Secret Empire United #1

Issue Date: 
August 2017
Story Title: 

Jim Zub (writer), Ario Anindito (artist), Java Tartaglia (colorist), Virtual Calligraphy's Joe Caramagna (letterer), Ryan Stegman & Jesus Aburtov (cover artists), Rafael Albuquerque (variant cover artist), Carlos Lao (production designer), Charles Beacham (editor), Tom Brevoort (executive editor), Axel Alonso (editor-in-chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)

Brief Description: 

In New Tian, the new mutant state, humans who supposedly live side by side with mutants are attacked by the local constabulary when a mutant makes false claim against one of them. Several mutants – Sunfire, Random and Frenzy – under the influence of an external force, drive to the border of the Hydra Nation and attack Hydra officers in an attempt to take down the fascist regime. Superior Octopus is on hand to quell the chaos though, and although Frenzy and Random escape, Sunfire is taken prisoner and the border is secured. Steve Rogers, Supreme Leader of Hydra meets with his high council and they discuss the mutant problem. Zola is addamant that the border is not secure and that the mutants should be dealt with. The high council debates for some time, but Rogers does not want to see the peace they have secured crumble. Xorn, ruler of New Tian, meets with his own advisors – Beast, Archangel and Sebastian Shaw, and they too debate their options after this rebellion. Xorn wants Sunfire brought to him so that he can determine who put him up to the attack, or kill him. Shaw assembles a team including Boom-Boom, Magik, Strong Guy and Marrow to break into the Hydra prison to rescue Sunfire, however their cover is blown, and are attacked by the Hydra Avengers. During the battle, Sunfire is freed, which turns the tide in favor of the mutants. The Hydra High Council meet again, and Zola encourages Rogers to retaliate against the mutants, but Rogers announces he is going to meet with Hank McCoy in person. They meet on the border of New Tian and the Hydra Nation, and Rogers agrees to meet with Xorn in New Tian. The Beast leaves the throne room, and Rogers tells Emma Frost that she can come out of hiding now. Rogers believes Emma was controlling the mutants who attacked the border, but she reveals to him that it was actually Zola and Faustus from his own High Council who influenced the actions of the mutants. Rogers tells Emma that he will deal with it, and Emma responds by informing him that she looks forward to the continued prosperity between their countries. But when Rogers leaves, Emma holds a glowing blue gem, and is clearly put out by the mutants being relegated to their own nation. Rogers returns to meet with his High Council and tells his members that they must all know their place and serve, or be destroyed for the betterment of the nation.

Full Summary: 

The Sovereign Republic of New Tian – the new mutant state:
The cloudy night sky covers the city, where mutants and humans alike live together. A billboard depicts Xorn and his inner circle – the Beast, Archangel and Sebastian Shaw, while a recorded messages announces 'King Xorn and his advisors have built a country where mutant and humans live peacefully – side by side and arm in arm... looking toward a brighter future'.

Two mutants look at a human, who does not make eye contact with them. Nearby, another mutant suddenly knocks a human off his motorcycle. 'Mutants are in charge now, humie! Get used to it!' the mutant exclaims, while the human clutches his stomach. Two police officers wearing leather jackets with large a large yellow X on them approach the situation and ask what is going on. 'Oh, thank God! Officer he... he's trying to kill me!' the human calls out as he gets back to his feet. Innocently, the mutant claims that the human started it. 'I was minding my own business when he called me a “gene joke” and tried to run me down' the mutant explains.

'That's a lie! Why would I do that? I never touched him!' the human protests. One of the officers asks the mutant if he feels his life was in danger, and the mutant announces that he absolutely did, while the other officer restrains the human, informing him that threatening a mutant with violence is a class three offense, so he is placing him under arrest. 'Owww!' the human complains as his arm is twisted by the officer. 'No, don't!' he tells him, while the officer informs the human that if he resists, he will respond with restraining force. A van with a large banana on it drives past the situation, and on through New Tian. 'Drive to the border' a man wearing sunglasses and a scarf around his mouth and nose remarks quietly. 'Stay inconspicuous' the driver replies quietly.

