This week in AvX, the Phoenix does the unexpected, an alien robot reveals his maniacal plans, and Richard Nixon tries to take over the United States.
If you are new to the Super Reads brand experience, here's how this works: I read every Marvel Event comic book (in this case, Avengers vs. X-Men) and then I write a far too detailed, spoiler laden report on what happened within each comic. I give you a nutshell, flesh it out a little bit more with some bullet points, and then just dive right in with a far too detailed look at how everyone in comics is a moron. It is what you've always wanted in an internet article but were afraid to ask.
So I read the comics and then I write about them. It's something simple and easy that I attempt to make way too complicated.
This ain't my first rodeo. I've been covering Marvel events since Secret Invasion, back when I was a wide-eyed young fanboy with hope for the future. :) You can read about it all in the massive Super Reads section on the site.
We'll get to the comics in one small moment. First, we need to talk about a couple of things.
You see that thing flying towards the moon? That is the Phoenix Force. It has a wacky connection to all things Earth by interacting with any redhead special enough to get its attention. This is where I usually explain that the original Phoenix that showed up in the late seventies and died heroically at the end of the Dark Phoenix Saga WASN'T Jean Grey as was originally believed but was instead the Phoenix Force itself made manifest in a body that copied Jean's... but I've done that so much that I'm going to go into some other lesser known details.
Over in New Avengers, we get to see a past visitation to Earth by the Phoenix Force and what Leonardo da Vinci and the people of K'un Lun did to save the world. While the story hasn't been completed just yet, it looks like the Phoenix left Earth alone thanks to a red-headed, female Iron Fist that was able to channel the cosmic firebird's powers.
It appears that this was the last time the Phoenix Force visited Marvel Earth in it's full glory. "But WAIT!" you're saying, "Didn't you just get done describing part of the Dark Phoenix Saga where the Phoenix itself walked around in its best Jean Grey outfit?" I totally did and thanks for remembering something from two paragraphs up. According to the current editorial staff at Marvel, that and every other Phoenix appearance in a Marvel Comic was NOT the full Phoenix. It's just a partial Phoenix Experience. Like buying the album instead of seeing a band live in concert... if the band is particularly known for the their live performances.
I flunked metaphors in college.
While we're talking confusing things that come from outer space, you might be asking yourself, "what the hell is Unit and why should I care?" Oh, brave comic book reader, I'm here to tell you exactly what the hell is Unit and I might even make you care. I make no guarantees.
Unit is an alien robot from a civilization determined to give the universe peace whether the rest of the universe wanted it or not. At one time, Unit was just one in a grand army of robots that were sent to alien worlds to pacify the population. This wasn't done by shooting sentient beings with laser eyes or anything. The robots just talked the population into submission. Unit has sort of subliminal speech that makes people do what he wants just by listening to him drone on.
Unit's peaceful creators weren't allowed to fulfill their plans for intergalactic peace and harmony. Some stellar civilizations banded together to fight back against the Units and their architects. As a result, every Unit but one was destroyed and so was the original peaceful civilization. The remaining Unit ended up in the custody of SWORD, the secret organization that monitors alien traffic around the globe. Agent Brand (the head of SWORD) used the captured Unit as a resource for information. She just had to watch what questions she asked the alien machine.
After a massive prison break, SWORD no longer had the facilities to contain Unit and made a special request for the robot to be incarcerated at the mutant island of Utopia. Brand believed that the X-Men were capable to keeping Unit under control but the alien machine had already compromised X-Men security before he had even arrived. Danger, the warden of the X-Brig, was already under Unit's power.
So what did the machine do while in X-Custody? It talked to Hope and influenced the Mutant Messiah's path in life. Muhahaha.
Avengers vs. X-Men #5
Writers: Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, & Jonathan Hickman
Script: Matt Fraction
Penciler: John Romita Jr.
Inker: Scott Hanna
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Click HERE to see Super Read Avengers vs. X-Men #4!
