July 13, 2024

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Secret Empire Reading Order (Annotated Spoiler Edition)

The one with Jimmy's mad ramblings and spoilers.

With the release last week of Marvel Legacy #1 and the last couple of Generations one-shots, I think we can officially put a fork in Secret Empire.

There’s a couple of spots in the reading order that I’m not 100% happy with (I’m looking at you Secret Warriors and Invaders story from Brave New World), but I likely won’t be revisiting this any more.

Like I did with Civil War II, below you will find the final version of the reading order, but with my mindless ramblings and notes as I tried to place each issue.  Since most looking for reading orders are trying to avoid spoilers, I keep them out of the regular version of the order, but below you will find many.  So go no further if you are not interested in Secret Empire spoilers.

1. Opening Salvo

  1. Road To Secret Empire [Trade] – reprints Cap 21, Cap 25, Avengers Standoff: Assault on Pleasant Hill Alpha, Captain America: Sam Wilson 7-8, Avengers Standoff: Assault on Pleasant Hill Omega, Captain America: Steve Rogers 1-2
  2. Captain America: Sam Wilson #21 [Unbranded] – Pre-Secret Empire 0. Can probably be left out, but could have some significance with Sam quitting as Captain America.  Secret Empire #0 specifically calls this out as prologue.
  3. Uncanny Avengers #22 [Unbranded] – Obviously before Secret Empire 0, Cap comes looking for Xavier’s brain recently removed from the Red Skull. He fails to obtain it and Rogue has it destroyed. I don’t know that this is any more relevant than any other pre Secret Empire issues with Cap in it, but Secret Empire #0 specifically calls this out as prologue.
  4. Captain America: Steve Rogers #15 [Unbranded] – Takes place a short time after Uncanny Avengers 22. Not sure how long after. Cap says he hasn’t seen the Red Skull in a long time, but he road with him in the ambulance in Uncanny Avengers 22.
  5. Deadpool #31 – Li’l Deadpool informs us this is before Secret Empire 0. Death Phil Coulson.
  6. U.S. Avengers #5 [Opening Salvo] – Prior to Captain America Steve Rogers 16, though the last two pages essentially take place immediately before Secret Empire 0.
  7. Thunderbolts #12 [Opening Salvo] – Has to be before Captain America: Steve Rogers #16
  8. Captain America: Steve Rogers #16 [Opening Salvo] – Needs to be shortly after Thunderbolts #12.  Also after Uncanny Avengers #22 and almost immediately before Secret Empire #0

