Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Captain America - The Secret Empire!

There's no doubt that for this recovering "Marvel Zombie" one of the most potent events was when Captain America dropped out for a time when confronted with government corruption of the highest order. The "Secret Empire" storyline by Steve Englehart with sturdy Sal Buscema and Vince Colletta on the art chores was a barnstorming storyline that grabbed yours truly by the throat and rarely let go.

It begins when Cap becomes aware that the "Committee to Regain America's Principles" was running an ad campaign targeting him specifically and calling his loyalty to the nation into question. At the same time The Falcon is undergoing a crisis of competence and makes plans with The Black Panther to get more power so he will be a more worthy partner for Cap. The Tumbler, an old foe appears and then is murdered with Cap the prime suspect.

Cap's been set up by the Committee, its chairman a slimy ad type named Quentin Hardeman, and Moonstone a brand new "faux" superhero set up by the Committee to fill Cap's shoes when he's been smeared and eliminated from the scene.

Cap fights back and becomes a fugitive pretty much falling into the hands of the Committee. Meanwhile Falcon gets his wings.

Cap battles the minions of the Committee, specifically a bunch of losers dubbed "The Sanitation Crew".  Falcon and Panther fight a threat in the Panther's homeland before Sam Wilson returns to NYC with his best gal Leila along for the ride.

Cap and Falcon team up and go on the run heading to Nashville (since Moonstone appeared to like country music according to some of his dialogue -clearly a weak moment in the storytelling) and run smack dab into the Banshee from the pages of the X-Men. They find other X-Men too, specifically Professor X, Cyclops and Marvel Girl. (At this time the Beast was a member of the Avengers, and the Angel and Iceman were part of the Champions outfit.) It seems the others have been nabbed by the same group looking to smear Cap.

That group is the revived "Secret Empire" from the early days of Marvel. Following up on clues given by Professor X, Cap and the Falcon infiltrate the Empire's secret desert base.

There they battle several high-tech threats and discover that mutants have been kidnapped by the Secret Empire in order to use their might to power the Empire's equipment, equipment they plan to use to conquer the United States.

Cap, Falcon and the X-Men battle the threat as it heads to Washington, DC in a "flying saucer" powered by mutants, device designed to maximize the psychological threat to the populace. There the Empire issues its demands and tells the nation that its minions are planting bombs in cities across the country. 

But Cap is able to finally defeat Moonstone and confronts the Secret Empire's leader Number One who himself commits suicide. Number One's actual identity, though never really shown, rocks Cap to his core and he walks away from the battle a beaten man.

In the finale Cap reflects on his career and takes advice from friends and allies as he ponders what to do in the face of what he considers a fundamental betrayal to the entire country by the leader of the Secret Empire. The notion of such profound corruption at the highest levels of the United States government rocks Cap who by the story's end has decided he can no longer fulfill his role as an agent of the U.S. and calls it quits as the "Sentinel of Liberty". Cap quits!

But that's just the beginning as next time we meet the enigmatic Nomad.

It's disappointing to remember there was a time in the not-to-distant past when corruption and self-serving was deemed shameful for politicians. When the betrayal of the oaths taken was the abject loss of honor and clearly seen as such by the larger population. I find myself much like Cap these days, saddened and even scared of the evil which has infected the government created for the people, and run in the service of the people. 

This is a Revised Red, White, and Blue Dojo Classic. 

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  1. Is it just a coincidence that "Committee to Regain America's Principles" can be written as C.R.A.P? Politicians with no shame isn't just an American problem - in the UK we had the appalling Boris Johnson until the public got sick of him and his own party forced him from office. Boris Johnson is now backing Trump you may not be surprised to hear.

    1. I've just been watching some old TV shows mocking Boris. He was indeed a character, and a corrupt one at that. Of course he's backing the Tangerine Tojo. He imagines he'll get a few more minutes of fame or money out of the deal. What schmucks!

  2. As much as I loved the "Cap of the '50s" story, which was groundbreaking & powerful, the follow-up with the Secret Empire packed an even stronger punch. Together, they acknowledged the break in faith between the public & the image of a possible America at its best - a break that has never been fully healed & that truthfully seems even worse these days, with millions of Americans openly calling for an authoritarian government complete with a dictator. These stories remain sadly & frighteningly relevant today, as well as reminding us of the positive path not taken by far too many since then. No impending national election has terrified me as much as the one coming up in 4 months, knowing how it could end - how America itself could end.

    1. I grew to adulthood during this time and saw things get better. Or at least I thought so. Not prosecuting Nixon has proven to be a grave mistake as it has given some purchase to the inane and unconstitutional decision recently from the Supreme Court. I agree that these stories resonate very much with today's events. I wish it were not so.

  3. One interesting point about this narrative, which I'm recalling from memory, is that there had been some sort of buildup to a Secret Empire plotline in NICK FURY in the mid-sixties, but whoever had been in charge of the book just dropped that story for some other concern. My recollection is that Steve E was shoring up that lost bit of Marvel continuity with something along the lines, "if you wondered what the Secret Empire was up to back then..."

    1. Makes sense. The Secret Empire seemed to get swept into the larger Hydra network and largely forgotten, though they were more insidious.