At the border, Hydra soldiers monitor the cars approaching the checkpoint, which indicates “Hydra Nation” on the signage. A recording informs drivers that they are entering Hydra Nation territory and are bound by the treaties signed between the two countries. The recording indicates that all visitors must submit to mandatory inspection before being cleared to continue, and that refusal to comply may result in being turned back or detained. 'Do not engage until you arrive' someone in the van utters quietly. The recording then states that M-gene actives are not allowed in Hydra territory. 'What is the purpose of your visit?' a Hydra officer asks a man who passes through a scanner, and replies 'Business'. The Hydra agent asks him if he carries the M-gene or has immediate family with mutant abilities, to which the man replies that he doesn't. The recorded message then instructs visitors to have their identification ready and comply with border security to expedite the inspection process.

One of the Hydra agents then opens the back door of the van, and three mutants burst from the van, 'DEATH TO HYDRA!' shouts Shiro Yoshida a.k.a. Sunfire as he burns several Hydra agents. Humans run in fear, while Marshall Evan Stone III a.k.a Random fires a powerful blast from his hand which he has materialized as a large weapon, and Joanna Cargill a.k.a. Frenzy just looks like her usual angry self as she grabs a Hydra agent and slams him hard into the border patrol office. 'Down with the fascist regime!' she exclaims. Random starts firing at the Hydra Nation signs and declares that mutants are the future, while Sunfire spreads his powerful flame around the area and exclaims that they will not be silenced, and will not surrender. 'We -' Sunfire begins, when suddenly, a mechanical tendril slams into his face, courtesy of Superior Octopus.

'What you will do is stop your incessant chanting! Now, yield or be brought down in a most painful manner' Superior Octopus warns the mutants. Random opens fire at Superior Octopus, who deflects the fire with his tendrils. 'We will not surrender!' Random boasts. 'Suit yourselves, you fools' Superior Octopus replies, before extending his tendrils, and using them to punch Random. 'I'm happy to test the strength of my new tentacle array against your stupidity...and show you why I am the Superior Octopus' the agent of Hydra declares as his tendrils slam Random into the ground. 'Death to Hydra!' Sunfire calls out as he flies towards Superior Octopus, who swiftly extends his tendrils, slamming Sunfire backwards as he mutters that his genius is wasted slugging it out with z-listers and crackpots. 'Give me a real challenge!' he demands.

'Do not let yourself get captured' Frenzy utters to herself as she tosses a Hydra agent aside with ease. She then helps the fallen Random to his feet, and she speeds away, carrying him as she escapes, knocking a car into the air. One of the Hydra agents asks Superior Octopus if they should pursue. 'No. Let her flee back into the arms of her mutant brethren... we have what we need' Superior Octopus replies as he looks down at Sunfire. Several Hydra agents gather around as a car that is alight blazes before them at the demolished border, and Superior Octopus announces that the border is secure.

Meanwhile, at the Hydra High Council Chambers-
'The border is not secure!' Arnim Zola exclaims as he slams a fist on the table that he and other diabolical beings sit around. They are the Hive, Kraken, Doctor Faustus, Viper, Madame Hydra, Helmut Zemo and Steve Rogers, the Supreme Leader of Hydra. Zola declares that Xorn and the mutants of New Tian are a threat. 'We must not back down from their insolence!' he tells the rest of the Council. Zola adds that he saw firsthand what mutants thought of them when he travelled there with Faustus to negotiate trade and energy treaties – they are saber-rattling and preparing for war. 'With a show of force, you'll look weak and cowardly' Zola tells Steve Rogers. Madame Hydra gets to her feet and snaps 'How dare you speak to your Supreme Leader in such a fashion! I will -' she begins, but Steve Rogers calmly tells everyone to stay seated, and that there will be no violence. He adds that Zola is free to voice his opinion.

