(WARNING: There will be minor spoilers for Secret Empire #1 and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Farewell, Cruel World.)
Marvel is asking us to hold back our prejudice and disgust as Captain America is leading Hydra into a new age in the comics, and give #SecretEmpire a chance. Quite frankly, it's hard. Fans of #AgentsofSHIELD can attest it's not easy to watch your favorite characters do unsavory things to your other favorite characters.
With the release of Secret Empire #1 and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. just wrapping one of their best arcs in the show's history, it's now time to examine who wore Hydra-chic better: the comics or television? Just kidding. Lets see how #Marvel made a wise move by doing the Hydra storyline in A.O.S. first, before Secret Empire and the events that transpired in the latest issue.
1. Captain America And Leopold Fitz
Leopold Fitz has been a fan-favorite on A.O.S. ever since Ward dropped him into the ocean and he risked everything to save Jemma. In that respect, he's every bit of a hero as Captain America (without the trilogy of films and #TheAvengers appearances). As of now, they're both leading Hydra in their worlds. Captain America may have a council of douchebags and Fitz had Madame Hydra (so does Cap), but the way they're cleaning house is almost identical — imprisoning every Inhuman and forcing people to live a certain way.
When Fitz emerged outside of the Framework (a digital world where Hydra ruled), the look on his face said it all. Fitz killed The Patriot, one of the only actual humans that resided in that hellscape and leader of S.H.I.E.L.D. We thought it was going to be difficult to ever look at him the same way, but the sadness and realization lead to an automatic redemption in the eyes of fans.
In Secret Empire, you can already see that Cap is unsure of what he's doing to everyone. As long as Nick Spencer continues his streak, then Cap's redemption could be a thing of art. Or, everyone will hate him for the rest of eternity — both Cap and Spencer — because he might've went too far with Cap, pushing people away from the story already.
2. One's Loyalty
What are Odinson, Scarlet Witch and Vision thinking working as The Avengers in Secret Empire? That's right — those three heroes are currently working for Hydra. This is where things really start to become interesting. Vision loves his daughter, Viv, with all of his synthetic heart. She's working against Hydra with the Champions.
This is what makes these stories so interesting. Y'see, in A.O.S., Grant Ward joined Hydra to protect Daisy from being detected as an Inhuman. Bonds are strengthened when being tested by others who are close to you. Vision hunting down his daughter, is an example of what someone will do when they feel betrayed by someone they love. Interesting stuff.
3. Fighting For The Mundane
Quake and Jemma entered the Framework to save the people they cared about most in the world. They had no clue they would be entering an alternate world mimicking events of The Winter Soldier if Team Cap did not prevail and stop Hydra. A.O.S. did an amazing job displaying how hard it to fight a government regime as powerful as Hydra in a manner that was not only intimate, but grand all at the same time.
In both, the show and the comics, they started off with something extremely personal, but also mundane: kids going to school. Coulson let one of his kids be hauled off to god knows where just because he was a possible Inhuman. He also was teaching the kids a new history, one that's approved by Hydra (scary because of close to reality this really is) and is supposed to remain unchallenged and unquestioned. These two elements were almost identical to one another, but the comic went a tad more personal.
This is one of the most effective ways to show what the Rebel Alliance is fighting for in terms of the real world — show something we take for granted and make it one of the most dangerous parts of the new status quo.
4. The Heroes
This is a tricky subject when dealing with these types of books. In A.O.S., it was clear from the start that Jemma, Quake and the Patriot were the the heroes. But what if someone had been a coward their whole life and suddenly risked everything to get important information to the Rebels, or if a top commander took issue with their handling of innocent civilians? In a regular story it'd be extremely difficult for these two characters to be heroes, but these types of people oftentimes makes a bigger difference in the story than the original heroes.
Melinda May was a big-time Hydra Agent but felt guilty when she saw Mack in the hallway talking to his daughter after she threatened to spy on Daisy. She then grabbed a Terrigen Crystal and gave Quake back her powers in the Framework. This led to a satisfying action piece, with Daisy throwing Madame Hydra out of a very high window. Now, in Secret Empire, Cap has a roster full of heroes who could turn against Hydra to help the Champions or the Ultimates.
5. Redemption (Spoilers Ahead For 'Secret Empire')
I've mentioned numerous times throughout this article that the Framework did not exist in the real world, but Secret Empire is currently happening in the world of the comics. Fitz murdered his boss and Cap just killed one of his best friends and bombed a city. I love Fitz and it broke my heart watching him act the way he did as the Doctor. Words just can't compare to how I feel about one of my current favorite heroes. How can Cap be redeemed for such atrocities?
Nick Spencer may have told us that it's the Rebels that will make this a great story, but most fans are simply waiting for Captain America to be redeemed and back fighting for what we know is right. These stories work best when the main character does one gigantic gesture to restore our faith, just like in a cheesy romance movie. Grant Ward did a lot of wretched things during his time with S.H.I.E.L.D., but the Framework's version worked hard to be a better man and people saw him differently. Is this possible with Captain America?
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s latest Hydra arc made the audience feel a wide range of emotions and gave us plenty to think about as we head into a time where the President of the United States tweets insults by the hour. In Secret Empire, we have to watch one of our favorite heroes recreate America — then the world — with good intentions. If you can't stand Cap being something despicable, then don't read it. If you want to see Cap's redemption, then read it. A.O.S. (and Star Wars) proved it's worth your time!
What did you think of the latest arc for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Will you be checking out Secret Empire any time soon?