SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Secret Empire: Omega #1 by Nick Spencer and Andrea Sorrentino, on sale now.
Marvel Comics’ Secret Empire, and Nick Spencer’s Captain America: Steve Rogers run that preceded it, essentially posed and addressed a hypothetical scenario that few had ever thought to envision: what if Captain America were secretly evil?
That question has quickly given way to another since asked by many: After the events of Secret Empire, can the character of Captain America ever be redeemed? The answer to that question is one that will likely take some time to unveil, but it’s a mystery that in turn brings up the latest query posed in Secret Empire: Omega #1 – a question that not only applies in the context of the Marvel Universe, but also one that can be asked in the context of our own political climate. Namely, when the current regime gives way to the next, will the sociopolitical climate return to its previous state, or will its remnants remain as seeds of future dissent?
Make Captain America Great Again
Within the setting of Secret Empire, Captain America was largely handed the power that enabled him to take over and dominate a nation, and that control led to the oppression of some (mutants, other superheroes) under his rule while empowering the agendas of others. It’s an eerily similar scenario to the current social and political climate in the United States, where the power granted to a freely elected leader has disenfranchised segments of the populace (immigrants, the LGBTQ+ community, etc.) while enabling the regressive mindsets of others within the population.
The victorious Steve Rogers’ issue-long discussion with his defeated Hydra doppelganger includes discourse on the injury Hydra Cap inflicted on his reputation – that despite all the evidence pointing to Good Cap’s exoneration, “on some level, there will always be a scar.” The damage done to the brand of American leadership – literal or figurative – by the actions of one of its occupants stands to tarnish the office in the eyes of others. As the leader of the nation, the next U.S. President would implicitly be tasked with rebuilding any bridges burned by his predecessor.
Just as important, though, are the ramifications on those who remain in the wake of such leadership. Good Steve speaks of Bad Steve taking “all the trust and respect I’d spent a lifetime trying to build and burning it to the ground.” Bad Steve, presumptuously speaking for the people he recently ruled, counters with “how it felt to be a part of something bigger than themselves – to stand united, finally fighting back against those who have oppressed them for so long.”
There’s Blame On Both Sides
Good Steve speaks for those who were imprisoned, tortured, or oppressed in other ways, while Bad Steve cites those who followed and supported his fascist manifesto. Hydra Cap might be out of power, but the feelings and opinions held by those in either group aren’t so easily put aside. Anyone deported, denied opportunity, or otherwise victimized by American leadership are likely to suffer from these repercussions long after said leadership has moved on, or at best will be distrusting of those in charge in the future. Those whose feelings of hatred, intolerance and superiority have been emboldened by governance who oppressed others or failed to condemn such behaviors stand to continue to harbor these feelings, having felt that their beliefs have become legitimized.
Exemplifying that no villains in literature ever believe that they’re the bad guy, Bad Steve hangs his fate on the notion that his moral crimes weren’t illegal activities, and therefore no guilt on his part would be found in a court of law. Good Steve dismisses that pretzel logic, simply citing that justice will somehow prevail and that a way will be found to hold Bad Steve accountable for his actions. Meanwhile, many who feel the current U.S. President has been breaking laws, violating the Constitution, and engaging in potential conflicts of interests and will never be accused of any kind of wrongdoing for these activities, put their faith in Congressional investigations, hoping for leadership accountability in some form.
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