The issue in a nutshell:
The Phoenix Force arrives on the Moon just in time to witness the X-Men and the Avengers doing their best to kill each other without... KILLING each other. After Iron Man's Phoenix-Buster armor injures the Phoenix, it splits its powers and consciousness among every X-Man on the Moon who ISN'T Hope. The PhoeniX-Men fly off to Earth to change everything.
This issue by bullet points:
• X-Men vs. Avengers on the Moon.
• Hope realizes that she is losing control and asks Wolverine to kill her. Cyclops won't let the Canucklehead cause any fatalities.
• Tony Stark and Hank Pym finish work on the ugliest Iron Man suit ever made. They were in a rush.
• The Space Avengers get closer to the Moon.
• Professor Xavier and his son, Legion, feel the Phoenix Force get closer.
• Lei Kung the Thunderer, in K'un Lun, also realizes that the PF is closing in.
• The Scarlet Witch does magic... or she's just making pink spheres.
• Iron Man flies his boxy Phoenix-Buster armor up to bust a Phoenix.
• It's a pretty explosion.
• When the lights die down, the Avengers find themselves facing the X-Men once more. This time, the X-Men all have Phoenix suits on and special autotuned voices.
• Did I say all? I meant every X-Men BESIDES Hope Summers.
• The PhoeniX-Men fly back to Earth to make things "better."
This issue in EXTREME detail:
We left off last issue with two teams of super-heroes, squaring off on the Blue Area of the Moon. Their prize? Hope Summers, the Mutant Messiah and presumed next host for the Phoenix. This is crunch time, people. The Phoenix Force is almost here and Hope is already channelling more of its powers than she can handle.
As our resident narrator for this whole comic, Hope starts us off with a history lesson from World War II. It's about Thomas Ferebee, the bombadier aboard the B-29 Superfortress, Enola Gay, that dropped the atomic bomb, Little Boy, on Hiroshima. Hope remarks that no-one ever blamed Ferebee for the destruction of Hiroshima. People blame the bomb.
So the questions she poses to herself is: what is she? Is she the bombadier or the bomb? Does it matter?
As Hope engages this internal philosophical journey, the Avengers and the X-Men engage in an external super-battle. It's the typical match-ups. Cap versus Cyclops. Thing versus Namor. Rulk versus Colossus. Hawkeye versus Emma Frost. Black Widow versus Magik. OK, those last two are less than typical.
Hope blames herself for all of this and tries using the power of the Phoenix to stop all the pointless fighting. The resulting cosmic blast certainly DOES stop the fighting if only temporarily but it also demonstrates to Hope that she doesn't have the least bit of control over the Phoenix's powers. It's time for plan "B."
That's the plan where Hope asks Wolverine to kill her. Logan recently discovered that he had no interest in killing teenage girls even if they DID pose a threat to all life on Earth. Still, once his vocal cords grow back (he was almost at the center of Hope's cosmic explosion), he tells her that he'll at least give it the ol' college try.
Before Wolverine can get his slice and dice on, a concussive blast interferes with any attempted killing. Cyclops isn't about to let Hope die. Not now.
As the AvX battle heats up once more, we journey a mile or so away from the action to the portable lab of Tony Stark and Hank Pym. They are using the data gathered by the Space Avengers to build something that just MIGHT be capable of destroying the Phoenix Force. Time is running out, though, so Tony is about to launch this device before it's been properly tested.
Oh, the "device" is an Iron Man armor. It. Is. Hideous. The most boxy thing you'll ever see. We get a full page shot of the suit and I still can't tell what it's supposed to look like. Except ugly.
Anyway, Tony pilots the giant armor from its chest. He does this while wearing his usual armor. Double armor.
Back at the Blue Area of the Moon, the Avengers are fighting the X-Men. This time, they've forgotten to care about Hope and are just lost in the battle. The matchups I listed above are the same ones happening here except Cyclops has to fend off both Captain America AND Wolverine. This earns the X-Men Leader a slice to his ribs.
All the while, the Phoenix Force continues to get closer. In orbit around the Moon, the Space Avengers are flying down to join the party. The team is missing the Protector, possibly because of the what happens in the related Avengers comic.
