Fresh off the back of the Hydra!Cap controversy, Marvel Comics has continued this plot into the new Secret Empire arc, as Captain America becomes a full-fledged villain — and Magneto seems primed to join forces with Hydra. Marvel have released a few variant covers for the next issue, spotlighting Magneto as part of the "Villains of Hydra" variant.
Although this is far from conclusive evidence that Magneto will indeed join Hydra, fans are already up in arms about this, and honestly they make some good points.
Erik Didn't Survive The Holocaust For This
Fans are protesting that aligning Magneto with Hydra is akin to making him a Nazi, which is a huge insult to his Jewish heritage.
Of course, in a backlash to the backlash, others have argued that Hydra is not the same as the Nazi Party which, while the recent writers of the #comicbooks may agree, has not always been the case.
Magneto himself takes the view that Hydra and Nazis are one and the same thing, and his hatred of Red Skull in particular has formed the basis of several comic plots over the years.
And yet, it's easy to get caught up in the fan furor — which is exactly what Marvel want. Sales for Captain America: Steve Rogers soared after the well-documented controversy over Steve being revealed as a sleeper Hydra agent. Riding this wave, Secret Empire will be released in April, as Cap gains control of S.H.I.E.L.D. and enacts his grand plan.
Consider The Context
So if you're wondering why Marvel keep aligning Jewish-created heroes — or straight up Jewish characters — with an infamously Nazi-allied group, the answer may well lie in how comics tend to fly off the shelves when controversy is involved. This also explains the veritable character assassination of Captain Marvel in the recent Civil War II, something which her new solo comic is trying desperately to repair.
It's worth noting that none of Secret Empire's plot has been revealed, much less Magneto's apparent involvement.
All we have so far is a variant cover entitled "Villains of Hydra". Variants are alternate comic book covers that aren't used for main circulation. They've been known to feature what-if scenarios, and it's hardly wise to use them as a definitive plot hint. By releasing this variant early, Marvel are fully aware of the incendiary effect it will have — which essentially hypes up the Secret Empire arc even more than normal advertising could.
That being said, it's entirely possible that Nick Spencer (writer of both Captain America: Steve Rogers and Secret Empire) will indeed have Magneto join Hydra. Of course, that wouldn't be the worst thing that Magneto has done — for all that he's beloved as a symbol of oppressed people, Magneto is traditionally a Marvel villain.
He definitely treads the line between sympathetic and antipathetic, with different writers leaning to different sides of the fence. There's no denying, however, that his characterization has always been a tad problematic, as the idea that a Holocaust survivor would go on to attempt his own genocide seems to be a really disturbing commentary on trauma victims turning evil. I'm not about to write an essay on Magneto's literary subtext and symbolism, but suffice to say he's already seen his fair share of controversy.
And yet, this is part of the complexity of Magneto's character, challenging the readers to sympathize with his motivations — he was, after all, persecuted for being Jewish and a mutant — while disagreeing with his methods.
All in all, Magneto joining Hydra really would be a disappointing character development, but we still don't know for sure whether this will happen, as likely as it seems.