[Warning: The following contains spoilers for Secret Empire.]
To celebrate the start of the miniseries, which sees Captain America lean into his new Hydra-aligned history and take over the country, Marvel released a new chat bot that allows readers to chat with Spider-Man about the series. Although, the term chatting might be giving the bot a little too much credit. The conversation, which takes place in a Facebook Messenger window, starts with Spider-Man asking if you’re ready to join the fight against Hydra, but instead of allowing you to simply respond, you have to use a series of prompts that appear on screen.
At one point, I tried asking Spider-Man for details on Homecoming, but he got very confused. There’s nothing sadder than a confused and frightened Spider-Man. Specifically one that lives within the confines of Facebook Messenger.
Upon realizing that I wasn’t going to have an actual conversation with Spider-Man, I decided to play along with Marvel’s game. We quickly progressed through a series of opening questions about whether or not I was a truthful and honest person or if I have ever had evil ambitions? Like a 17-year-old trying to get onto a website they maybe shouldn’t be on, I lied to Marvel’s young Avenger and told him that I was a very wholesome individual.
This is where it got interesting. After asking me to identify a couple of Hydra agents by selecting from three photos that appeared on screen, Spider-Man confided in me that there was a mole on their team. One of their closest friends and allies, Spider-Man whispered (he couldn’t actually whisper, but I imagine he was whispering during our conversation) that he was trying to figure out who it was, asking me to identify the Avenger I thought it could be.
It became immediately clear that Spider-Man was not privy to this knowledge, but the rest of the world, including myself, already knew the answer. It’s Captain America. The actual history and reason as to why Captain America has aligned himself with Hydra is pretty fascinating, but perhaps far too complex to get into here. Instead of trying to break it down for Spider-Man and risk making him even less communicative and more sad, I decided to just click on the traitorous face of Captain America and see what happened.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say this moment of hope on Spider-Man’s part that his fearless leader wasn’t the traitor got to me a little. Although, Spider-Man moves on from the answer pretty quickly, following up the question with another about whether or not I would want to help him track down the turncoat hero in question, that little hesitation at the end about what it could mean if the information turned out to be true — which it is — is kind of heartbreaking.
Emotional connection Spider-Man aside, the bot does have a couple of cool things for comic book fans who are looking for any new information about the series. At one point in the conversation, after you’ve proven to Spider-Man that you’re not going to cross him on anything, he shares a secret dossier with you that includes information on Captain America and other Marvel characters. All of which begs the question: Why does Spider-Man have a file on Captain America if he doesn’t think the Avengers leader is the traitor?