In Ibiza, Spain, Professor Charles Xavier and his son, Legion, both feel the damning approach of the Phoenix. In K'un Lun, Lei Kung the Thunderer is also aware that the Phoenix Force is making another visitation. At an undisclosed location, the Scarlet Witch is using her magic/mutant power for an undisclosed reason but things don't seem to be doing what she wants them to do.
Back on the Moon, the Phoenix Buster Iron Man armor launches and soars right up for a confrontation with the cosmic firebird. In the middle of the AvX brawl, Captain America makes one last plea for Cyclops to stand down and allow the Avengers to take Hope off-Moon.
Cyclops' response is on the crazy side. He's all about saving the whole mutant race and sees Hope and the Phoenix as the only way that this could possibly be accomplished. Scott them goes on to accuse the Avengers of attempting to wipe out mutantkind by their actions.
This is obviously not Scott Summers' shining character moment but the rest of the X-Men stand by him anyway.
Meanwhile, Iron Man has gotten WAY closer to the Phoenix Force than anyone should be comfortable with. He fires off a Disruptor Beam and the sky lights up.
During all of this insane explosive goodness, our happy little narrator (Hope) tells us that she had lived her entire life believing that she was the next host for the Phoenix. The problem with that was that when the time came, she decided that she didn't WANT to be the next Phoenix host. It turns out that feeling was mutual...
OK. The glowing attack has stopped. Captain America tries to get back on his feet while also checking on the rest of his team. It appears that all of the Avengers are bloodied up but otherwise fine. Well, Wolverine looks like he has to grow back his eyes but that's just because Logan can take an infinite amount of damage so the writers will always injure him FAR more than anyone else in the comic. Up in orbit, Iron Man asks Cap if the Phoenix was destroyed. Tony can't see it, that's for certain.
That's because it's no longer a cosmic firebird of doom.
That's right. Cyclops, Emmar Frost, Namor, Colossus, and Magik have all been upgraded to Phoenix host. The only one NOT upgraded was Hope.
The five PhoeniX-Men (yes, I'm sticking with that as their name) announce their plans for healing the world while they wait for Hope to heal. When she's done healing up, Hope will get the Phoenix powers and restore the mutant race. It'll all be perfect or something.
The bloodied Avengers get ready to put the PhoeniX-Men down but they don't even get a chance. With a wave of his hand, Cyclops knocks the whole team of Earth's Mightiest Heroes off their feet. With that casual display of power done, the Phoenix charged X-Men fly off of the Moon and set their sights on the planet Earth.
Uncanny X-Men #13
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Penciler: Billy Tan
Inkers: Cam Smith & Craig Yeung
Editor: Nick Lowe
Click HERE to see Super Read Uncanny X-Men #12!
The issue in a nutshell:
Magneto, Psylocke, Storm, and Dr. Nemesis meet at the X-Diaspora Assembly Point and await whatever is going to happen in AvX #5. Generation Hope meets Unit on Utopia and learns how the alien robot is manipulating events. Before they can act on this information, Danger attacks and defeats them all. They are left on the beach with no recollection of their encounter with Unit.
This issue by bullet points:
• Magneto, Psylocke, Storm, and Dr. Nemesis rendezvous at the X-Diaspora Assembly Point and discuss how they can't affect anything in Avengers vs. X-Men #5.
• Generation Hope teleport to Utopia, following advice from Hope to talk to Unit.
• Mags, Storm and company discuss their recent battles and then toast the X-Men fighting on the Moon.
• Unit tells Generation Hope that Phoenix visitations happen when a messiah and her five acolytes channel the power of the Phoenix to reverse a threat to the natural order of things.
• Since Generation Hope is made up of Hope's "five lights," the team wonders why THEY aren't on the Moon. Unit tells them that he wanted to see what happened if the "acolytes" weren't present.
• Storm and Magneto realize that Danger is no longer at the X-Diaspora Assembly Point.
• That's because she's back on Utopia, fighting and winning against Generation Hope.
• The Phoenix shows up and is blasted by Iron Man's Disruptor Beam.
• Generation Hope wakes up on the beach with no recollection of their talk with Unit.
