NOTE: This article contains SPOILERS for Captain America & Secret Empire
If you haven’t been following Marvel Comics, the current headlines are guaranteed to shock, stating that Captain America is a Nazi now. Well, he’s not actually a Nazi, but a lifelong, devoted member of Hydra – a group that Marvel and the comic’s writer have been keen to remind people isn’t actually synonymous with Nazi Germany. Just a group that working alongside them, supporting their offensvies, to take the Axis powers to victory in World War II. Regardless of specifics, it’s proven an obvious fact: when you’re explaining how your superhero is’t technically aligned with a genocidal maniac like Adolf Hitler… something has gone wrong.
Or, if you’re a member of Marvel editorial and Captain America: Steve Rogers and Secret Empire writer Nick Spencer, something has gone as intended, if not right. In terms of sales, marketing – and telling a darn compelling, twisting, unpredictable story – Cap’s rise to the heights of Hydra and the recent birth of his “secret empire” have proven a success. Unfortunately, when faced with the kind of empassioned criticism you would expect, Spencer specifically and Marvel broadly have fallen back on misunderstood intentions, and a constant defense that the ends will justify the means.
That’s little comfort to those troubled, offended, or outraged by the fact that Marvel now cloaks a figure of honor, American ideals, and social justice in the garb of fascism, nationalism, and Nazi Germany. When you frame your superhero as a former ally to Hitler, standing before a crowd of soldiers raising a single-armed salute, claiming people are ‘overreacting’ isn’t a legitimate response. Everyone, not just those buying a copy of the comic have a right to ask what Spencer and Marvel intend as their message.
When the best defense is asking that fans remain calm and give the benefit of the doubt, their critics have a right to challenge that stance, and infer meaning when placing Marvel’s Secret Empire in a modern context. In the interest of informing comic fans who may not have read every issue, and explaining why fans and critics have a valid reason to be upset, we’re exploring the new history Marvel and Spencer have crafted. And explain why we feel that, as shocking and well-told a story as Secret Empire may be, presenting it layered in Nazi and fascist imagery has obviously crossed a line.
Before we dive into the political, social, or moral dilemmas people are now discussing, it’s worth noting how this all began – specifically, how Nick Spencer, editor Tom Brevoort, and Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso all responded to the initial fan and critical response. To put it simply, the story began as inherently shocking and compelling as the rest of the series has been since then, speaking in purely narrative terms. On a conceptual level, free from context and delivered in a vacuum, Captain America revealing himself to be a secret member of his most long-standing villainous organization is one heck of a twist.