Welcome to The Man In The HYDRA Castle, Multiversity Comics’ recap column for Marvel’s newest summer blockbuster, “Secret Empire.”
Spoilers ahead, natch.
Last time on “Secret Empire:” Red Skull used the Cosmic Cube (or a little girl who was the Cosmic Cube, don’t ask) to bend reality so that Captain America was always a part of HYDRA, a terrorist organization with its footing in Nazi Germany. Unfortunately for Red Skull, it turns out that Captain America is pretty good at being a Nazi so he kills Red Skull and took his place as head of HYDRA. Steve also launched an attack on Washington D.C. with all of Earth’s superheroes either trapped by a shadowy force in Manhattan, locked outside of Earth’s orbit thanks to a global shield, or on the run. So, still kind of better than our reality.
So it’s been a couple days. How has HYDRA’s invasion of the US been going?
Oh, okay. HYDRA just immediately took the country by storm and now we’re teaching kids approximations of Nazi salutes. Neat.
Apparently, HYDRA pretty easily took over America with little resistance which… sounds pretty accurate honestly. Kids now idolize HYDRA enough to inexplicably wear shirts of The Hive and schools now teach about “The Great Illusion”, Captain America’s idea that the Allies used the Cosmic Cube during World War II to change reality so they won, not the Nazis. I didn’t touch on this in the last column, but I’m riding under the assumption that this is Cap justifying how he could have been a Nazi and still turned out to be an Avenger. If that turns out to actually be how Marvel’s World War II went down, then comics publishing should stop forever.
Another frightening aspect of HYDRA society is the rampant xenophobia and persecution of the Inhumans, which does reflect a very real threat facing Latinx and Muslim communi-
Actually, fuck the Inhumans.
After this Inhuman whose power is… ??? gets brought in by HYDRA’s stormtroopers, we see a message from Carol Danvers to all intergalactic societies begging for someone to come help us from what we’ve wrought. I’d say there’s going to be a plotline coming up where aliens come help us fight off HYDRA but it’s unlikely. The Kree elections are currently in a tight race between centrist Gladiator and, somehow, Marine Le Pen, so it’s not like they’re in a position to help.
Back on Earth, Nick Spencer still refuses to write Nazi Steve Rogers as a bad guy.
This is Cap giving fair warning to a rampaging monster so he can talk about dignified HYDRA is before he can send in The Avengers. I get there’s supposed to naturally be some hypocrisy between the words of a dictator and their actions, but scenes like this get followed up with a bunch of moments where teary-eyed Stevey is conflicted about his role in HYDRA, which is just so tiring. If dude’s a fascist, make him a fascist. If he’s not, don’t make him a fascist. The GOP just passed a bill in the House of Representatives that made rape a pre-existing condition. There’s no shades of subtlety with any of these chucklefucks.
Oh, also, The Avengers. It’s kind of like Dark Avengers where you’ve got your obvious villains in superhero roles (a newly cloned Superior Spider-Man AKA Superior Octopus, Black Ant, etc.), but you’ve also got The Vision, Deadpool, Scarlet Witch and Thor of all people working with Steve. I figure this is only going to get answered in tie-ins and not get a passing reference in the actual “Secret Empire” series but how did any of this happen? Did Steve use a cosmic cube to bend reality so Thor became a huge Alex Jones fan? If so, is anyone writing that tie-in? I have a lot of free time and not a lot of good ideas.
Meanwhile, at #TheResistance, The Champions have picked up Rayshaun Lucas, a kid from Brooklyn who is definitely going to be the next Patriot. Eat your heart out, Isaiah Bradley. The Champions bring him to the underground’s hideout run by The Thing, Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Sam Wilson who is now back to being The Falcon. Rayshaun is brought to Tony Stark’s AI which is currently trying to find some kind of solution to the HYDRA thing. And because Tony Stark is contractually obligated to appear in one of these. Rayshaun hands off a flashdrive full of HYDRA’s deleted e-mails given to him by Marvel’s perennial sidekick and Edward Snowden stand-in, Rick Jones.Continued below
Rick Jones chews out Cap for the whole being part of HYDRA thing which hurts Steve’s feelings. He’s not a Nazi dammit, he’s a human.
Steve then goes to a meeting with HYDRA’s secret council where it turns out that, uh, fascism is making the country better? In the two days since they’ve taken over HYDRA has created new factory jobs, lowered unemployment, improved foreign trade deals through intimidation, no longer cause mass causalities during superhero fights and instituted single payer health care are you fucking kidding me with this shi
There’s this idea that fascists are, despite the terror, these hyper competent geniuses. Most of that idea comes from that stupid “at least Mussolini always made the trains run on time” phrase which is just a vaguely witty thing for your uncle to say during Thanksgiving after he’s done defending his SS tattoos. I genuinely have no idea how anyone at Marvel thinks it’s a good idea to give its fascist characters even an inch of depth or complexity when that isn’t how any of this works. The idea of villains being these extraordinarily complex characters is something that exists and only exists in Shakespeare and the Metal Gear Solid franchise. You do not apply that characterization to Nazis or any other form of fascist. No matter how long they’ve been planning it, “Secret Empire” has a lot of elements that are a clear reaction to the Trump administration and portraying these types as complex characters when the GOP cracked open beers after passing Ryancare in the House yesterday is an insult.
Real world rant of the column aside, Steve Rogers is then pulled aside by his Kellyanne Conway, Madame Hydra, who talks to him about Kobik. Kobik, the girl the Cosmic Cube turned into, had been shattered into pieces and, if brought back together, could allow Steve to bring back the world of The Great Illusion, where Nazi Germany won the war. She asks Steve to show his power and, over the course of one televised speech, he does.
On the day of “The Great Reckoning”, Rick Jones is shot and HYDRA warships begin attacking major cities, killing thousands. In its quest for the Cosmic Cube, HYDRA begins its hostile takeover of the US with state-sanctioned genocide. But it’s not all black and white! Because Steve is frowning a lot and somehow passed single payer healthcare. I’m not a comic book historian by any stretch, but I do know that Jack Kirby didn’t get up from drawing Captain America to fight Nazis in World War II so someone could create a “nuanced” depiction of fascism with his characters.
Join us next time when I stop writing about comics halfway through the column and just start ranting about how Robespierre was right.