• The Avengers meet the PhoeniX-Men.
This issue in EXTREME detail:
This issue happens DURING the events of AvX #5 so periodically, we'll cut to the battle on the Moon and relive scenes that originally happened in that comic. For example, our story begins RIGHT before the Avengers and the X-Men start fighting each other.
And... now they've started.
While Cyclops brought most of his Extinction Team to the Moon, there are a few members that didn't make the teleport trip. One of those team members, the Master of Magnetism, Magneto, accompanies fellow X-Man, Psylocke, as the two gather at the rendezvous site (called the X-Diaspora Assembly Point) after their battle with the Avengers at Wundagore Mountain. Psylocke's arm is broken but we'll discuss that more later.
Greeting them are the only other two X-Men who have thus far arrived: Storm and Dr. Nemesis. Ororo is another member of the Extinction team. She explains that she and Dr. Nemesis were brought here by Danger, the final member of the Uncanny cast still on Earth. Danger is nowhere to be seen.
Dr. Nemesis won't be doing much sensible chatting in this issue because he's still fending off the effects from one of Black Widow's neurodarts.
Our earthbound X-Men talk about the rest of the Extinction team leaving for the Moon and wonder if there is a way that they can get there. The only other teleporting X-Man is Pixie, but the team lost track of her after the younger X-Men escaped from Avengers Academy. So now you know what happens during the Avengers Academy story arc. ;)
While the X-Men might not know where Pixie is, WE do. She and the rest of Generation Hope have teleported back to the mutant island of Utopia. This might seem to be a stupid move, like returning to the scene of the crime or something, but the team has a very good reason for coming home. Back in AvX #2, Hope had to beat most of the team up in order to escape the island. Before leaving, she left a note with her team that says...
For Generation Hope, that's a mission. The team teleports right into the X-Brig to have a chat with the alien robot.
Before Unit reveals his less-than-grand manipulations, let's go back to the X-Diaspora Assembly Point where the X-Men are talking about how they were all punked in various ways. Storm lost a fight to her husband, the Black Panther, in Wakanda and starts thinking maybe marriage wasn't such a great idea. Magneto talks about his son, Quicksilver, fighting against the X-Men at Mount Wundagore. Psylocke tells everyone that she was trying so hard to stop Pietro that the Red Hulk was able to walk right up to her and break her arm.
Thus ends the secret of Betsy's broken arm.
While Quicksilver, Wolverine, and the Beast have all sided with the Avengers, the assembled mutants are happy that some other long-time X-Men joined their side in the conflict. That would be Iceman, Angel, and Rachel Grey-Summers. Magneto mentions that even with the help of the Jean Grey School faculty, it still boiled down to five X-Men on the Moon. The X-Men toast Cyclops, Emma Frost, Namor, Colossus, and Magik.
Back on Utopia, Unit begins to tell Generation Hope what he knows about the Phoenix. First, he vaguely goes over how a typical Phoenix experience goes. The Phoenix arrives, takes a host, death and rebirth happens and Marvel makes a premium on trade paperback sales. This visit is far from typical.
It all boils down to the Phoenix Force existing to prevent universal wrongs. The example he gives is of a demon world where the Demon Princelings in charge cast a spell that prevents evolution. This lasts long enough for a "messiah" to emerge and recruit five acolytes. Together, they called down the Phoenix and free their world from the Demon Princelings' incantations.
If that's the example that best describes THIS visitation (where we substitute a spell that stunts evolution and replace it with one that gets rid of most of the world's mutant population), then you probably noticed the variable that Unit is changing. In the example, the "messiah" had five acolytes that were their to assist her when summoning and utilizing the Phoenix. Hope is on the Moon without her own "acolytes."
Generation Hope. Five lights. Sure, one of the lights is dead and another is off at the Jean Grey School but three of them are right here and Idie would be easy enough to reach if necessary. Unit led Hope away from that plan because he wanted to see what would happen if the Lights weren't there.
Gen Hope throws insults at Unit for breaking the loosely based plan that he observed while watching a world a few billion years ago. Unit apologizes because he kind of liked Hope but, y'know, science and stuff.