2. Secret Empire

  1. Secret Empire #0 – Cap’s plan in motion. New York blacked out. Super powered beings trapped outside the Earth shield. Cap outted and Hydra takes over SHIELD. Attack on Washington begins. Cap was always an agent of Hydra…the Allies used a cosmic cube to change history and make him a good guy? So Kobik didn’t change history to make Cap Hydra, she changed history back?
  2. Mighty Captain Marvel #5 – Starts before and overlaps Secret Empire #0.
  3. Uncanny Avengers #24  Immediately after Secret Empire 0
  4. Uncanny Avengers #25 – Immediately after last issue.
  5. Ultimates2 #7 – After Secret Empire #0. Not sure how long after but likely before Secret Empire #1 and probably FCBD.
  6. Amazing Spider-Man #29 – Overlaps Secret Empire 0 and before FCBD.
  7. U.S. Avengers #6 – Shortly after U.S. Avengers #5. Overlaps with and shortly after Secret Empire #0.  Before FCBD.
  8. X-Men: Gold #7 – Overlaps Secret Empire 0.
  9. X-Men: Gold #8 – Immediately after X-Men: Gold #7
  10. Secret Empire: Brave New World #3 (Daily Bugle and Starbrand stories) – Story 1 – Daily Bugle – not really clear when, but likely shortly after Secret Empire 0. Story 2 – Starbrand – Day two of the takeover.  After Hyperion is hurt.
  11. Secret Empire Free Comic Book Day 2017 – Defeat of heroes during attack on Washington. Thor banished. Cap lifts Thor’s hammer.
  12. U.S.Avengers #7 – Immediately after U.S.Avengers #6. Overlaps FCBD.
  13. Amazing Spider-Man #30 – Immediately after FCBD
  14. Amazing Spider-Man #31 – Immediately after last issue.
  15. Avengers #9 – After FCBD.
  16. Mighty Captain Marvel #6 – Nothing to really place it besides sometime after last issue. Though might have to move it later to account for passage of time.
  17. Mighty Captain Marvel #7 – Immediately after Mighty Captain Marvel 6. Quasar in coma. Hyperion is fine. Before Guardians annual? It seems like it is after, but 6 continues into 7, so doesn’t really make sense. Alpha Flight goes on generator power and until at least Secret Empire 7, they are still in space.
  18. Secret Empire: Brave New World #1 (Giant Man and Gwenpool stories) – Giant Man story – starts before Secret Empire 0 and continues shortly after the takeover. Before destruction of Las Vegas (Secret Empire 1). Ant-Man and Wasp appear.  Gwenpool story – context free. Sometime after the takeover.
  19. Champions #10 – Editor’s note that this issue takes place before Secret Empire Uprising. After Hydra takeover. Likely before Secret Empire 1 (and Secret Warriors 1?).
  20. Occupy Avengers #8 – Definitely before Nat leaves the Mount in Secret Empire 2. Likely between Secret Empire 0 and Secret Empire 1 and after FCBD.
  21. Occupy Avengers #9 – Editor’s note that this issue takes place before Secret Empire 6 because The Mount is still around. So is Cho. Shortly after last issue.
  22. Secret Empire: Brave New World #4 (Misty Knight and Emma Frost stories) – Misty Knight story – feels like early after the takeover. But a decent amount of time passes. Could be before Sam Wilson gives passage to Ultron. Emma Frost story – no context beside being after Hydra takeover and establishment of New Tian.
  23. Secret Empire #1 – Appears to be quite some time after Secret Empire 0.  Death of Rick Jones.  Destruction of Las Vegas.
  24. Secret Empire: Brave New World #2 (Patriot story) – Story 1 – Patriot.  After destruction of Las Vegas.  Before Stark leaves in search of the Cosmic Cube fragments(?), which would place this during Secret Empire 2.
  25. Champions #11 – Editor’s note that this issue takes place during Secret Empire 2.  Has to be after new Patriot arrives.  His “first day”.
  26. U.S.Avengers #8 – Shortly after last issue.
  27. U.S.Avengers #9 – Immediately after U.S.Avengers #8. After destruction of Las Vegas in Secret Empire 1, which is way down the order and going to cause a headache. The ending feels even later again when the heroes are fighting back around Secret Empire 8, but nothing really ties it to that. If putting this after Secret Empire 1, might also need to move U.S.Avengers 8 right in front of it? Either way, there is going to be a painful disconnect same as with issues 5 and 6.
  28. Deadpool #32 – After take over and Rick Jones death. Quicksilver and Hawkeye shown at The Mount, so guessing before Quicksilver mission beginning in Secret Empire 2, though could be later but has to be before Secret Empire 5 where the Mount is destroyed. And having it so close to there will kinda suck so soon after Deadpool falsely informs Hydra that The Mount is clear. No mention of destruction of Vegas, which was at the end of Secret Empire 1.
  29. Deadpool #33 – Written as if it is shortly after Deadpool 32, but doesn’t have to be. Most of the issue is in Flashback.  Deadpool is still “hunting” for Hawkeye, and seems to imply that this is before the destruction of The Mount, but again, it doesn’t have to be.  Hawkeye and his rebels are still on the run after that.  Ends with Deadpool enlisting Trapster.
  30. Secret Empire #2 – After Secret Empire #1, but not immediately.
  31. Captain America: Sam Wilson #22 – Starts before and overlaps Secret Empire 2.
  32. Captain America: Steve Rogers #17 – Editor’s note that this takes place after Secret Empire 2. Has to be after FCBD.
  33. Secret Empire #3 – Hydra destroys Atlantis temple. Have already attempted to invade Wakanda. Maria Hill and Black Widow meeting. Punisher: Agent of Hydra. Sam Wilson getting the rebels over the boarder, headed for Ultron. Guardians are out there looking for help, so Annual should be after this at least.
  34. All-New Guardians of the Galaxy Annual (2017) – After Mighty Captain Marvel #6…but overlapping Mighty Captain Marvel 7? No, their “return” is not there but in Secret Empire #8. Doesn’t really need to move unless there are Guardians appearances between now and then.
  35. Avengers #10 – Nothing definitive besides being after Secret Empire 0 and FCBD (where Wanda and Vision are “recruited”) Hydra Avengers first appear in Secret Empire 1. Earth shield is still up.
  36. Secret Empire: Uprising #1 – Editor’s note that this takes place after Secret Empire 3. Totally Awesome Hulk infiltrates the…Hydra choir?
  37. Doctor Strange #21 – At least a couple of weeks after the Dark Force dome appears over Manhattan in Secret Empire 0.
  38. Doctor Strange #22 – Shortly after Doctor Strange 21.
  39. Doctor Strange #23 – Immediately after Doctor Strange 22. Need to keep a close eye on how this series ends. Make sure it jives with all these characters being free but still under the dome in Secret Empire 6.
  40. Doctor Strange #24 – Immediately after Doctor Strange #23.
  41. Captain America: Sam Wilson #23 – Between Secret Empire 3 and 4.
