his HYDRA cause.
  • Anyone Can Die: A considerable amount of heroes bite the dust throughout the event.
  • Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering?: Gwenpool attends a news program that underwent a HYDRA Hostile Show Takeover. The host asks "are you thinking what I'm thinking?", she goes "you know it"... and then she goes "Baba booey!" for the camera as the host kicks the HYDRA soldiers keeping the two hostage.
  • Artistic License – Law: In Secret Empire: Omega, HYDRA Cap claims that any charges against him won't count against him as he was given power legally via the SHIELD Act and that he gave himself and any other living member of HYDRA still around a pardon for their crimes. Not only is the legality of this incredibly questionable, there's also the fact that HYDRA invaded various countries such as France and Wakanda, thus they're going to want his head on a platter as his "pardon" means jack all to them.
  • Back for the Dead:
    • The original Secret Warriors return to be immediately killed off by the Wrecking Crew in issue 1 of the Secret Warriors tie-in.
    • Nighthawk bites it - out of costume! - in Occupy Avengers #8, resulting in Deadly Nightshade, one of his supporting cast members from his cancelled book and a member of the Occupy Avengers, taking on his mantle.
  • Back from the Dead: Zig-zagged:Bruce Banner has been revived by HYDRA to use the Hulk against the resistance, though Steve mentions it's only temporary. His body collapses, with him apparently dying again after one issue of rampaging - and after Bruce refused to do Steve's bidding, but was overruled by the Hulk.
    • Gorgon is killed by Hercules in vengeance for his killing of Phobos, but is back to life in time for the final battle, presumably thanks to the Hand.
  • Batman Gambit:
    • In universe, Namor claims he pulled one of these on Steve by giving him his cube shard while successfully hiding Bucky from him. - but it's clearly more a case of I Meant to Do That.
      Namor: [...]I'm disappointed in you all. You truly believe the Monarch of Atlantis would bow to HYDRA? That was merely a part of the game. Now I stand at the verge of my greatest victory - just as I intended all along.
    • Sam pulls one with HYDRA Cap in the final issue - he gets in close to HYDRA Cap and pledges allegiance to HYDRA, offering the last piece of the cube. However, it's a ruse so that Ant-Man and Winter Soldier can get to the Cube and grab Kobik and the other Steve.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted. Black Widow gets beaten up in issue #5 of the main series during an interrogation, and her face is still heavily bruised in issue #6.
  • Berserk Button: Ultron-Hank totally snaps when Tony intentionally mentions his infamous Jan incident.
  • Big Bad: Steve Rogers, Supreme Leader of HYDRA.
  • Big Brother Instinct:
    • Quicksilver joins the group setting out to search for the cosmic cube shards because it might help save Wanda. He does seem to get into it for the cause later on, though.
    • A variation: Winter Soldier's final plan hinges on the idea that Kobik will be able to transform herself back into her humanoid form once her shards are reunited. He's convinced that she is strong enough to withstand anyone who might want to control her during that time - and he is right.
  • Bittersweet Ending: HYDRA Cap is defeated with the "real" Captain America back, but they are both still around - and as Stevil reminds Steve, a lot of people followed him willingly, and would likely do so again. Meanwhile, Kobik reversed the HYDRA-fied history HYDRA Cap tried to create in issue #10, but anything that happened during his reign, like the destruction of Las Vegas, and the deaths of Rick Jones and Black Widow, were left untouched - though Secret Empire: Omega hints that Natasha somehow managed to stay alive, and is working as an assassin again.
    • In addition, the Ultron/Hank Pym Hybrid is still residing in Alaska, building an army of Ultrons, and with the fall of HYDRA, the treaty between Ultron/Pym and HYDRA Cap would end as well, meaning that the Age of Ultron is inevitable.
  • Black Shirt: Hydra's huge armies of fanatical minions. And the general population, who seemingly embrace Hydra's promises of security and stability with open arms.
  • Book Ends: The story of HYDRA's regime starts and ends with the MacAllister brothers, Brian and Jason, as well as Brian's teacher and his classmates, who caused Brian's arrest for being an Inhuman at the beginning, and help him clean up and repair his home by way of apology in the end. Likewise, Jason wanted a Steve Rogers/Captain America lunchbox at the start, and is last seen fighting with one of his classmates over a Captain America action figure of Sam Wilson.
  • Bond One-Liner: Maria Hill, after killing Blackout in Issue 8.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Zemo's fondness for Evil Gloating gets the better of him twice in Issue 9: first he is too busy telling T'Challa about HYDRA's secret sleeper army to realize his guard robots are being electrified until he's tackled by the Winter Soldier, and then he's got so caught up in a We Meet Again moment with Bucky, that T'Challa can take him out easily while still handcuffed. Needless to say, the secret sleeper army doesn't get released, either.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Steve's key takeover of SHIELD involves using Dr. Fastaus to brainwash SHIELD members by the hundreds so they not only surrender but throw in with Hydra. Ironically, Sharon Carter assumes Fastaus must have done this to Steve, not grasping how he's behind all this.
    • Faustus also does this for A.I.M. but Roberto DaCosta is ready by having prepped his followers with mental defenses created by Professor X. Sadly, Roberto has failed to realize several A.I.M. members (like long-time aide Larry) aren't brainwashed at all but truly believe in HYDRA and soon start attacking from within.
    • In Issue #1, Scarlet Witch and Vision are shown to be part of the Avengers working under HYDRA. The Free Comic Book Day issue reveals that they too were brainwashed - in the midst of battle! Issue 4 reveals that Scarlet Witch is actually possessed by the demon Chthon while Vision is infected by nanites.
    • Averted in case of Sharon Carter: They are seemingly under Faustus' spell, until it turns out they were only playing along to poison his tea and use their mutual "session" to take down HYDRA's fleet of warships.
  • Break the Haughty:
    • Namor's reasoning for siding with Steve is because Steve got his Avengers to destroy an Atlantian temple with its priests inside after he tried to invoke this trope on Steve.
    • Otto Octavius joined HYDRA to regain control of Parker Industries. Instead, he watches helplessly as Peter destroys the company and, when he returns, he's only celebrated as "a glorious soldier".
  • Broken Aesop:
    • A story about the consequences of trusting in a single heroic man ends with... the heroes all trusting in a single heroic man to save the day.
    • People having to deal with the damage they cause, which is why Kobik leaves the world in ruin, doesn't really work considering that the damage only existed in the first place because of the reactions to Hydra Cap.
  • Broken Pedestal:
    • Rick Jones, quite obviously, takes it the worst that Cap is now leading Hydra.
    • Sam Wilson is right behind him as he realizes how Steve was behind so much of the backlash against Sam as Captain America to undermine his spirit before this attack.
  • Bury Your Gays: Avril Kincaid spends the entire event in a coma and then sacrifices herself to break the planetary shield in the finale. To add insult to injury, there is no acknowledgement whatsoever of this death in the main series; her death is memorialized only in the Captain Marvel tie-in issue and she doesn't rate an acknowledgement among Rick Jones, Black Widow, and Las Vegas in the scenes of the fallen.
