Published June 8, 2017

Secret Empire Exposed: Sam Wilson

Steve Rogers’ best friend finds his place in a post-Hydra world!

Image for Secret Empire Exposed: Sam Wilson

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

When Steve Rogers revealed his allegiance to Hydra, a wave of betrayal and sadness washed over the super hero community that he practically started during World War II. It crashed particularly hard on Sam Wilson. Back during writer Rick Remender’s run on CAPTAIN AMERICA, Steve passed the patriotic mantle to his longtime friend and ally. Since then, Sam’s been flying around, wielding the shield in an effort to keep the world safe, even with a seemingly endless mob of people calling for him to quit.

Even after Kobik returned Rogers’ youth and vitality—which we also know as the point where Red Skull had the living Cosmic Cube implant all of these Hydra memories—Sam continued wearing the red, white and blue—until his friend proved to be the biggest villain around. Conspicuously absent from the first few chapters, Sam finally appeared in the pages of SECRET EMPIRE #2 hanging out in a bar in Montana.

After Black Widow split off with her group that planned on taking Steve Rogers out, Iron Man, Ant-Man, and a few others left their secret base to try and collect the Cosmic Cube fragments so they could repair Rogers. As it turned out, Scott Lang knew that Sam could help them move around without getting caught.

Over in CAPTAIN AMERICA: SAM WILSON #22, Wilson explained that, after Cap revealed his true colors, the former social worker abandoned his costume and old life to spend some time out in the mountains to clear his head. Eventually, he headed back to civilization where he discovered that Hydra rolled in to take everything over. Just as he planned on going back into hiding, Sam stumbled into a gang of thugs harassing a woman and her Inhuman daughter and stepped in. When she asked, “If Captain America won’t help us…who will?” an idea started to form.

Sam called Misty Knight and Dennis Dunphy, otherwise known as D-Man, to help him figure out a way to sneak people like that woman and her daughter to safer locations. Soon, they’d set up a system that included a new take on the old Captain America hotline to get people out of the country, including Scott Lang’s daughter Cassie. When Ant-Man asked why Sam hadn’t tried to save Steve, the one-time Falcon said that if Tony Stark or Amadeus Cho couldn’t figure it out, what could he do? Instead, he decided to stay focused on this effort, which seemed to truly help people.

That, of course, set up the aforementioned SECRET EMPIRE #2 which itself continued on in the next issue with Wilson reluctantly leading Stark, Ant-Man, Mockingbird, Quicksilver, and Hercules into their next adventure in SECRET EMPIRE: UNDERGROUND.

The Empire Strikes Back

In an interesting twist of fate, Sam Wilson first met Captain America after The Red Skull switched bodies with him. The villain got the drop on Rogers in CAPTAIN AMERICA #114 and used the Cosmic Cube to take over the hero’s body in #115. By issue #117, Skull, still in Cap’s body, once again used the Cube, this time to teleport Steve from Avengers HQ to an island inhabited by his old cronies the Exiles who hated the villain for sending them there in the first place.

A young social worker by the name of Sam Wilson happened to also be there in an effort to help the locals. Realizing he’d been wearing a mask the whole time, Steve ditched the Red Skull visage and covered his face in clay so no one would recognize him. That’s how he looked when Steve Rogers first met Sam Wilson, who would become The Falcon later in that very issue. Given how things turned out, Sam’s got to wonder if maybe the Red Skull’s face proved more of a window into Steve’s soul than he ever thought!