  42. Secret Empire #4 – After Secret Empire 3. Majority of issue is dealing with Ultron. Namor joins with Hydra and delivers a Cosmic Cube fragment. Punisher is hunting Black Widow and the Champions. No sign of Totally Awesome Hulk, so he’s probably off doing his choir thing in Secret Empire United 1. Hydra Avengers appear but not Superior Octopus or Deadpool.
  43. Captain America: Steve Rogers #18 – Prior too and then overlaps with Secret Empire #4.
  44. X-Men: Blue #7 – Hard to tell where to place. After Hydra takeover. Before Secret Empire: United #1?
  45. X-Men: Blue #8 – Shortly after last issue.
  46. X-Men: Blue #9 – Immediately after X-Men: Blue #8.
  47. Secret Empire: United #1 – After the destruction of Las Vegas.  Zola and Faustus revealed to be traitors.  Emma Frost controlling Xorn in New Titan.
  48. Secret Empire: Underground #1 – Nothing definitive, but seems like it is after the encounter with Ultron in Secret Empire 4.
  49. Secret Empire: Brave New World #2 (Hydra Bob story) – Story 2 – Hydra Bob, anytime after takeover.
  50. Secret Empire: Brave New World #5 (Blade and Domino stories) – Blade story – dome is still down, feels early.  Domino story – has to be before Secret Empire #8 at the very least.
  51. Secret Warriors #1 – Jumps around the timeline before and after the Hydra takeover. The “now” may be before or after Secret Empire 1, hard to tell.
  52. Secret Warriors #2 – Immediately after last issue.  Lots of jumps around the timeline.  Still not sure when “now” is besides after Hydra takeover.
  53. Secret Warriors #3 – Immediately after Secret Warriors 2, but still unsure where in the timeline outside of being after Secret Empire 0. Hydra Avengers appear, including Deadpool, but not Superior Octopus.
  54. Secret Warriors #4 – Immediately after Secret Warriors 3.  More bouncing back and forth between “now” and during the takeover in Secret Empire 0. Still not sure when “now” is.  Hydra Avengers appear, including Deadpool, but not Superior Octopus.
  55. Secret Warriors #5 pages 1-2 – Immediately after Secret Warriors 4. Ugh.
  56. Secret Empire #5 – The Red Room (minus Cho) rescue an old man from Hydra and recruit Viper.  Underground have two cosmic cubes shards.  Black Panther refuses to give up his and Shang Chi had his stolen by Emma Frost.  After Underground were in Savage Land (Secret Empire United 1). Underground returns to the Mount. Mockingbird revealed as traitor and informs Hydra of their location (red herring). Steve Rogers appears to have an alive and well Bruce Banner. Hydra Avengers appear but not Superior Octopus or Deadpool.
  57. Secret Empire #6 – Destruction of The Mount.  Ant-Man is the actual traitor. bHydra Avengers appear but not Superior Octopus or Deadpool.
  58. Secret Empire #7 – After Secret Empire 5.  Miles doesn’t kill Cap.  Death of Black Widow.  Cho is back, will we ever get the rest of the “choir” story?  Red Room captured…seems odd Hulk would just surrender.  Sam Wilson back as Cap.  Quasar still in coma.  Alpha Flight still stranded in space.
  59. Mighty Captain Marvel #8 pages 1-6 – These pages overlap Secret Empire 7.
  60. Captain America: Sam Wilson #24 – Editor’s note that this is after Secret Empire 7, though technically it comes before and overlaps the last few pages.
  61. Captain America: Steve Rogers #19 – Editor’s note that this is after Secret Empire 7. Cap’s shield was destroyed in Secret Empire 7, but he has a new one here.
  62. Secret Empire: Brave New World #1 (Invaders story) – Invaders story – definitely after Hydra takeover.  Does not state explicitly, but sure seems before Cap has an Atlantis temple destroyed in Secret Empire 3.
  63. Secret Empire: Brave New World #2 (Invaders story) – Story 3 – Invaders story part 2.  Shortly after part 1.
  64. Secret Empire: Brave New World #3 (Invaders story) – Story 3 – Invaders story part 3.  Shortly after part 2.
  65. Secret Empire: Brave New World #4 (Invaders story) – Story 3 – Invaders story part 4.  Shortly after part 3.
  66. Secret Empire: Brave New World #5 (Invaders story) – Story 3 – Invaders story part 5.  Shortly after part 4. – ruins Bucky reveal in Secret Empire 8 and Captain America 25.
  67. Deadpool #34 – Deadpool uses Trapster to gain access to the prison to find Blackout’s location.  Feels like it is shortly after last issue but doesn’t have to be.
  68. Deadpool #35 pages 1-17 – This is going to be tough to place.  Large portion takes place before Secret Empire 8, rest after Secret Empire 10.  Might need to move the other Deadpool’s to try to get this later. Possible this might be our first real split.  Need to make sure if splitting that there are no Deadpool appearances in-between.  Needs to be before Secret Empire 8. Not necessarily immediately, but probably close.  I doubt Maria Hill sits on her knowledge of Blackout for too long.  Also makes for less issues we have to worry about Deadpool appearing while trapped under a building. Which sucks since Deadpool appears in Secret Warriors.  Going to need to split Deadpool, may end up splitting SW after all to get this to make sense?
  69. Secret Warriors #5 pages 3-20 –  Half of this issue occurs after Captain America #25…so this whole series may need to move back, or not occur concurrently.  Actually it overlaps with Captain America #25 and is going to cause a bit of a continuity headache.  Also, Sam is drawn as Falcon and not Captain America. There is a two day break before the events that overlap with Captain America #25. To split or just put them before that?
  70. Captain America #25 – After Captain America :Steve Rogers #19.  Editor’s note that it takes place before Secret Empire #8.  Important issue, Rogers declares war on New Tian and Wakanda. Black Panther captured.  Emma Frost attempts peace talks and says she’ll surrender cosmic cube fragment. Resistance help overthrow an Inhuman prison where Barf creates a cosmic cube fragment for them.  Bucky Barnes revealed to be hanging out with Namor.
  71. Secret Empire #8 – Editor’s note that it takes place after Captain America #25. The Guardians have returned from “running around the universe asking for help”.  Which gives us a clearer picture of when the Guardians annual should take place.  It doesn’t have to move, but it’s not overlapping Mighty Captain Marvel 7 as previously thought.  Planetary shield is brought down.  Dark force bubble over Manhattan is destroyed. (Maria Hill kills Blackout.)  Bucky Barnes reveal for those who never read Cap #25.  Quasar recovers.
  72. Mighty Captain Marvel #8 pages 7-20 Overlaps Secret Empire #8.   Same Guardians “return” as Secret Empire 8…but it never seems like they ever left, and they are back before the “return” comments.  Completely ignores Captain America’s rallying cry message for some reason.
  73. Secret Empire #9 – After Secret Empire #8.
  74. Secret Empire #10 – Immediately after Secret Empire 9.