  • Call-Back:
    • More than 70 years after Steve failed to save Bucky from Zemo's fateful rocket, Bucky manages to save Steve by grabbing Memory Steve's hand in the cosmic cube, thereby freeing both him and Kobik. He also helps Steve to free himself from a hostile takeover with the help of a cosmic cube, just like Steve did with him at the end of Ed Brubaker's original Winter Soldier arc.
    • During the Uncanny Avengers tie-in, one New Yorker compares the Darkforce situation to the events of Inferno (1988).
  • Canon Immigrant: Issue #1 namedrops Malick Exchange. The Malick family with centuries-long ties to Hydra originated in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • Avril Kincaide, the new Quasar, is set up during Captain America: Steve Rogers as the only person who could likely break the planetary shield with a little more training. She is then taken out early during Issue 0 by a living Chitauri ship, and first believed dead, but then found unconscious and severely injured in the exploded ship's wreckage. She wakes up just in time for a combined action of all heroes to finally break through the shield in Issue 8.
    • The Inhuman Brian McAllister, who is given the Embarrassing Nickname "Barf", upchucks certain items when he can visualize them. First appears in Issue #1, makes himself useful in Captain America #25.
  • Children Forced to Kill: Black Widow takes this approach to training the Champions to assassinate Steve Rogers. It's ultimately averted, when she does everything in her power to spare Spider-Man from having to kill Steve as Ulysses predicted.
  • C-List Fodder: Most characters who died during the event aren't big names. The biggest one of all is Black Widow - and Secret Empire:Omega hints that she may have faked her death.
  • Clueless Aesop:
    • The writer occasionally claims that Secret Empire is trying to tell a story about creeping fascism but the fact that everything in the story is ultimately at the whim of Kobik makes it hard for the message to hit home for many.
    • Hydra Captain America's fascist actions being treated as And That's Terrible becomes so since both Iron Man and Captain Marvel in Civil War 1 and 2 respectively, despite getting "Reason You Suck" Speech (by Ultron!Pym himself) and regrets over their actions, were not given repercussions and were even supported by the public.
  • Colony Drop: Carol loads the ravaged Alpha Flight base with the Nullifier Bomb to take out the Shield around Earth. Doesn't work.
  • Continuity Snarl:
    • The various books indicate that the events are lasting for widely disparate lengths of time. e.g., The X-Men: Gold tie-ins take place during the first day that Manhattan is trapped in the Darkforce Dimension, except for the very last page, which is stated to take place 'a few days later' and shows Manhattan having been freed from the Darkforce Dome. However, the Doctor Strange tie-in opens with Doctor Strange saying that the Dome has been up for multiple weeks while he's worked to assemble ingredients for a spell. And the main series indicates that months have passed, as HDYRA has had time to construct factories and massive public works projects as well as internment camps.
    • A major plot point in The Mighty Captain Marvel tie-ins is that many people are trapped on the crumbling Alpha Flight satellite and could die if it breaks or the oxygen generators give out. But in the main series and the Guardians of the Galaxy tie-in, it is shown that the Guardians still have a working spaceship which can take people to other planets, meaning it should be possible to evacuate the cadets and other non-combatants from the satellite.
    • In issues 7 and 8, there is the focus of Miles Morales' potentially murdering Steve Rogers in front of the Capitol building, predicted by Ulysses. Miles is convinced that he MUST be there at the Capitol even after being locked up by Widow, so it doesn't matter what the password is; he will make it. Tony later claims that all the visions that Ulysses had, this one was the ONLY one that did not come to pass. Yet this is completely contradictory to Civil War II, where Tony pointed out that Ulysses' visions were NOT accurate and ultimately "guesswork", meaning that there was no guarantee of anything.
  • Cosmic Retcon:
    • HYDRA Cap uses the power of the incomplete Cosmic Cube to rewrite history to match his view of HYDRA. Of four newspaper pages shown, the Fantastic Four (with Reed replaced with Dr. Doom) and Peter Parker gained their powers as part of HYDRA experiments, the Avengers were formed by HYDRA, and the X-Men were never formed as Xavier and Magneto were both executed before their careers as superhero/supervillain leaders actually started.
    • Elisa Sinclair used a cosmic cube shard to influence Mjölnir's enchantment, changing it from only the most worthy being able to wield it to only the strongest being able to wield it for HYDRA. Her hex does not work anymore when HYDRA Cap and the "backup memory" of pre-HYDRA Steve have their final showdown - much to HYDRA Cap's detriment.
  • Covers Always Lie: The cover of Issue #1 features, Spider-Man, Old Man Logan, Thor, Storm, Ms. Marvel, Human Torch, Medusa, and Rocket Raccoon despite that none of them actually show up.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • Once Steve accidentally kills Natasha in issue 7, Miles beats him in the span of one page, starting off by shattering his shield in one blow, and culminating in him punching him repeatedly in the face until his costume's knuckles tear and he is only kept from murdering Cap by impaling him on a rocky spike through his own decision.
    • Zig-zagged in the final issue. The Powered Armor HYDRA Cap easily defeats the unified heroes, but once the heroic Steve shows up, he gets beat down, especially with help by Mjolnir.
  • Darkest Hour: For the Marvel Universe.
  • Decon-Recon Switch: Of the Lighter and Softer archetype that Marvel's been ignoring around since Avengers Disassembled. On the side of Deconstruction, we have the following: one Captain America has quit and the other has revealed himself to be a villain who has taken over the continental United States. Many of the powerhouses have been locked away, leading to a Ragtag Band of Misfits to save the day. The Black Widow has decided to take a bunch of Wide Eyed Idealists and transform them into Tykebombs for the sole purpose of killing Steve Rogers. And, throughout it all, everyone has called out everything that has lead them to this point. Pymtron has called out Tony and Steve over their wars and scheming and the Champions have called out Natasha over her desire to turn them into murderers. Sam has spent his entire part of the story being chewed out for pulling a Rage Quit on everyone. And when the going gets tough, everyone breaks down, leading into the reconstruction. Clint feels that the Hulk deserves to kill him for what he did to him (and by extension for all of the heroic infighting in general) and is talked down and given back hope, both Tony and Carol admit that they screwed up with the Civil Wars, Natasha realizes that turning the kids into murderers isn't the way to go, Sam ultimately returns to take up the shield one last time to give everyone hope and Steve finally breaks down and becomes the comic book supervillain he should be in these kinds of stories. Long story short, Secret Empire piles on so much Darker and Edgier that everyone is forced to realize that they shouldn't be heading in this direction and pushes back.
    Issue 6 Narration: This is the story of how we fell for the last time. The moment we were broken. Overrun. We gazed upon the devastation — and we found in it ourselves. We saw everything we'd done to cause it. How had we managed to fall so far? How had we managed to sink so low? Had we lost our way? Why did we do this to ourselves? Why did we do this to each other? And so we closed our eyes, and prepared for judgment. But not all of us. Some of us still knew how to be heroes. And in that moment of reprieve — we began to remember. Began to remember how to stand again. Remembered the evil we stood against. Remembered who we fought for.
