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After almost a year of upset following the revelation that Captain America’s comic book history had been rewritten so that he was now — and has “always” been — an agent of fascistic organization Hydra, Marvel Entertainment has released a statement telling fans that everything will be okay in the end … and in the process, confirmed speculation about how its new Secret Empire series will end before the second issue has even been released.
The statement, provided by Marvel to corporate sibling ABC News, opens by explaining, “With Marvel Comics’ Secret Empire, the forces of Hydra have taken over and, due to the villainous actions of the Red Skull, have manipulated Marvel’s greatest hero, Captain America, and forced him to adopt their cause. At Marvel, we want to assure all of our fans that we hear your concerns about aligning Captain America with Hydra and we politely ask you to allow the story to unfold before coming to any conclusion.”
Since the revelation of Steve Rogers’ Hydra affiliation in May last year — the result of the Red Skull rewriting history to ensure Rogers’ loyalty to the terrorist organization — the storyline, which has built across issues of the Captain America: Steve Rogers and Captain America: Sam Wilson comic book series before expanding into the Secret Empire series and tie-in issues, has been condemned by a vocal fandom upset at seeing the most patriotic superhero at Marvel rewritten as his ideological opposite.
And Hydra Cap, as he has become known amongst fans, really is the ideological opposite of what most would expect from Captain America. In January’s Civil War II: The Oath special issue, the character made an argument on behalf of bigotry, complaining that it wasn’t right when Americans were fearful of those different from them were called intolerant, while fantasizing about a future where aliens lived in concentration camps and white kids in Hydra t-shirts chased black kids down darkened alleyways.
Despite this, Marvel and writer Nick Spencer, who is responsible for the entire plot line, have repeatedly argued that Steve Rogers is not a Nazi, nor is Hydra a Nazi organization. Indeed, a recent issue of the Steve Rogers series saw HydraCap beat up former Nazi turned Hydra leader the Red Skull, complaining that he had “twisted […] and poisoned [Hydra] to suit your sick aims.”
Now, Marvel is asking fans upset about the year-old storyline — which is set to climax this summer before a retro relaunch of its entire comic book line — to wait for the end of the story to see that, even when his past has been rewritten, Steve Rogers will be inherently good enough to overcome any evil.
“What you will see at the end of this journey is that his heart and soul — his core values, not his muscle or his shield — are what save the day against Hydra and will further prove that our heroes will always stand against oppression and show that good will always triumph over evil,” the statement ends. So, now no one needs to buy the rest of Secret Empire, it seems; we all know how the story ends.
What’s unusual about this statement isn’t just that it comes a day before the release of Secret Empire No. 1 (actually the series’ second issue — it launched with No. 0 last month), but that it feels at odds with the story as written to date. Under the current version of Steve Rogers’ history, his “core values” were instilled by Hydra since childhood, leading him to collaborate with the Nazis and sabotage the Allies’ efforts in World War II; in terms of Secret Empire itself, he’s plotted and executed a Hydra takeover of the United States that has left many he pretended to be friends with for dead, not to mention actively trying to murder others to further the Hydra cause. Why didn’t his “heart and soul” kick in during any of these previous events…?
Perhaps that is reason enough to keep reading Secret Empire: to discover what is more morally repugnant to a brainwashed Captain America than working to ensure a fascist takeover of the world on two separate occasions.
Secret Empire No. 1 will be released digitally and in comic book stores Wednesday, with a special Secret Empire: Free Comic Book Day issue available in select comic book stores Saturday.
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