Published May 4, 2017

Secret Empire Exposed: Rick Jones

From Whisperer to a scream, how did he end up before a firing squad?

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Each week, we use our super sleuth skills to dig into the histories of the characters fighting on both sides of Secret Empire!

Anyone thinking that there still might some goodness left in Captain America saw those dreams fade at the very end of SECRET EMPIRE #1 when he ordered a firing squad to kill his one-time partner and long-time friend Rick Jones. The issue, by writer Nick Spencer and artist Steve McNiven, marked an end point for a long career in the super hero community. Rick first appeared in INCREDIBLE HULK #1 as the near-victim of a gamma bomb test. Thanks to the quick thinking of Dr. Bruce Banner, Jones lived, but his savior turned into The Hulk.

The following year, Rick found himself at the center of another monumental moment in the Marvel Universe when he and his Teen Brigade pals sent out a warning about the Jade Giant to the Fantastic Four that Loki made sure other heroes heard, including Thor, Ant-Man, Wasp, and Iron Man. In other words, he proved at least partially responsible for starting the Avengers as seen in that book’s very first issue!

That might be enough adventure for a lifetime in some cases, but Jones still had plenty of thrilling moments ahead. He trained with Captain America briefly and even shared a heroic career with Captain Marvel for a time, switching places with the Negative Zone-based hero when appropriate. After the events of the Kree-Skrull War—which Rick actually turned the tide of thanks to the Destiny Force inside him—the two bound themselves together willingly.

After that, Rick palled around with the Hulk again, this time in his Doctor Banner form, got married, pursued a career in music, teamed up with a new Captain Marvel ,and even attempted to supervise the Runaways so they wouldn’t head down the same kid-hero path he went down. Later, when his old friend attacked Earth during World War Hulk, Rick tried talking to the Green Goliath, but found himself on the wrong end of betrayer Miek’s spear. In the HULK series, Jones discovered that he’d been turned into the Abomination-like A-Bomb. The Leader and M.O.D.O.K. orchestrated the transformation to use Rick as a weapon against Bruce Banner, but the Hulk’s alter ego figured out the plan and put a stop to it.

Rick ran around as A-Bomb for a while until Hulk, in his Doc Green persona, gave him an antidote to turn him back to normal. In the process, Jones gained the ability to learn things with incredible speed. As he explained in AVENGERS STANDOFF ALPHA, the longtime sidekick used his newfound gift to figure out everything he could about computers and information before becoming the hacktivist known as Whisperer. In that identity, he tried revealing Maria Hill’s Cosmic Cube plans early, but eventually got found out.

Leading up to Secret Empire, Rick actually worked for S.H.I.E.L.D. in an effort to avoid jail time, which put him in direct contact with his old friend Steve Rogers. Cap tried keeping Rick comfortable, but his repeated efforts to get information out to the world—including to young Rashaun Lucas as seen in SECRET EMPIRE #1—got him locked back up in a cell and eventually led to his death in front of a firing squad at the end of the issue.

The Empire Strikes Back

For those wondering if Rick’s really dead, it’s a fair question to ask! If he could avoid a gamma bomb by being thrown into a ditch, maybe he’s tougher than we think. Maybe he’s got some Destiny Force or excess radiation kicking around inside of him that will save his life. Or, maybe he’s still in good with Death after being kinda-sorta married to her for a time. Oh, and don’t forget about that guy who ran around New York City claiming to be Rick Jones seen in the pages of ALIAS. Really, we just want Rick Jones to be okay!