  • Deconstructed Character Archetype:
    • Of the Big Good, The Cape and the Legacy Character - Steve Rogers has always been the moral compass for the Marvel Universe, to the point where Sam Wilson always found himself under Steve's shadow even when Steve gave him his blessing. This bled into the normal citizens, who criticized Sam at every turn because he "wasn't Steve", thus, when Sam quit and they got back Steve, they ended up with a Steve Rogers who was seeking to take control of the world with a fascist army. The Marvel heroes who have always used Steve as a moral compass have found themselves lost and uncertain and the citizens who have taken Steve at face value now find themselves regretting such a thing when he comes after them because they're criminals, Inhuman or mutant.
    • A key showcase is when Phil Coulson figures out beforehand Steve is Hydra and is hunted by Deadpool.
      Coulson: You're on the wrong side!
      Deadpool: Ask yourself: Has anybody ever said that about Captain America—and been right?
    • The story also deconstructs Let's You and Him Fight and Teeth-Clenched Teamwork. Many of the recent events — AXIS, Secret Wars (2015) and Civil War II specifically — have been nothing but heroes headbutting each other over ideologies that do nothing but divide the heroes further and further because everyone has to nurse a bruised ego in some way. Cap takes major advantage of this divide and splits everyone up, trapping them either outside the Earth or inside the Darkforce Dimension dome covering Manhattan, leaving only a bunch of B-listers left to try to stop Steve and get him back to normal. It gets to the point where Ultron-Hank is so fed up over the fighting that Ultron doesn't want to destroy humanity right now because the heroes will do it for him!
      Ultron-Hank: Enough!!! Listen to yourselves — this constant bickering and battling, always at each other's throats... it's all you ever do anymore! What's happened to you?! Where did it all go so wrong?! You know, it's just exhausting — and in this form, I can't even be exhausted! I go through all this trouble to bring us back together, and you just — you just — do you want to know why Ultron built this city? Why he didn't come after you yet again? It's because he didn't have to. It's because he looked at you and your war, Tony, and you and your scheming, Steve — and he realized he wouldn't have to destroy anything — because you were already doing it for him.
  • Demonic Possession:
    • Doctor Voodoo's body is briefly taken over by a "shadow parasite" during the Uncanny Avengers tie-in.
    • The state of Scarlet Witch throughout most of the series.
  • Diabolus ex Nihilo: Kriggoroth, a giant monster who briefly appears in Issue #1, demanding that the humans allow him to sate his hunger by devouring them. Where he came from is left unknown, although he mentions that he once made that same demand from the humans' forefathers.
  • Dismantled MacGuffin: The Cosmic Cube fragments. Hawkeye assembles a strike force of Ant-Man, Hercules, Mockingbird, and Quicksilver to find them with the hope of returning Steve to himself. Meanwhile, Steve sends out Helmut Zemo to collect the shards for HYDRA. This leads to conflict with those who found the shards - so far, T'Challa, Namor, Ultron, Emma Frost and Sauron - throughout the event.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • Cap's HYDRA is specifically targeting Inhumans for roundup to new "Indefinite Detention" centers throughout the United States.
    • One of the Sam Wilson tie-ins shows a group of working-class citizens saying that they don't mind living under HYDRA, that all the negative coverage of HYDRA from the media can't be trusted, so they're fine with living in in a fascist dictatorship headed by the one man they feel they can trust: Captain America. Plus HYDRA continues to create jobs and boost the economy, so they are better off this way. Many have noted this seems like a blatant (if somewhat exaggerated) take on the early 2017 political discourse in America.
  • Downer Beginning: Starts off with Steve finally enacting his plan. He orchestrates a Chitauri alien invasion where most of the cosmic heroes lead by Captain Marvel go to fight them while on the ground level, Baron Zemo's start running amuck through Manhattan forcing the Defenders to engage them. All the while the Iron Men are trying to get the shield over the planet up. It's here Steve shows his full colors and has HYDRA take over S.H.I.E.L.D. He manually activates the force field over the planet, cutting off those in space and leaving them at the mercy of the Chitauri second wave and activates a black dome over Manhattan, isolating the city before finally announcing HYDRA's takeover. The story then goes a few months later with most of the U.S under HYDRA's control, the heroes on the ground scattered with small pockets of resistance groups doing what they can and the off planet heroes still stranded in space.
  • The Dragon: Helmut Zemo, to Steve Rogers. Steve believes they've been best friends from childhood.
  • Dynamic Entry: Wilson Fisk crashes his limousine into a monster to save Strange, Spider-Woman and Ben Urich in Doctor Strange #21.
  • Eaten Alive: In Issue #0, Quasar is rather quickly and unceremoniously swallowed by a Chitauri Leviathan (dragon). All the characters believe she's dead, especially since the U.S.Avengers tie-in reveals that the dragon exploded only moments later. In Issue #3, it turns out she's not Not Quite Dead: Alpha Flight retrieved her severely injured, and she is still in a coma by Issue #7, only to come out of it just in time to destroy the Shield in Issue #8.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Brian "Barf" McAllister, nicknamed thus for his unique Inhuman powers - he can replicate objects under certain conditions, by visualizing them - and then puking them up.
  • Enigmatic Minion: In Secret Empire: Brave New World, one of Namor's Spear Carrier guards seems to be this. It turns out he's really Bucky in disguise.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Despite everything Steve's done to get to this point, he's initially not keen on the entire authoritarian push Zemo and the other villains want, preferring to settle people in slowly. This changes over the course of the event, as the constant deaths and continued pressure cause him to grow increasingly unstable.
    • In Secret Empire: Uprising the Freelancers agreed to work with Hydra because the pay was good, but they're visibly uncomfortable with Hydra's ideology and even stop some Hydra Youth from bullying another kid.
    • Played for Black Comedy in the Doctor Strange tie-in when Baron Mordo occipies the Sanctum Sanctorum. His attempts to raid the fridge pit him against Stephen's Jason Aaron-era dietary requirements (the magically hostile food). Mordo's more than a little incensed that his old rival couldn't even invest in a mini-fridge to store the half-and-half or beer.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good:
    • A constant theme is Steve unable to understand why people are no longer willing to follow him because he's Hydra. He keeps Sharon Carter free as he's convinced she'll stand with him given their love and truly shocked when she tries to kill him as no longer the man she fell in love with. All the way until the end, Steve still keeps thinking what he's doing is right and can't grasp why his former allies are so against him.
    • In the "Omega" special, a talk between the real Cap and Hydra!Steve shows Hydra!Steve still believes in the "false history" Kobik gave him and insists he was in the right and the real Cap should understand that.
    • When Peter destroys Parker Industries, Otto flips out at it:
    Otto: NO! What are you doing?! What idiot would destroy a global empire to keep it out of my hands?! Who could be that unbelievably petty?!