Zemo tells Rogers that Zola's tone is melodramatic, but that he seems to be correct. Zemo informs Rogers that the mutant prisoner they captured has already made a statement to the press, and it is damning to say the least. 'Roll 212...' Zemo orders, and footage appears on a screen above the conference table, where a reporter states that when asked about his role in the attack, Mr Yoshida, also known as “Sunfire” was quite direct. The footage shows Sunfire wearing a prison jumpsuit and led down a corridor by Hydra agents, before he turns to the camera and declares that this is only the beginning, and that mutants will not stay in a forced reservation. 'Mutants will destroy the Hydra Nation!' Sunfire adds that when mutants are victorious, human bodies will litter the street. Someone ends the playback. 'We get the point' they remark.

Viper asks if there has been any formal response from Xorn or his representatives, to which Kraken states that they claim no responsibility for the attack, but are also not condemning it. Doctor Faustus suggests that it is either an insurgent group within New Tian or a sanction strike meant to test their resolve before launching a full-scale assault. He adds that regardless of the source, they must respond. Still calm, Rogers tells the Council that they will not retaliate with force – not yet. He then instructs Helmut to beef up border security and double the numbers of Dreadnought patrols throughout the region. 'As you command' Zemo replies, while Viper and Madame Hydra appear surprised. Steve Rogers then announces that Sunfire's trial will play out in the public eye, that the footage of his attack will be more than enough to put him away for life and brand the mutant movement as terrorists.

Kraken suggests that striking a balance between security and benevolence is the key. 'Preposterous! You expose our belly to the enemy! What kind of insane -' Zola begins, but Kraken tells him to watch his tone. Rogers grits his teeth and reminds his Council that they already fought one war to get where they are and points out that it cost all of them a great deal of pain and suffering. He assures them that he will not see the peace they worked so hard to achieve crumble over something like this. 'Let's hope New Tian feels the same...' Rogers adds.

At that moment, in Xorn's throne room in New Tian, Xorn, the King of New Tian, sits on his throne, with several of his advisors around him – Warren Worthington III a.k.a. Archangel, Henry McCoy a.k.a. The Beast and Sebastian Shaw. They watch another recording, where a reporter states that Mr Yoshida's trial date is being fast-tracked to ensure justice prevails throughout the Hydra Nation. 'A fascinating turn of events' Xorn tells the others. 'You say “fascinating”, I say “horrifying”. They're using it as a PR stunt while we take the blame' the Beast replies. Archangel reports that there has been a sudden spike of violence on the streets of New Tian and that tension is rising at an alarming  rate among humans and mutants in a way he can't account for.

Shaw tells the others that of course people are angry – they are neighbors with a country run by a super-soldier tyrant. 'If Hydra wants to make us the enemy, I say we oblige them... rip their fascist hearts out' Shaw declares.

The Beast admits that Shiro has a short fuse, but remarks that this attack doesn't make sense. 'Why would he throw his life away for such a petty symbolic gesture? Whom does it benefit?' the Beast wonders. Shaw suggests that they ask Sunfire's accomplices, and enquires as to whether there has been any sign of Frenzy or Random. 'Nothing' Archangel reports. The Beast realizes that if Shiro spouts more “down with Hydra” rhetoric on the stand, things will get ugly. He tells the others that he could attempt to negotiate Shiro's release so they could try him here for his crimes, but realizes that then they will look culpable. Hank adds that he hates all of this, and declares that he just wants to keep people safe any way he can.

Xorn tells his advisors that whether Shiro did this of his own accord or was manipulated into it, they cannot let Hydra control the narrative, and announces that they must send in a team to bring him back. 'The Sleepers and I an pierce their defenses and -' Archangel offers, but Xorn interrupts him: 'No. you are too visibly associated with New Tian's leadership. The risk outweighs the reward' he explains, before turning to Shaw. 'My liege?' Shaw responds. Xorn instructs him to assemble a team of capable-but-expendable mutants for this mission, and informs him that he will strike tonight. 'Bring Sunfire to me so I can determine who put him up to this, or kill him myself...' Xorn orders.