We return to the X-Diaspora Assembly Point where Magneto has come up with another idea for reaching the Moon. Danger should be able to alter her form into a spaceship, right? So all they need is Danger. Where is that rascal, anyway? Didn't she bring Storm and Dr. Nemesis here? It turns out Ororo doesn't know WHERE Danger got off to.
Again, something the X-Men DON'T know turns into something we DO know. Danger is on Utopia. In the X-Brig. Shooting the poor members of Generation Hope right in the middle of their hasty plan to join Hope on the Moon. The kids don't stand a chance. Neither does Danger. This isn't HER idea. Unit has all the control. At least he's allowing Danger to apologize as she's shooting mutants.
When the last Light falls, Unit leaves Danger to "tidy up."
On the Moon, the Phoenix has gotten close enough for Iron Man to shoot with his Disruptor Beam. At the X-Diaspora Assembly Point, Psylocke screams as she telepathically senses the Phoenix Force's proximity to Earth in much the same way as AvX #5 showed Xavier and Legion's reactions. After Iron Man hits the Phoenix, Psylocke calms right down. While she doesn't know what's happened, Betsy DOES know that the fighting on the Moon is over so they don't have to concern themselves with getting off-planet anymore.
On the beach of Utopia, the members of Generation Hope wake up after their brutal battle with Danger. Unit has implanted false memories, erasing their entire meeting with him or any memory of Hope's note to visit the alien robot. Danger wonders why Unit would spare the Lights and Unit explains that he doesn't quickly jump to violence. He's didn't have any reason to kill these kids so they get a brief moment of peace before the events on the Moon changes everything forever.
Or at least the next six months following the event.
One last cut to the Moon, where the Phoenix is being hosted by five X-Men.
Captain America and the Falcon #174
Writers: Steve Englehart
Penciler: Sal Buscema
Inker: Vince Colletta
Editor: Roy Thomas
The issue in a nutshell:
Captain America and the Falcon infiltrate Secret Empire HQ in disguise but no one is actually fooled. After escaping a couple death traps, the heroes are joined by the remaining X-Men and they all free the Secret Empire's captured mutants. In another confrontation with the Secret Empire, the heroes are killed by a death ray.
The issue by bullet points:
• In secret hobo disguises, Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson make their way into Secret Empire Headquarters and gain an audience with the Empire's Number One.
• After the two are locked in their room, Falcon saves them both from death by lasers when he gets a premonition that they're about to be killed.
• The two heroes evade capture and fight a robot before meeting up with Professor Xavier, Cyclops, and Marvel Girl. Xavier explains that he was speaking into Sam's mind because the Falcon is more sensitive to telepathy and may possibly be a mutant. Maybe.
• Moonstone woos the United States by appearing on a morning talk show.
• Captain America and company free the Secret Empire's captured mutants. Professor X learns what Angel and the Beast have been up to before being captured.
• Steve and Sam are telekinetically lifted by Marvel Girl straight to Professor Xavier, who explains that they share a common foe and it's a good idea to team up against them.
The issue in EXTREME detail:
We covered the first two chapters to this story arc last week but let's do a little recapping. Captain America is wanted for crimes he didn't commit, framed by the Secret Empire. It turns out the Secret Empire is also capturing mutants for some nefarious purpose. To figure out what the Secret Empire is up to, Captain America and the Falcon disguise themselves as vagrants and attempt to join the secretive group. Their initiation ritual is stealing the Electron-Gyro from the Brand Corporation. Our heroes do this in full super-hero costume, ensuring that someone will report their true identities and report them back to the SE. Still, everything seems to be going according to plan. Steve and Sam are led to the Secret Empire's Headquarters by Number 13.
After being led down deep into the evil organization's base, the disguised Captain America and Falcon are brought before the Secret Empire's leader, Number 1. He is pleased that these two hobos have stolen the last device needed to complete his masterplan for taking over the nation. Yeah, this guy is pretty loose with information considering the situation.