    Peter: Wrong question, Doc. Ask yourself... ...what man would sacrifice all he has for a just cause?
    Otto: PARKER!
  • Evil Counterpart: HYDRA Cap becomes this to Original Steve in the end, thanks to the official explanation that he was simply an Evil Knockoff who had taken Captain America's place. Somewhat of an Evil Twin or Enemy Without, in that he is Steve Rogers as well, just without the original's compassion and mindfulness of people's right to be free.
  • Evil Me Scares Me: HYDRA Cap is the normal Steve Rogers' worst nightmare, according to the narration for Issue 10. This is confirmed in the aftermath issue, Omega, though here, Normal Steve purposefully confronts his evil self.
  • Evolving Credits: The covers to the main Secret Empire saga transform the logo, having Cap's shield evolve into a HYDRA-themed version, only for it to shatter and reveal the classic circular shield.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: In the initial takeover, Riri and AI Tony barely escape SHIELD as Hydra takes over. They fly off, Tony saying they need to call reinforcements.
    Riri: Everyone who is active was either up in space with Carol or in...
    Tony: New York.
  • Faking the Dead:
    • After Zemo's rocket didn't kill him, Bucky got fished out of the Atlantic by Namor, who hid him as one of his guards until the time was right to spring him on Hydra Cap.
    • Secret Empire: Omega hints that Natasha did this, and is now back at work as an assassin.
  • Fantastic Racism: Hydra towards the Mutants and Inhumans. Bizarrely, this seems to outright take the place of their usual racism, despite that before Steve Rogers took over a significant portion of Hydra was explicitly white supremacists.
  • A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted: Peter is ultimately forced to destroy Parker Industries and everything connected to it to deny the Superior Octopus his win.
  • From a Certain Point of View: When Sally Floyd introduces Steve Rogers in their first interview since the takeover, the first thing he does is correct her - he didn't take over the United States, the President gave him full power and he went from there.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid:
    • Carol Danvers sends out a distress call to the rest of the Marvel Universe asking for someone, anyone to help them stop the Chitauri invasion and take back the Earth from Steve Rogers.
    • By the time Issue 3 rolls around, Peter Quill is sent to ask for help from the Shi'ar, Skrulls and the Kree. Their emissaries only lament the fact that the shield is up, preventing them from conquering the Earth instead of the Chitauri. Quill is forced to run for his life back to Carol and the others.
  • Grand Finale: Of Nick Spencer's dual Captain America runs.
  • Great Offscreen War: Between issue 0 and 1, there was a civil war of sorts against HYDRA that HYDRA won.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: Deadpool gets this in a brutal fashion. It's revealed in his tie-in issues that after having a last-minute change of heart, Wade was the person to leak the information to Maria Hill about Blackout controlling the dome surrounding New York. Maria Hill takes the information he gives her... only to trap him under a collapsed building for days so that he won't get out and help in the final battle. By the time he finally gets out, the battle is already over and no one knows about Wade's contribution once again.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Odinson realizes he's making a mistake in issue #6, just in time to save the resistance and the people they are protecting from certain death.
  • Heroic BSoD:
    • The revelation of Steve being HYDRA and that he basically manipulated Sam Wilson to give up being Captain America has caused the Falcon to basically be on his own, not willing to take part in any resistance. It takes Misty Knight giving him a literal wake-up call for him to help.
    • Clint Barton suffers one in issue 6 after he sees the Hulk return from the dead. Thinking Steve was right for accusing the heroes of being weak (especially after he broke his no-killing rule by offing Bruce Banner), he was about to let himself get killed. It took a save and a pep talk by Mockingbird to snap him out of it, pointing out that maybe they do deserve what is happening to them for their years of constant Let's You and Him Fight amongst the heroes, but the civilians that he hopes to save don't. Ironic, as the same issue drove the two apart years ago.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Initially seemingly played straight, but ultimately averted in AI Tony's case: at the end of issue #6, he blows himself up, hoping to kill Steve in the process. However, in Captain America #25, it turns out he had a backup copy.
    • In issue #7, Natasha jumps between Steve and Miles when it looks like Steve might kill Miles, and gets fatally hit by Steve's shield.
  • He's Back!:
    • Played with: Tony Stark is only present as an A.I., while the actual one still lies in a coma. However, Issue 6 identifies the A.I. as having Tony's transferred consciousness, so it is his mind, just not his body.
    • The end sees the return of the true Steve Rogers, who defeats his HYDRA counterpart.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: When Nadia Pym and Amadeus Cho infiltrate HYDRA's Youth Choir in Secret Empire: Uprising, Amadeus is especially hesitant to "blend in" - but he ends up looking away when another recruit is bullied, and then ratting out Nadia to be able to stay on mission as a double agent.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • Maria Hill discovers a video of Cap working for Hydra and sends it to Rick Jones. But after all the massive crap Hill has pulled over the years, Rick is naturally dubious and when Cap calls to say Hill is trying to trap him, Rick believes Cap which leads to his capture.
    • Spider-Man (Peter Parker) attempts to attack Superior Octopus using all of his technology at Parker Industries' headquarters. However, Otto boasts that all of the tech Peter had was stuff he built when he first started the company and instantly turns it all on Spidey.
  • Hope Spot: Issue 8 triple-downs this with Sam Wilson trying to get a Cosmic Cube shard airborne, Dr. Strange having to give up his Sanctum Santorrum for a special spell to break the Darkforce Dimension barrier and Rocket Raccoon giving up a Nullifier Bomb to try and break through the shield. Sam is shot down, the spell doesn't work and the bomb doesn't affect the shield. Subverted when Quasar obliterates it shortly after, Maria Hill dispels the Darkforce barrier by killing Blackout, and Sam survives thanks to the Cosmic Cube shard he's holding onto.
  • Hypocrite: Superior Octopus claims that Peter Parker is self-deluded, selfish, petty and spiteful, all faults he himself possesses (due to his own belief that he will use Parker Industries to make the world better, and has no problem humiliating Parker and targeting his employees in the process).
  • I Have Your Wife: In Issue #5, it turns out Odinson is fighting for HYDRA because they claim to be the only ones able to bring Jane Foster back. However, his trust in Steve begins to waver when he is tasked with something he considers beyond horrifying.
    • Similarly, Issue #6 shows that Scott Lang is The Mole working for HYDRA because HYDRA has captured his daughter Cassandra.
  • I Lied: Emma Frost gives up her Cosmic Cube shard with the intent of keeping HYDRA away from New Tian, as per treaties. However, Steve tells her that he's going to invade New Tian anyway since he planned on that from the start. Emma responds by letting Magneto wreck Steve's flagship.
  • I Reject Your Reality: In the "Omega" special, Hydra!Cap reveals he still believes the history of Kobik's invention was the "true" one and can't accept it was just a lie she created.
  • If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him!:
    • In Occupy Avengers, the new Nighthawk is told not to kill the HYDRA soldiers because she'll go down that path. She throws is back, claiming that it's war and if they aren't stopped here and now, more will just come.
