Back in May 2016, writer Nick Spencer launched Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 - and shocked the internet with the revelation that Captain America had become an agent of Hydra! Steve Rogers's reality had been rewritten by the power of a living Cosmic Cube, and since then he's been biding his time, preparing himself for the ultimate power-grab!

It's all coming to a head in 's 2017 Summer Event - "Secret Empire." Nick Spencer's taking point on the main book, telling an ominous tale in which Steve Rogers ascends to a position of phenomenal power in the Marvel Universe. Let's just say the #0 issue begins with Steve Rogers winning. Seriously.

A Bold, Politically Aware Narrative

The inauguration scene - a chilling parallel. [Credit: Marvel Comics]
The inauguration scene - a chilling parallel. [Credit: Marvel Comics]

By all accounts, "Secret Empire" will essentially be a 'last hurrah' for the politically-aware plots that have been a mainstay of Marvel Comics for the last few years. Spencer - a former Democrat politician - has deliberately drawn parallels between the fascist Steve Rogers and President Donald Trump. That was most noticeable in the one-shot Civil War II: The Oath, which is a crucial part of the build-up to "Secret Empire." Released just a week after Donald Trump's inauguration, it featured chilling political imagery and even a ceremonial 'inauguration' for Steve Rogers as new head of S.H.I.E.L.D..

Deliberately contrasting Steve Rogers with the 'Legacy Hero' of Sam Wilson's Captain America, Spencer is using these two characters to explore the question of American self-identity.

The Nazi Controversy

The moment that shook the Internet! [Credit: Marvel Comics]
The moment that shook the Internet! [Credit: Marvel Comics]

Given the current political environment in the USA, it's no surprise Nick Spencer's strategy has proved divisive. The core problem is that most fans associate Hydra with Nazis, and thus this whole plot seems to transform the greatest superhero symbol of American self-identity into a Nazi.

Nick Spencer's protested otherwise, and in Secret Empire #0 he's gone to great lengths to show Hydra as having a far richer history than the Nazi movement. To be sure, he views Hydra as fascists; but not as Nazis.

However hard Spencer tries, he's unlikely to win this one. Hydra and Nazis are closely connected in the public consciousness, not least because of the movies. Even Marvel's own has chipped in, with the character of Simmons declaring:

"Hydra are Nazis. Every last one of them."