Number 1 mentions how great the Watergate Scandal was to their plans. The Secret Empire has been building dissent for all things America and stuff like that just plays into their little hands. His organization ruined Cap's reputation only to replace the Star-Spangled Hero with their own false hero, Moonstone. Rogers has the good sense not to be taking notes during all this monologuing.
When Number 1 is finished talking, Steve and Sam are led to their quarters. No sooner do they enter than the two heroes are locked in. Steve just thinks that the Secret Empire takes their security seriously but Sam is getting a bad feeling about this. He demands they get into their hero costumes and then the two look for a place to hide. After they find a crawl space to sneak into, the room explodes with deadly laser fire. A narrow escape.
The heroes continue their trek between the walls as the room erupts with members of the Secret Empire. Linda Donaldson is there. So is Mr. Black. You remember Mr. Black, right? He's the Factory Boss at Brand Corporation that told his men not to contact the authorities after Captain America stole the Electron-Gyro from the facilities. It turns out he was working for the Secret Empire and reported the incident to his master.
And the moral of the story is: When you are under cover trying to infiltrate a secret organization, don't change into your hero costume when completing your initiation. If you make this mistake, DEFINITELY don't leave a NOTE DESCRIBING WHAT YOU ARE DOING FOR ANYONE TO READ.
There's another Secret Empire guy in the room. His name is Number 68. It is this member who finds the tunnels in the wall through which our heroes escaped.
Alarms sound throughout the base. While Captain America and the Falcon evade capture, we move to the surface where we find the remaining members of the X-Men. Falcon's strange premonition that saved his and Steve Rogers' life was sent straight from Professor Xavier. He's swimming through the minds of the Secret Empirers to try and find the world's missing mutants and learned of their plan to murder Cap and Falc. Warnings given, Prof X gets back to his primary task of locating the captured mutants.
Back inside the Secret Empire's base, Captain America and the Falcon have avoided capture long enough to run right into a giant robot. Using teamwork and fighting skills, the two heroes destroy the robot within two pages. Once more Falcon is led by a telepathic impulse. This time, it's a strange desire to open a nearby door. Once the door is open, Professor Xavier, Cyclops, and Marvel Girl emerge. It appears they found an air shaft and followed it down into the base.
Xavier explains that he was speaking to Sam Wilson through telepathy and that the Falcon has a "paranormal mind." Falc wonders if this means he's a mutant but Xavier doesn't draw any conclusions at the moment. It IS left open as a possibility, however.
Let's take a break from the Secret Empire Base and travel to the magical world of morning talk shows. It is here that we find the Secret Empire's chosen hero, working the public with the help of publicist, Quentin Harderman. The Secret Empire's plan is going swimmingly.
OK, let's go back to our heroes as they discover the world's missing mutants!
Angel, Iceman, Beast, Mastermind, Unus the Untouchable, Lorna Dane, Havok, and Mesmero are all connected to a strange disc. On a nearby table, the Blob is also incapacitated. A device is connected to each of their heads and is sucking out their special mutant brain power for some horrible hidden purpose. Our heroes waste no time freeing the captured mutants.
The freed mutants are still too groggy to be moved. Xavier uses his telepathy to look into Angel's mind and discover what the winged X-Man has been up to since he went missing. Back before the events of Avengers #'s 110 and 111, Magneto attacked Warren and stole Angel's costume. While Magneto's plan played out in Avengers, Warren woke up alone, wearing his original X-Men costume for unexplained reasons. He was flying around the mansion, looking for his missing teammates when a blast of energy led to his capture by the Secret Empire.
So it's not much of a story but now you know what Warren has been up to.
Beast's story is pretty similar but involves less explanation. Hank was just running through the woods when he faced the same type of energy blast.
Before the captured mutants have fully recovered, the Secret Empire discovers our heroes and a giant fight begins! The Secret Empirers don't have a chance to beat our combined heroes in a fist fight, especially when Cyclops and Marvel Girl bring their mutant powers into the picture.
That's why Number 1 orders Number 68 to bring in the ATOMIC ANNIHILATOR!!!. After one blast from this super-weapon, Captain America, Falcon, Cyclops, Marvel Girl, and Professor Xavier are defeated. More than that, Number 1 declares them...