    • After Steve has accidentally killed Natasha, Miles is ready to take him out, but Nadia implores him to reconsider, since it would negatively affect him for the rest of his life - something that Natasha wanted to spare him from specifically.
  • Informed Ability: The invading Chitauri force is repeatedly noted to be greater in power than the Annihilation Wave. This is a baffling claim, as at all points onscreen, the Chitauri seem to be just small waves of Mooks that are easily dealt with. Compare that to the Annihilation Wave, which decimated whole galaxies, reduced the Nova Corps to a single man within hours of starting its invasion, pummeled Heralds of Galactus to the brink of death, and posed an existential threat to the universe, and it just looks even more absurd.
  • Ironic Echo: p
    • Sam Wilson #24 and Steve Rogers #19 play themselves in reverse — Sam Wilson is convinced to become Captain America once more and dons the uniform while Steve realizes he's lost everyone and ditches his uniform for his HYDRA uniform.
    • In Avengers Standoff, Steve chastised Maria Hill for trying to easily fix the problems of supervillain containment by altering reality. After his past has been rewritten by Kobik, he now tries this himself in Secret Empire, believing that everything will be alright again once he has "restored" the reality in which HYDRA would have won the war.
  • It's All My Fault: Issue #6 and Issue #7 have AI!Tony and Carol Danvers respectively blame themselves for what's going on. A.I.Tony tells Steve that he screwed up because he wanted to be like Steve and make his mark on the world and all he does is keep screwing up. Carol tells the comatose Quasar almost the same exact thing - that she played right into Steve's hands because, like Tony, she wanted to be loved by everyone, too.
  • Jerkass Ball: Secret Warriors #3 shoves the ball into the hands of most of the Inhumans cast save Kamala and every last X-Man showing up as Daisy, Inferno, Lunella, Karnak and anyone with an X-Gene acts like petulant children with Kamala being the Only Sane Man that's being pushed to her limits as the two sides are busy sniping each other. Bonus points go to Daisy, who shoots down the Blackbird after being mocked over her powers by Rictor, Inferno, who complains about how much he hates the X-Men every other page, and the Beast, who acts like he's going to wet himself if the Inhumans stay any longer.
  • La Résistance: Led by Hawkeye (Clint Barton), Black Widow, and an A.I. version of Tony Stark.
  • Let's You and Him Fight:
    • Averted. After the numerous hero vs. hero fights since the original Civil War, Secret Empire will be a more straight forward superhero story.
    • Also invoked by Ultron: They are happy to sit back and let the different human groups erase each other, since it's all they seem to do anymore anyway.
  • Locked Out of the Loop:
    • As usual, not every title will be involved in the event.
    • Invoked literally with Captain Marvel, the Ultimates, and The Guardians of the Galaxy. Steve identifies them as the greatest threats to his rule and locks them on the other side of the Earth's impenetrable shield.
  • Mirror Match: The final fight is a one-on-one brawl between the real Captain America and Hydra Supreme. Both men Steve Rogers but one extolling his real values and the other a corrupt perversion.
  • The Mole:
    • Amadeus Cho infiltrates... the Hydra Youth Choir.
    • In Issue #4, Steve reveals that he has a mole in Sam Wilson's resistance group. In Issue #5, this turns out to be Mockingbird - except in Issue #6, it turns out she isn't a mole, but working with Maria Hill to keep her from bombing the resistance. The actual mole turns out to be Scott Lang, whose daughter Cassie has been kidnapped by HYDRA.
  • Mole in Charge: Steve is leading SHIELD as Director and the heroes against the simultaneous attacks by the Chitauri and HYDRA, while secretly leading the HYDRA attacks as Supreme Leader.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Sam Wilson quitting the Captain America mantle shortly before this event has major parallels to the original Secret Empire storyline where Steve Rogers quit being Captain America and temporarily became Nomad following an encounter with the original HYDRA splinter group.
    • Memory!Red Skull's appearance is similar to that of his Ultimate Marvel counterpart.
    • Sam approaching Steve in the final issue is done to mimic the same way Steve did to Thanos in The Infinity Gauntlet.
    • In the final Good!Steve vs. Evil!Steve match, the latter sets off his armor's Hand Blast ability directly into the former's shield, mimicking the famous image for Civil War, where Iron Man is in Evil!Steve's position.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Namor ends up realizing what he's done to his subjects by the time his storyline in Brave New World is over and realizes he's made a very grievous error in judgment.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: Hydra-fied US is mainly a generic totalitarian regime, with strict regulations for the population, persecution and imprisonment of dissenters and unwanted groups, and an aggressive, hostile stance against foreign states. However, despite HYDRA Cap's decisive removal of Red Skull and his hatred for Skull's politics, a lot of Nazis remain with HYDRA and the HYDRA council - among them Sin, Crossbones, Zola, Faustus, and Gorgon.
  • Neck Snap: A variation: When Natasha throws herself between Cap and Spider-Man to keep Miles from getting killed, Steve hits her with his shield and breaks her neck.
  • No One Could Survive That!: After Moon Girl (and Devil Dinosaur) crashes with Hyde's helicarrier, Quake states a variety of this in Secret Warriors #5, convinced they will only be able to recover their body. Of course she turns out to be fine later on.
  • Not in This for Your Revolution: Pietro Maximoff is part of the Tony Stark AI's cosmic cube recovery team, but he explicitly says he doesn't really care about the mission and only wants to save his sister.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: In Captain America Steve Rogers 19 Sharon points out to Steve that despite his insistence he really is no better than Red Skull.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: After Ultron-Hank (mostly Hank) delivers a "The Reason You Suck" Speech to the assembled heroes due to their recent obsession with Let's You and Him Fight, A.I. Tony snidely brings up the time he hit Janet. Ultron-Hank snaps and delivers a vicious beatdown, all the while ranting that after all his other accomplishments, triumphs and attempts to redeem himself, it's not fair that he is constantly derided and dismissed for one mistake he made in his past while the other heroes constantly screw up in much more destructive fashions only to be Easily Forgiven.
    Hank: How dare you?! I discovered Pym particles. I took artificial intelligence to the next level. I founded the Avengers Academy! What have you ever done?! You were a lout and a cretin who made his fortune selling weapons to murderers. Your arrogance started two wars — your incompetence put Norman Osborn in power! And you try to lecture me?! Every day I had to hold this monster inside me at bay — do you understand what he would do if I let him loose? He would incinerate the flesh of every man, woman, and child on Earth and laugh about it! Every day I live with this, and I save the world a hundred times over! But I made one mistake — one mistake! Years ago! And it's all any of you will ever remember me for — all you ever say about me! You think I can't hear the whispers?! The way you look at me when I walk into the room?
  • Offing the Offspring:
    • Mr. Hyde seems to go back and forth on wanting to kill Daisy in Secret Warriors #4. He finally settles on yes, but she manages to escape, anyway.