3. Generations

These one shots can mostly be skipped from a Secret Empire point of view, but occur during Secret Empire #10.  The Americas is a bit of an exception to the rule and the only one that really references Secret Empire.

  1. Generations The Strongest #1
  2. Generations: The Phoenix #1
  3. Generations: The Best #1
  4. Generations: The Thunder #1
  5. Generations: The Archers #1
  6. Generations: The Iron #1
  7. Generations: The Bravest #1
  8. Generations: The Marvels #1 – Really the first mention of any of these books being cosmic cube related.  But still awful.
  9. Generations: The Spiders #1
  10. Generations: The Americas #1 – Really the only one that feels connected to Secret Empire at all as it shows all the affected Generations heroes after their trip to Vanishing Point.  While most others could slot in between panels of Secret Empire 10, this would have to go after that issue and the “Generations” story is told in flashback.  Could possibly go after the last couple of Deadpool pages, but just as well to keep the one shots together.

4. Aftermath

  1. Deadpool #35 pages 18-20
  2. Secret Empire: Omega – After Secret Empire #10. Should be the final issue in the order if possible.

Honorable Mentions

A collection of things that might add (or distract) from your Secret Empire reading experience.

  • The Road To Secret Empire trade paperback covers a lot of this, but basically everything involving Steve Rogers, Captain America and/or written by Nick Spencer between Avengers: Standoff and Opening Salvo (particularly the Captain America: Steve Rogers series) acts as prologue to the event.
  • Amazing Spider-Man #25 – the comic features a pre-Secret Empire back up story showing how Superior Octopus joins Hydra.
  • Ultimates2 #9, Ultimates2 #100 – a tricky aside that is more a Galactus tale but the Ultimates do appear in the midst of Secret Empire.
  • Uncanny Avengers #26 – a handful of pages are worthy for consideration as an Aftermath issue, dealing with the Scarlet Witch’s role in Secret Empire.
  • Deadpool #36 – Kinda, sorta deals with the fallout of Deadpool’s escapades in Secret Empire, but to little consequence of that storyline.
  • Secret Warriors #6 – Quake is after Deadpool for [spoiler] [spoiler], which does follow directly from Deadpool’s actions in Secret Empire.  I was on the fence about this one, but decided that it is removed enough from the main story to leave it out.

And that’s it until I loose my willpower and get suckered into the next big crossover event.