Captain America and the Falcon #175
Writer: Steve Englehart
Penciler: Sal Buscema
Inker: Vince Colletta
Editor: Roy Thomas
The issue in a nutshell:
The Secret Empire launch their flying saucer and send them straight to Washington D.C. in a bid to conquer the United States. Thanks to a little help from Captain America and friends, the Secret Empire's bid for national dominance fails and Cap is cleared of all charges against him. With his bid for ultimate power ended, Number 1 is unmasked and vaguely revealed as the President of the United States. Then he kills himself.
The issue by bullet points:
• It turns out Capitain America and his companions weren't actually dead. Number 68 reveals himself as Gabe Jones of SHIELD.
• The Secret Empire fly their mutant powered flying saucer to Washington D.C.
• Moonstone, fresh from a favorable Congressional Hearing, watches as history lands on the White House lawn.
• Number 1 demands the unconditional surrender of the United States. When the military shoots at the saucer, it proves shielded.
• Moonstone throws a fight against the Secret Empire's Number 2 and then announces to the nation that the Secret Empire is totally capable of destroying the United States if the country doesn't surrender.
• Captain America, Falcon, Cyclops, and Marvel Girl stage a successful counter attack from within the Secret Empire's saucer.
• Moonstone admits on live television that he and Quentin Harderman were playing public opinion against the Star-Spangled Avenger. Cap is cleared of every charge against him.
• Number 1 makes a run for it right into the Oval Office where he is unmasked JUST off-panel.
• Revealed to be one of "High Political Office," Number 1 announces that his plans to conquer the nation have failed so he gleefully commits suicide.
• Captain America is sad.
The issue in EXTREME detail:
With Captain America, Falcon, Cyclops, Marvel Girl, and Professor Xavier killed in the line of duty at the end of last issue, you're probably wonder what crazy twist saves them from death. You get to wonder for three pages as the Secret Empire's Number 1 lords his victory over the corpses of our fallen heroes. He congratulates Number 68 for a successful kill and then the bodies are carried unceremoniously to the SE HQ basement to rot.
It's only then that Cap and friends are revealed to be only MOSTLY dead. You see, MOSTLY dead is slightly ALIVE. When Captain America starts breathing again and regains consciousness, he finds himself staring right up at his murderer, Number 68. The SE minion pulls off his mask and reveals himself to be Gabe Jones, a secret SHIELD Agent in deep, deep cover. With him in a mask of her own is Peggy Carter. Peggy was one of Captain America's romantic interests during World War II and at the time was Sharon Carter's WAY older sister (this has since been retconned to make her Sharon's aunt).
As a bonus side story, Peggy still thinks she has a romantic relationship with Captain America (she doesn't know his secret identity) even though Steve only has eyes for Sharon. Cap is too chicken to tell Peggy that he isn't in to older women.
While Steve Rogers recovers from his near fatal experience, Gabe fills everyone in on the history of the Secret Empire and how he originally toppled the organization. We all know that you can't actually destroy groups like this so it came as a surprise to no one that the Secret Empire returned under new management. Gabe once again infiltrated the group and brought in Peggy when his cover was firmly established.
Gabe leaves Captain America and Peggy alone so they can have one sad, uncomfortable moment and we head up a few levels to find out what the Secret Empire is up to.
Here's one of the most ridiculous, convoluted master plans you can get without diving headlong into a Silver Age comic. Remember all of those captured mutants from last issue? They have since been REcaptured after Captain America's jailbreak. Their very special function? Their mutant brains power up the Secret Empire's flying saucer. They also provide an impenetrable forcefield. So that's nice.
The flying saucer is going to fly right up to Washington D.C., land in the White House lawn, and demand that the nation surrender to the Secret Empire. When the American Military tries to blow the ship up, the forcefield will keep it intact. It's at this point that Moonstone, fresh from a Congressional Hearing and America's Number One super-hero for at least the last three days, will make an "attempt" to stop the Secret Empire. He will, of course, throw the fight.