Soon, Sebastian Shaw stands before four frowning mutants – Illyana Rasputin a.k.a. Magik, Tabitha Smith a.k.a. Boom-Boom, Guido Carosella a.k.a. Strong Guy and the woman known only as Sarah a.k.a. Marrow. Shaw tells them that “Stealth” is their watchword, and that they must procure Sunfire from the holding facility where he is being kept and escape without being seen. 'Sounds good to me, but how're we s'posed to be sneaky with Big Guy here walking around?' Boom-Boom asks, motioning to Guido. 'The name's “Strong Guy”. “Big Guy” is my second cousin' Guido jokes. Shaw looks at Magik and explains that is why she will be accompanying them. Magik smiles and reports that the force field Hydra put around the Earth has blocked her ability to teleport them to their target, but that she has got other useful spells at her disposal.

A circle of flame suddenly surrounds Magik's feet as she utters 'Alignment corrected, and presence protected, with these ancient wards, my friends undetected'. An instant later, everyone finds themselves with a transparent appearance. 'Well, that's creepy' Strong Guy remarks. Boom-Boom and Marrow examine their own bodies, while Magik tells everyone to stay close to her that they will be fine.

Shortly, in the Hydra detention facility, level 8 – maximum security. 'Geez... this kinda feels like cheating' Strong Guy tells the others as they walk past several Hydra agents undetected. 'All that matters are results' Shawreplies. Locating Sunfire's cell, Shaw tells Guido that once he smashes in the door, the entire facility will go on high alert, so they need to grab Shiro and get out of here as quickly as possible. 'You got it' Strong Guy replies. Readying a plasma time-bomb, Boom-Boom announces that she will make sure there are plenty of distractions to keep these bozos busy. 'Here goes...' Strong Guy begins, as he pulls his fist back – but as he is about to smash the door down a voice calls out, 'did you really think you could enter our lands unnoticed?' 'Oh crap' Magik mutters as she and the others lose their undetectability protection. 'I sensed your presence the instant you crossed the border, little demon...' Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. The Scarlet Witch, currently possessed by the spirit of Chthon, the Elder God of Evil, declares. She is flanked by several other members of Hydra's Avengers – Wade Wilson a.k.a. Deadpool, the android Vision and the Taskmaster.

Shaw instructs Guido to get Sunfire while the rest of them take care of this. 'Okie-dokie' Guido replies as he rips the wall open. Marrow holds two bone blades, while Magik readies her Soulsword and Boom-Boom is about to toss a time-bomb. 'Is this gonna be like one od those hot prison riot movies? I flipping love those!' Deadpool, currently following the orders of Steve Rogers, remarks. The Taskmaster, who works for the highest bidder – currently Hydra – goes over to Shaw and tells him that he doesn't know what Ren Faire he escaped from, and calling him “Mr Darcty” tells him that he is going down, as he slams his shield into Shaw's face. The Scarlet Witch levitates above Magik and tells Illyana that she shall enjoy destroying her and taking her soul weapon. 'Get stuffed, you old hag!' Illyana retorts as she uses her sword to deflect a magical blast that the Scarlet Witch throws towards her.

'Tick tick' Boom-Boom jokes as she throws two time-bombs at the Vision. 'Hey, no fair!' she complains when the Vision, who is currently under the control of Hydra, phases, and the plasma bombs pass right through him. The Vision tells the sassy mutant that she is trespassing on Hydra territory and that she should submit to authority or be rendered inert. 'Marrow?' Deadpool calls  out as he flips backwards, dodging her foot as she attempts to kick him. 'They must've been pretty hard up to get you on this mission... bone blades are soooo late 20th Century, amiright?' Deadpool exclaims as both of his swords clang against Marrow's bone blades. 'Shut up!' Marrow shouts. 'Sword and shield do not a warrior make!' Shaw declares as he uses excessive force, slamming Taskmaster back into a wall. He tells the mutants not to let their foes isolate them, and to switch opponents. 'Weak!' Deadpool utters as Marrow kicks him in the face, while she tosses a bone blade at the Scarlet Witch – striking Wanda in her back.