  • Opportunistic Bastard: Under the Dark Dimension dome in New York, Kingpin is publicly aiding the citizens seemingly asking nothing in return except they remember he was the one providing for them.
  • Oppressive States of America: Hydra-ruled America is a standard version of this trope.
  • Out-Gambitted: After Steve has Zemo destroy one of the temples in Atlantis, Namor meekly hands over the cosmic cube shard he had been hiding. Little does Steve know that Namor is also hiding the Winter Soldier.
  • Playing Both Sides: Ultron and HYDRA have agreed mutually not to attack each other; nonetheless, he offers his cosmic cube shard to Scott Lang and the resistance and keeps Steve from following them. When Steve angrily demands an explanation, Ultron explains that he is waiting for humanity to eradicate itself, which means he has to keep their powers balanced. From his point of view, HYDRA was getting too powerful, so he gave the resistance an advantage.
  • Powered Armor: At the end of issue #9, Steve comes out with a suit of armor powered by the nearly complete Cosmic Cube.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Spider-Man is able to defeat the Superior Octopus, but had to effectively destroy Parker Industries to do so.
  • Purple Prose: The narration in each issue, which can be summed up more shortly as: we had grown arrogant, therefore we failed. However, we regained hope. However, now something unexpected and awful has happened so we've lost hope again.
  • Take a Third Option: T'Challa refuses to give up his cosmic cube shard to either HYDRA or the resistance. When A.I. Tony tries to appeal to his conscience and points out that this might save Steve, T'Challa suggests the resistance hand over their shards to him instead. This is not a bad idea, given what happens later.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • Steve gives one to Carol before locking her and the other space-bound heroes out of the Earth, mocking her for wanting to rush the barrier into use.
    • In Captain America: Steve Rogers #17 Steve gives one to journalists for been biased in their reporting instead of actually telling the truth that nobody trusts them anymore and then one to people who think that posting complaints on Twitter will actually do anything.
    • Ultron-Hank really tears into both Steve and Tony for their constant arguing and fighting. He even says that Ultron really doesn't want to destroy humanity because the heroes will do it themselves.
    • A tie-in issue has Doctor Octopus tearing Spider-Man apart by pointing out Parker Industries only exists because Ock created it while in Peter's body. He further reveals that when Ock was stuck in the Living Brain, he was secretly manipulating markets to favor the company and make it successful.
      Doctor Octopus: Don't tell me you credited that to your "business acumen."
    • Ares gives a brief one to Hydra as a whole in the form of a Hydra mook he kills in Paris in U.S.Avengers #7:
      Ares: Because you were weak, you worshipped strength over love. You worshipped me. Am I not what you wanted?
    • Sharon Carter gives Steve Rogers one in Captain America: Steve Rogers #19, comparing him to Red Skull - whom even Hydra Cap still despises:
      Sharon: He would be proud of you, you know. The Red Skull.[...] You wear that costume like you're somehow this great leader, when all you do is alienate, divide and persecute the people who need you - exactly the way he did. You think you're different, but you're not! Look at you! You can dress this up any way you want, but Steve... you are still a fascist. Just like him.
    • HYDRA!Steve gives one of these to the normal Steve in Omega. It goes back and forth, though.
  • Retcon: A minor one, in accordance with Comic-Book Time. When Sally Floyd originally interviewed Steve Rogers during Civil War, she asked him what MySpace was. This story briefly revisits that moment in a flashback, but probably because of how MySpace's popularity in the real world petered out, she asks about Twitter instead.
  • Red Herring: Nearly all members of A.I. Tony's cosmic cube search team get spotlighted as the possible mole, until it turns out to be Scott Lang of all people.
  • Reformed, but Rejected: Deadpool is hit with this hard in the second to last issue of his tie-ins as Maria Hill drops a parking deck on him just in case his information towards where Blackout was was a trap. When he digs out, its three days later, HYDRA is defeated and he misses out on his chance to prove he's reformed.
  • Repressive, but Efficient: Hydra likes to present this image after their takeover, with state-sponsored propaganda touting the economic benefits of Hydra rule. Whether this is actually the case is up for debate.
  • The Reveal:
    • As seen in the prologue, Steve believes the Allies used a Cosmic Cube to rewrite history and help them win the war, and that his memories of being an enemy of HYDRA were part of that rewrite. He also believes that Kobik recovered his true memories of his past as a loyal HYDRA member, instead of turning him into one in the first place.
    • In Captain America 25 it turns out that Bucky Barnes, who was thought dead by both HYDRA and the resistance - and people who had never read a comic before - after Zemo seemingly blew him up in Captain America: Steve Rogers 16, is still very much alive and hiding with Namor.
    • Issue 9 reveals that the other Steve Rogers is actually a memory of Steve inside Kobik's mind, but she can't (or won't) put him back because a mysterious person is "too scary". Issue 10 reveals that the mysterious person is HYDRA Cap.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something:
    • Baron Zemo, who is The Dragon to Steve Rogers, tends to be very hands-on when it comes to doing his Supreme Leader's bidding.
    • T'Challa joins his forces to fight off HYDRA's attempts to invade Wakanda, and even invites Steve to come over and settle the situation between the two of them.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Rick Jones gets executed for passing on Hydra secrets and refusing to give up the recipient.
  • Saying Too Much: Sally Floyd is allowed to interview Cap after his takeover under the condition that she doesn't mention the Las Vegas bombing. When Cap starts to back her into a corner with comments about modern news outlets being more interested in fulfilling political agendas instead of actually telling the truth, Sally loses her temper and blurts out what happened in Vegas, giving Cap enough reason to throw her in a cell.
  • Sealed Army in a Can: After promising them the greatest reward and using them to subdue first Manhattan and then most of the superheroes in battle, HYDRA deals with most of their C-List villain minions by putting them into stasis, using drugs to make them more "compliant". Zemo is supposed to release them on the heroes in Issue 9, but fails thanks to his penchant for Evil Gloating.
  • Sequel Hook:
    • Omega ends with one of the guards assigned to Hydra Cap whispering "Hail Hydra'' into his ear as Hydra Cap smiles.
    • Feeling remorseful over siding with Hydra Cap, the Punisher goes on to hunt down Hydra cells. This gets the attention of Nick Fury, Jr.
    • After witnessing the assassination of a general formerly allied with Hydra, Bucky realizes that Black Widow might still be alive.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Deadpool's quest to be a hero, which really kicked off over in AXIS comes crashing in with this event — thanks to a Wrong Genre Savvy moment, Deadpool joins HYDRA, thinking it's the right thing, only to realize that he's probably made a poor decision and try to do well again, only to have Maria Hill pull a Heel–Face Door-Slam on him and bury him under a parking deck. By the time he gets out, the day is saved and he's missed his chance.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: In issue #6 Hydra-Cap gives a long speech to Bruce Banner why he should join Hydra and take revenge on people who betrayed him. He refuses but Hulk agrees but his response to Steve was pretty good.