After being led inside the ship, Moonstone will deliver a few high fives for his awesome performance outside and will exit the ship to reveal to the American people that the Secret Empire has the nation by the short hairs so we might as well surrender. Number 1 will throw in his two cents, informing the live news cameras that his Sanitation Squad has been all over the nation, planting atomic bombs in all the major U.S. cities.
And I guess we'll just give up then. I mean, they beat Moonstone and told us about some nuclear bombs that might actually be in place. And, hey, they flew into Washington D.C. in a flying saucer! That's scary or something.
This plays out pretty much exactly like I've written it. Sadly, it seems to be working. Fortunately, there are some heroes who have not yet begun to fight. Gabe Jones and Peggy Carter brought a few presumed dead stowaways along for the ride. When Captain America and company are let out of their hiding place, the team head straight for the ship's Master Control Room. The heroes defeat the SE members in the MCR in exactly one panel. This not only takes away the Secret Empire's access to their armory but with a few torn wires, Cyclops cuts off access to any mutant brain energy.
Leaving Falcon, Cyclops, and Marvel Girl to take on the rest of the ship and get intel on the atomic bombs supposedly placed around the country, Captain America heads outside the ship to deliver some much deserved payback.
Number 1 is taken out in short, satisfying order. The Secret Empire's boss was never expecting Captain America to still be alive, let alone aboard his flying saucer. The Avenger tackles the villain while Number 1 is still cackling in triumph.
Moostone is another story. This is a guy who has defeated Cap without even breaking a sweat. Even when Steve brought the Falcon for back-up, Moonstone had their number. His powers make him more than a match for the patriotic hero.
Oh, who am I kidding? Captain America creams the bad guy. It isn't even a contest at this time. The narration explains it away with a line about how "Captain America has spirit" or some such garbage but the truth is this is an endgame fight so the villains have to lose.
More than that, Captain America has to be found innocent of any charges laid against him. When Quentin Harderman tries his damndest to make out like an unwitting pawn in the Secret Empire's grand schemes, Moonstone not only outs his partner as a willing participant in the SE's master plan, he also admits that they raked Captain America's good name through the mud even though our hero was innocent. This all happens on live national television so it's reached the broadest audience possible.
For the next five seconds, everything is awesome. Cap is recognized as one of the good guys again. The mutants have been freed from the Secret Empire. SHIELD has started rounding up the members of the Sanitation Squad to assure that no nuclear bombs will go off in any American cities.
Ruining the moment, Number 1 wakes up to find no one has placed him into custody yet. He makes a break for it, racing right into the White House with Captain America right on the villain's heels. After a short chase, Steve Rogers not only captures Number 1, he also unmasks the bad guy. While we don't see the face of Number 1 on panel, we do get a hint that he's a man who hold a high political office. And this is right in the middle of the Watergate Scandal. And we're in the White House. Possibly the Oval Office.
Have you connected the dots? It's Richard Millhouse Nixon. Steve Englehart has confirmed it. Apparently, Marvel Nixon was so mad for power that he wanted absolute control of the United States of America. Since all of his well laid plans have failed, President Richard Nixon decides to end it all with a bullet to the brain. Captain America is so stunned that he doesn't even have a chance to stop the President's suicide.
Despite all of this, Richard M. Nixon lived to the ripe old age of 81, dying on April 22, 1994. He never made any other attempts to rule over the United States with an iron fist. Unless you count Futurama.
This revelation and suicide is covered up by the government so that no other cast member actually knows what happened inside the White House besides Captain America. It rocks Steve Rogers so much that he quits being Captain America at the end of the next issue and eventually steps into a new super-hero persona: Nomad. The Man Without a Country.
The X-Men would go back into comic book limbo for another year except for a phone call Steve makes to the X-Mansion in Captain America and the Falcon #183. He has a short conversation with the Beast while trying to figure out what's happened to his partner, the Falcon. The call is an interesting callback to Falcon possibly being a mutant (mentioned for the first time in THIS issue) but otherwise is unnecessary for the plot of that book. It's just one of Steve Rogers' failed leads.
And that's where we get to end things for today! Thanks for reading all the way through!
Until next time: Have a good week!