This week’s Secret Empire #2 brought yet another shocking cliffhanger from series writer Nick Spencer and this issue's artist Andrea Sorrentino. And yet again, this new twist in the story brings more questions than answers – questions about the very nature of Secret Empire itself.
Spoilers ahead for Secret Empire #2.
As the superhero resistance reels from Hydra’s decimation of Las Vegas, Black Widow vows to kill Steve Rogers - much to the disagreement and consternation of her fellow freedom fighters. As Black Widow discusses her plan, the A.I. version of Tony Stark discovers the truth about the Cosmic Cube and Kobik’s alteration of Steve’s reality. Hawkeye and Tony conceive of a plan to collect the fragments of Kobik, who was dismantled by Erik Selvig, and set things right.
However, Natasha disagrees. As she and Hawkeye argue over the idea of killing Steve, she knocks Hawkeye unconscious and leaves to pursue her mission. Miles Morales and the Champions accompany her, with Miles saying he is ready to see the Civil War II-era vision of him killing Steve Rogers through to the end.
Meanwhile, Steve is reeling from the death of Rick Jones and the razing of Las Vegas – acts he claims he did not authorize himself, but gave Elisa (the all-new Madame Hydra, who recruited a teenage Steve into Hydra) the power to enact. In New York, the newly-formed Defenders work to keep the Darkforce Dimension at bay, with Cloak and Dagger providing the city with its only source of light. Kingpin has also become a protector, leveraging his political power to provide supplies to suffering citizens in exchange for their loyalty.
As Black Widow and the Champions set off to find Steve Rogers, Hawkeye and Tony gather a small team consisting of Mockingbird, Ant-Man, Quicksilver, and Hercules to find the Cosmic Cube fragments. To do so, they have to leave the country – enlisting the help of Sam Wilson to get into Canada. At the same time, Steve orders Zemo to retrieve the Cosmic Cube fragments - with the art implying that some of them are located in Wakanda with Black Panther, Atlantis with Namor, and a third location - possibly Bagalia, though it is unclear.
Finally, in last pages and presented without context, a woman is pursued by the Serpent Society through the wilderness. She’s saved by a mysterious stranger, revealed to be none other than Steve Rogers – or at least some version of him – looking haggard and saying “I’m just trying to get home.”
As for how this Steve Rogers came to be in the wilderness, the actual location where this scene takes place, and which version of Steve Rogers this may be, no clues are provided in the scene.
Secret Empire #3 is due out on shelves May 31.