    Bruce Banner: Yeah... I'm gonna give that a hard pass. I feel like the guy who came out of the ice and found out the world just got dumber while he was frozen. You're damn right I'm angry about what they did to me. What they keep doing to me. And if I see them, yeah, there will be some words. But then again... You're Hydra. Maybe that became fashionable when I was out. But last I checked, you're the evil fascist totalitarian bad guys. And me? Well, sure, maybe it always ends with me getting fired and them trying to kill me... But I'm still an Avenger, dammit. And if that's a problem? Then you can just go ahead and put me back in whatever box you pulled me out of. Because honestly, it's been a very long time since I've slept that well.
  • Shut Up, Kirk!: Captain America Steve Rogers #17: However, it's by Hydra-Cap, Floyd calling him out on his massacre in Vegas and a Retcon. Captain America shows Sally Floyd point-blank why social media awareness is immaterial to the erosion of civil liberties by locking her up and asking Twitter to complain about it.
  • Sixth Ranger: Due to the fact that Kamala, Scott and Sam are stuck in their own storylines and away from their teammates, Ironheart, Falcon, Wasp, and the new Patriot become this to the Champions.
  • Smug Snake: Kriggoroth. He demands that the people allow him to devour them, and laughs at HYDRA Cap's ultimatum to leave or die. Then HYDRA Cap unleashes the HYDRA Avengers on him. A quick Curb-Stomp Battle ensues, with Kriggoroth begging for mercy before being killed.
  • Spanner in the Works:
    • Selvig's love for Kobik outweighs his loyalty to HYDRA, and he spirits her shards away to keep Zemo from turning her back into a mindless cube. He then kills himself.
    • Rick Jones manages to discover computer files detailing Selvig's work and succeeds in sending it to the resistance before he is apprehended.
  • Status Quo Is God: The U.S. was taken over by HYDRA for an undefined but significant period of time. It's generally expected that people will remember this approximately as often as they remember the time Kang brainwashed Iron Man or took over and nuked Washington D.C.. Las Vegas is still destroyed, but will apparently be rebuilt in record time judging by Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider - though all her citizens who were killed are still dead. While C-List characters who died appear to remain dead for now - as does the temporarily revived Bruce Banner - Black Widow is hinted to be alive within the pages of Secret Empire: Omega. And while the changed version of Steve Rogers remains in custody, a good, unaltered Steve Rogers is also back.
  • Superman Stays Out of Gotham:
    • The US is under HYDRA command, should anyone step in and stop them? Nope. No one is willing to step up to save the day and those who could, such as Namor and Magneto, have been effectively taken out by pledging neutrality to Steve. In Captain America: Steve Rogers, Steve tries to invoke this trope by telling the United Nations that if they try to attack or suppress HYDRA, he'll kick out everyone from that nation in the US and revoke all sorts of aid to their countries.
    • As chronicled in her own book, Squirrel Girl was saving the Savage Land from Ultron during the event, and stated that she would only get involved if the other heroes needed her.
  • Take That, Audience!: Not Brand Echh #14's Self-Parody of Secret Empire, written by Nick Spencer, comes across as this when it mocks its critics with racial caricatures. In fact, all the self-deprecating comedy beats based on the criticisms of Secret Empire would be funnier if Nick Spencer and Axel Alonso had not insulted people making those very same criticisms at the time the event was going on.
  • Take That Me: Not Brand Echh #14's parody has Spencer admitting what a mess the event had become as well as a jab at his previous event Avengers Standoff. Granted, as mentioned above, it's somewhat lessened by his jabs at the critics as well.
  • 10-Minute Retirement: Sam Wilson resumes his Falcon identity after getting fed up with the U.S. and dumping the Captain America identity. Then, he returns to his Captain America identity near the end.
  • This Is Reality: In Uncanny Avengers #25: After Rogue had teamed up with villains, Shocker and Scorpia to defeat some of the Darkforce creatures, Rogue reminds them that she is still taking them in for attempting to rob a bank earlier, causing this exchange.
    Scorpia: Seriously? I thought this was the part where we team up 'cause we risked our lives for each other and stuff.
    Rogue: Honey, that only happens in comic books.
  • This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself: A Justified Trope in Issue 10. When Bucky is thinking of intervening in the battle between the two Steves, Sam Wilson keeps him back, since the worlds needs to see a good Steve Rogers face down evil, not a collection of heroes destroy a tyrannical Steve Rogers. The former would be a step to restore faith in heroes, whereas the latter would only further public apathy about the Let's You and Him Fight dynamics.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The civilians of the Marvel Universe are given this treatment in the end, as HYDRA!Steve notes that technically speaking, everything he did was legal... and part of the SHIELD Act had given him the power to pardon anyone, himself included, so he had done so for all of his crimes from before the act had come into effect.
    HYDRA!Steve: You people keep talking like I came to power by force. I didn't. You gave it to me. Your Congress passed the SHIELD Act—the law that said, in the event of an emergency, the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. could take absolute control of the country, if you asked them to. And you did. I happened to be the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. at the time. Now, that wasn't a job that I campaigned for, or sought. I was asked to do it. They asked me because they couldn't find anyone else that could be trusted. That's how mired in corruption and incompetence that organization has become. I didn't build the Planetary Defense Shield. Maria Hill and Carol Danvers did. I didn't cause the mess in Pleasant Hill. Or allow the Red Skull's perverted version of HYDRA to recruit so many, so easily. And whatever I may have done in violation of any laws leading up to that—well, that SHIELD Act authority you gave me included the power of pardon. I made sure to use that for myself and everyone in HYDRA. That still stands. I didn't create any of these conditions. You did—your warped and twisted ideology—that venerates fear and weakness above all else. You might blame me for exploiting it—but everything I did, I did with your consent. Your encouragement, even.
  • Torture Always Works: Black Widow and Karnak separately employ torture, which is portrayed as highly effective but morally wrong (as opposed to Real Life, where Torture Is Ineffective and also morally wrong) and offends the morals of the younger and more idealistic heroes they work with.
  • Trauma Conga Line: The events of Secret Empire serve as this to Kobik, the very being responsible for creating Hydra Supreme Steve Rogers in the deluded belief that HYDRA is the best thing for the world. Seeing the results of her handiwork and the sheer malevolence of her own version of Steve Rogers has finally opened her eyes to what HYDRA truly stood for. As a result, she recreates the original Steve Rogers and helps to end HYDRA's rule over the United States of America. The experience has allowed Kobik to mature somewhat, as she resolves to never support fascism again.
  • Trivial Title: Steve Roger's Hydra-controlled America is neither secret nor an empire, and in fact nobody calls it that in the text. The in-universe villain group using that name was last seen in an issue of U.S.Avengers attempting to destroy Hollywood with a flying volcano.
    • Possibly averted by the last major Secret Empire story involving Captain America from the '70s also involving a trusted authority figure being revealed as the leader of an evil organization. With both villain reveals leading to a temporarily retired and disillusioned Captain America, both stories featuring attempts by villains to slander and demonize heroes, and both stories using Washington, D.C. as the setting for the climax.