Magik leaps towards the Vision, Soulsword pointed at him while the states that attacking with physical weaponry is a pointless endeavor. 'By altering my molecular structure I can -' the Vision begins, but Magik isn't interested, she shoves her sword through his stomach, boasting 'My Soulsword is more powerful than your molecular hoo-ha!' she tells him, while the Vision states uttering the binary code over and over. Boom-Boom meanwhile grabs the back of Deadpool's pants and tosses several time-bombs into them. 'Whoa, lady! Deadpool exclaims. 'Pulling pants is against the super hero code of conduct, and -' he begins, while Boom-Boom remarks 'Tick tick -' and an instant later, the time-bombs explode. 'Uncool!' Deadpool calls out as he is blasted into the air.

'You fools will be punished for harming my physical vessel!' Chthon calls out through the Scarlet Witch, who reaches back and pulls the bone blade from her back. 'Maybe, but not today' Sunfire tells her as he emerges from his cell and blasts a fiery blaze at the Scarlet Witch, who screams. Taskmaster's eyes glow as he holds his sword and remarks 'That sucker punch was pretty good, pal, but now I'm ready for...for...ah, forget it' he decides as he sees the unimpressed mutants have regrouped and are ready for round two. The Taskmaster drops his weapons and tells the mutants to get out of here, as he is not being paid enough for this #$&%.

The next morning, the Hydra High Council are gathered around the meeting room table, and Steve Rogers grits his teeth. 'Run this by me again...give c-grade mutants broke into our high-security facility, handily defeated the Avengers and sprung Sunfire?' he asks, unimpressed. 'That's correct' Viper confirms, adding that the Scarlet Witch is currently healing through mystical means, and is just more angry than injured at this point, while the Vision is undergoing repairs as they speak, and Deadpool and Taskmaster have returned to active duty. 'This cannot be ignored, Rogers! We must retaliate and put these foul mutants in their place!' Zola declares. Steve Rogers gets to his feet and announces that he agrees. 'Finally!' Zola exclaims, before the Council look surprised as Rogers informs them that he is going to contact Hank McCoy and meet with Xorn in person.

Later, on the border of New Tian and the Hydra Nation, where Hydra soldiers have both of their hands in their air, inside a limo, Hank McCoy sits opposite Steve Rogers, who is dressed in his Captain America costume, instead of his green Hydra garb that he had been wearing earlier. The Beast tells Cap that it looks like he is spoiling for a fight. 'Astute as always, Hank' Steve replies, before the Beast asks how it got to this. 'Simple. You picked the wrong side' Steve tells him. Hank narrows his eyes and tells Steve that he can't mean that. 'Steve... it's Hydra' to which Cap points out that it is the better world they have been fighting for. Hank hangs his head and thinks on this.

Later still, Xorn sits motionless on his throne deep within New Tian. 'King Xorn' a voice calls out. 'Yes?' Xorn asks. 'I present to you Steve Rogers...Supreme Leader of the Hydra Nation' the Beast announces as he hangs back while Steve approaches Xorn. 'He...he insisted on meeting you alone' the Beast explains. 'How bold' Xorn comments as he stands up from his throne. Xorn tells Hank that he may leave. 'As you wish...' Hank replies, bowing as he closes the throne room doors. Steve remains silent as he looks up at Xorn who stands on the steps that lead to his throne. Neither man says anything, before Cap smirks and calls out 'You can come out now... Emma'.

