This week’s Secret Empire #3 from writer Nick Spencer and artists Andrea Sorrentino and Rod Reis dives into Captain America and Hydra’s mission to recover the shards of the sentient Cosmic Cube, Kobik. At the same time, both Hydra and Black Widow’s resistance find unlikely allies – and a new wrinkle in the mystery of the second Steve Rogers.
Spoilers ahead for Secret Empire #3.
As the second Steve Rogers – the one in tattered fatigues – escorts the woman he rescued through the forest, she reveals she’s been poisoned, and is dying. This Steve reveals that his only memories are of what is implied to be his basic training days. As they venture through the forest – which is implied to be some place far from the Marvel Universe we know - the woman dies of her wounds. But before she passes, she promises Steve he’ll find his way home if he “stays true to himself.”
Back in the Marvel Universe, Black Widow makes her way to a safehouse owned by Boomerang, now a crimeboss in Newark, New Jersey. Boomerang is hiding Maria Hill, who is working with the criminal underworld to hide her rebellion. Maria Hill and Black Widow begin training the Champions, pushing them to learn what it takes to kill a dangerous enemy when necessary.
Meanwhile, outside the safety of Earth’s force field, Star-Lord and Rocket entreat the Skrulls, Kree, Brood, Shi’ar, and Spartax empires in defeating the Chitauri – but realizing they are now facing a galaxy without human interference, they refuse aid and even attack the pair of Guardians.
As Sam Wilson reluctantly helps Hawkeye and the Tony Stark A.I. get their team over the border into Canada, it’s revealed that their actual destination is Brazil – where one of the Cosmic Cube shards is in the hands of Hank Pym/Ultron, who plans to welcome his former allies with open arms.
As the resistance seeks a Cosmic Cube shard, Steve Rogers is called away from attending a Hydra science fair alongside a reluctant Sharon Carter by news from Kraken that another shard has been located in Atlantis. As Steve’s dark Avengers invade and destroy the Atlantean temple, they discover that the shard they’ve tracked down is a fake, planted by Namor to keep them from discovering the real shard. This is the second failed attempt to recover a shard after an ill-fated mission into Wakanda to retrieve another. Before Steve can take the failure out on his team, he receives word that another shard has been located. It’s implied that this is the same shard Hawkeye’s team is seeking.
With a quick jump back to Newark, Boomerang awakens to discover a bomb in his safehouse. Though he survives the blast, a mysterious figure puts a gun in his face, demanding knowledge of his criminal enterprises and of the resistance. Boomerang protests, as it’s revealed that the figure is the Punisher – and he’s now apparently in the employ of Hydra.
Secret Empire #4 is due out on shelves June 14.