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Yes, Secret Empire Was Worth the Controversy

by  in CBR Exclusives Comment
Yes, Secret Empire Was Worth the Controversy

Secret Empire proved to be one of Marvel Comics’ most divisive events ever, shaking the very core of the Avengers and, most of all, Steve Rogers. While Nick Spencer’s story tested the institution of the Captain America mantle, it also addressed how the rest of the Marvel Universe received or revolted against the doctrines of a Fascist version the star-spangled hero. By altering history, Kobik didn’t merely reshape Cap’s past and present, she also affected the future of the character, as well as the world he lives in, which was very much stained by the rule his Hydra organization implemented.

RELATED: No, Secret Empire Was Not Worth The Controversy

That said, events come and go, so was this one really Earth-shattering? Did it change the status quo of things and redefine the Marvel-616 for years to come? Truth be told, as with any massive storyline, some parts felt like a gimmick from issue to issue. But with Secret Empire: Omega capping a brutal finale, it’s very clear what Spencer was trying to construct and accomplish. He held up a mirror which shows us a reflection we often don’t like to see, making it clear we are creatures of the culture we create. With that in mind, we ask again, was this event worth it? Our answer: Absolutely.

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The sociopolitical aspect of this story stands head and shoulders above most superhero fare. Steve’s betrayal (as Hydra-Cap) felt similar to that of so many politicians existing in the world today. He tricked everyone, from the love of his life in Sharon Carter, to Captain Danvers’ space squad whose he marooned for the Chitauri to feed on. Caps actions even extended to people he didn’t know, like every agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., which he repurposed for Hydra’s use, not tom mention the millions of civilians who suffered under his boot. Heroes and villains who didn’t side with him died, and even when they aligned with him, it wasn’t necessarily a choice made of their own volition.

RELATED: Interview: Nick Spencer on Marvel’s Secret Empire & Its Aftermath

People like Emma Frost, Namor and Black Panther were all playing the game to protect their own, creating the opposite of something like the United States of Hydra. As a result, we saw hate, fear and terrorism across the Marvel U, much like what exists in the real world today. Seeing Rick Jones being shot up by soldiers for not complying with Hydra was the moment that cemented the series’ sense of dread, but it was far from the most horrific imagery. The camps of Inhumans and other opposition to Hydra forces looked back in history, evoking images of the Holocaust and the U.S.A.’s Japanese-American internment camps.

The xenophobia we witnessed with Brian McAllister (the Inhuman called Barf, who ended up saving the day) and his younger brother Jason in North Carolina, the stifling of the press by Hydra-Cap, and the devastation of Las Vegas all made the story uncomfortable yet relatable. These arcs hit home hard because they drew parallels to the present day, whether it was Marvel’s intention or not. While comics are often read for escapism, the role of art is to hold up that mirror to society, and Spencer did precisely that.

REVIEW: Spencer Talks Secret Empire’s Barfing Inhuman, & Omega’s Importance

Omega‘s most chilling aspect involved the points Hydra-Cap made after he was taken down and imprisoned. The real Steve Rogers, heroic and ready to make things right again, visited his evil doppelgänger and tried to make sense of what went wrong. He looked at the dark version of himself, one without a moral compass, yet one who stood by his beliefs and philosophies. One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, right?

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