The powerful psychic Emma Frost, wanted for crimes against mutants and Inhumans, steps out from behind the throne, which Xorn slumps back into, his head hanging forward, he says nothing as Emma tells Steve 'Walking right into the heart of my kingdom all by yourself... you're really pushing your luck, Mr Supreme Leader'.

Cap tells Emma that when she said she could secretly control Xorn and keep the mutant population in line, he wondered if she had bitten off more than she could chew. 'Now you think you can attack us and get away with it?' he asks. 'Not at all' Emma replies. Hands on hips, she admits that she did send a strike team to retrieve Sunfire, but that was only to confirm her suspicions about the cause of this clash between their sovereign nations. 'Look what I found buried deep within Shiro's mind' Emma remarks, projecting Shiro's memory of Doctor Faustus and Arnim Zola who gave Sunfire, Frenzy and Random the instructions to drive to the border and stay inconspicuous and not to engage until they arrived, where, once they met the target, they were to attack and with all their might cry forth “Death to Hydra” mutants fight for freedom. Down with the fascist regime”.

Cap watches the memory but says nothing. Emma tells him that he has wolves in his henhouse – two of his own, stoking the fire under the guise of diplomacy, trying to push them into a war. She suggests to Steve that he take care of them. 'It will be dealt with' Steve tells her. Emma switches to her diamond form as she tells Cap that she looks forward to continued trade and prosperity between their countries. 'As do I' Cap replies as he walks out of the throne room, the door clicking closed behind him. Emma puts a hand on Xorn's head, and remarks that “Captain Hydra” is always so smug – forcing mutants into a makeshift “kingdom”, trying to bar them from their inheritance. 'You think it's all under control. Just you wait...I'm full of surprises' Emma smirks, holding up a glowing blue stone.

Later, Captain America poses for a press-conference, where a  reporter announces that in confronting it head-on, their fearless leader has turned the tide in tense relations with New Tian. The Hydra High Council watches footage in awe, as the reporter reveals that in addition to de-escalating violence between their nations, their supreme leader also brokered several new trade treaties and inspected the site of a possible energy pipeline, and that in their laterst polls, the Supreme Leader's popularity has soared to a new high.

The door to the chamber opens, and Steve Rogers, once again in his green Hydra outfit, appears. 'Supreme Leader! You honor us with your presence' Viper tells him. The Council all stand up, 'Hail Hydra!' they exclaim as Steve sits down, then tells the Council that they may sit. 'Steven, if I may...' Zemo begins. 'Of course, Zemo. My friend. Speak freely' Steve tells him. Zemo announces that all of them are thrilled to see a peaceful resolution to recent events, he can't help but feel that he put himself in unnecessary danger. 'It was a risk that paid off, but a risk nonetheless...' Zemo points out. 'You are the Supreme Leader. You embody Hydra's ideals. If something had happened to you...' Madame Hydra begins. 'It was a risk, but one I was willing to take in order to advance our shared goals' Rogers explains, adding that no one person can embody all that Hydra is, not even the Supreme Leader. He looks at Zola and Faustus as he adds that all of them must know their place and serve – loyally and humbly. Slamming his fist onto the table, a very serious Steve Rogers adds '... or be destroyed for the betterment of the nation!'

Characters Involved: 

Archangel, Beast, Emma Frost, Sebastian Shaw, Xorn II
Boom-Boom, Frenzy, Magik, Marrow, Random, Strong Guy, Sunfire

Steve Rogers (Supreme Leader of Hydra)
Arnim Zola, Doctor Faustus, Helmut Zemo, The Hive, Kraken, Madame Hydra IV, Viper (all Hydra High Council)
Deadpool, Scarlet Witch, Superior Octopus, Taskmaster, Vision (all Hydra Avengers)

Mutants and humans in New Tian
Police officers
Hydra soldiers

Story Notes: 

This issue ties into the Secret Empire storyline.

Originally the issue was advertised with Emma on the cover in the same position as Magik is now. Presumably it was changed so Emma’s appearance at the end would be a surprise.

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