  • Tyrannicide:
    • Is attempted on Steve by A.I. Tony, Natasha, and Sharon, but averted for various reasons.
    • Also attempted on Namor by his own people with alarming regularity in the 'Brave New World' mini-series.
  • Unexplained Recovery: In-Universe, Squirrel Girl is confused as to how Ares is still alive, seeing as the last time she heard about him was when the Sentry tore him in half during Siege. This is because no one realized he was revived during Contest of Champions (2015).
  • Villainous Breakdown: Hydra Cap falls into one after Kobik undoes his changes to the world and restores the true Steve Rogers. He's reduced to pathetically raving that he is the true Captain America and the other is nothing but a lie. When he fails to lift Mjolnir, he freezes in horror at the realization he was never worthy right before Real Cap bashes his face in.
  • Villain Has a Point: You know things have gotten bad when Pymtron, the combination of Hank Pym's mental instability and Ultron's evil, is the voice of reason. At one point he makes both sides sit down and tears into them for their constant fights among themselves and blindly following whichever member tries to fix everything this month, no matter how many times it backfires and how at this rate he doesn't need to destroy the world because they will do it for him.
    Steve Rogers: Ultron, I happen to agree with you, but Hydra is going to change all of that, bring an end to all this weakness and corruption...
    Pymtron: Oh, of course, it will, Steve, of course... Just like Tony's grand plans for superhuman registration made everything so much better. Or perhaps you mean like when Wanda here tried to fix everything? That got a bit messy as I recall... You always have such big ideas for solving all the world's problems. Funny then, how you just keep making everything worse.
    • When Spider-Man defends himself on how "Parker Industries is mine", Doctor Octopus scoffs that the only reason Peter even has a business is that Ock started it when he was in Peter's body.
  • Villain Protagonist: Steve Rogers, though it's obviously complicated.
  • Wham Line: At the very end of #2, a mysterious man saves a woman from the Serpent Society. Then he drops this bombshell:
    "My name is Steve Rogers. I'm just trying to get home."
  • Wham Shot: One per issue.
    • Free Comic Book Day issue: Rogers is able to wield Thor's hammer.
    • Issue #1: Rogers has his air force blow up Las Vegas and kill a great many people.
    • Issue #2: A woman is saved from the Serpent Society by... Steve Rogers?!
    • Issue #3: The Punisher is revealed to be part of HYDRA.
    • Issue #4: Rogers reveals he has a spy in the Underground.
    • Issue #5: Bruce Banner is alive.
    • Issue #6: Elisa Sinclair sacrifices herself to save Rogers.
    • Issue #7: Sam Wilson has taken up the mantle of Captain America again.
    • Issue #8: Namor shows up to reveal that he had only pretended to give in to HYDRA, while secretly hiding their greatest enemy all this time - Bucky Barnes. As well, the other Steve encounters the missing Kobik.
    • Issue #9: Just as the heroes all come together to finally crush Hydra, Steve Rogers steps into the fray - decked in a Hydra-colored, Cosmic Cube-powered Iron Man armor. Meanwhile, the other Steve sees what became of him in the waking world, and despairs.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • It is not explained what happens to Bruce Banners corpse after Zola's temporary resurrection effect wears off.
    • Ultron/Hank is forgotten about after Issue #4.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • In Thunderbolts #11, Kobik decides to make Bucky part of her "secret HYDRA club" by altering his past. He isn't exactly overjoyed about this, naturally, and yells at her for turning Steve into a bad guy and lying to himself, even though he protected her.
    • In Captain America: Sam Wilson #22, Misty Knight tears into Sam for quitting as Cap, then turning around asking for help. She even calls him out for his plan due to the fact that she's insistent he's going to Rage Quit just like he did as Cap.
    • In issue 4, Ultron!Hank (primarily Hank) calls out all the heroes present on their constant infighting and ideological squabbles instead of, you know, actually doing hero stuff, wondering where it all went wrong. When A.I. Tony retorts that their bonds started to erode the moment Hank hit Janet, a Once Done, Never Forgotten, Hank furiously calls them, and especially Tony, out on how, even though he's saved countless lives and made numerous scientific breakthroughs, all the other heroes ever remember him for is that one mistake he made while in the middle of a mental breakdown.
    • In Captain America: Sam Wilson #24, not only does Misty tear into Sam again because he's still refusing to don the costume of Captain America, but the new Patriot calls him out for quitting in the first place, claiming that his little protest was completely stupid and that all Sam cared about was trying to get people to like him.
  • Wild Goose Chase: In All-New Guardians of the Galaxy Annual #1, the Guardians are trying to hunt down a special device that could break the barrier enveloping the Earth, temporarily releasing Yondu from jail to do so. However, it turns out it was all for naught - the device had already been stripped for parts beforehand, Gamora burnt it out in a Big Damn Heroes moment and, even if they did fix it, it would only affect a 20 meter radius for half a second, leading Rocket to growl out that it was a "flarking wild Krutak chase!"
  • With Us or Against Us: Steve attempts to force the nations to bow down to HYDRA in Steve Rogers #17 through blackmail but ends up getting humiliated when T'Challa shows up and tells Steve that he's stopped three attacks on Wakandian soil by HYDRA, effectively telling him to drop dead. He eventually gets arrested, but that doesn't last.
  • Wolverine Publicity: Spider-Man is prominently displayed on the cover of #1 and on a lot of promotional materials despite apparently not having a big part in the actual event, with his only appearance in the event proper being a nonspeaking cameo in #0 and a few panels of the FCBD issue, He doesn't even appear in the main title until issue #9.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy:
    • The resistance initially believed HYDRA Cap was an evil clone, or that he had been hypnotized by Doctor Faustus. Missions they undertook in hopes of exposing or saving him proved that they were very wrong, resulting in numerous casualties.
    • Deadpool's reasons (other than loyalty) for following Steve fall under this. Steve has always been proven correct when heroes fight and Wade notes that people calling Steve wrong have never been right.
    • Namor suffers this as well. He believes that his people will accept that staying out of HYDRA's way is the best thing and that those going against him need to be punished. However, when he tries to execute his cousin for the rebellion, he's overwhelmed by his very subjects, angry at him.
  • You Are in Command Now: How Steve Rogers attains absolute power. The Secretary of Defense and the President of the United States cede control of all Federal personnel up to and including the U.S. Military to Steve in the face of an unchecked Chitauri invasion, a HYDRA invasion of a nuclear-armed Sokovia, and the failure of the planetwide shield meant to protect Earth from said alien invasion. The Secretary and President go into hiding and expect Steve to clean everything up for them. When Sally Floyd mentions that he took over America, he corrects her by saying that he took over nothing - they gave him the power, so he stepped right on in.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: Said almost word-for-word by Maria Hill, when Natasha confronts them about fighting HYDRA without concern for civilian casualties. Hill also fires back that Natasha has no reason to be complacent or judgemental, due to training young heroes like the Champions as double agents.