May. 18th, 2017

sareini: Nate Grey from the X-Men comics (Nate Grey)
I've been ruminating a bit over the last few days over the current Marvel comics event, Secret Empire. For those of you not in the know, Steve Rogers, Captain America, was old for a while then got returned to his youthful self by the/a Cosmic Cube, which was in the form of a little girl called Kobik. Unfortunately, when Kobik de-aged Cap, she also re-wrote part of his history because of manipulation by the Red Skull, making him into the perfect Hydra sleeper agent. Several in-continuity months later, Hydra puts their plan into action and takes over the United States with Captain America, thoroughly believing that Hydra is what's best for the country, in charge. The majority of heroes get locked outside the planet by a defense shield, New York gets put into a Darkforce Dimension bubble and cut off from everything, mutants get "relocated" to a new country and Inhumans get put into camps. Oh, and there are public executions and Las Vegas gets bombed into the ground for harbouring a resistance movement. Fun stuff all round.

The reason I've been thinking about this lately is not just because I've been following the story, but because I've been wondering what Nick would have thought of all this. Those of you who knew Nick know that he created his "Benevolent Dictator for Life" idea, and his cynicism (and depression) led him to believe that humanity couldn't be trusted to govern itself, so someone should step in to do it for them, for their own good. He'd also jokingly "Hail Hydra" sometimes. So I'm wondering how he would have reacted to Secret Empire.

Short answer: I think he'd have hated it.

Long answer: Oh boy, where to begin. First off, I think Nick would have empathised with the over-written Captain America - he's clearly supposed to be thinking this is the best for everyone, that Hydra really will help Make America Great Again (hah). The problem is - and this is most likely down to bad writing - that Cap's actions don't always mesh with the fact that he's still supposed to be trying to do the right thing. Look at the things I listed above, to begin with. Concentration camps? Public executions? Bombing a city into rubble and killing thousands of innocent civilians just to send a message? There is no way that Captain America can still be thought of as "trying to do the right thing" when he's taking part in any of those actions. I don't think even Doctor Doom in his villainous prime went so far as to have concentration camps, and yet here we have Steve Rogers going along with this like it isn't a big deal at all. The man fought in WW2! (There was a page from a 90s X-Men/Avengers crossover event called Bloodties that I wanted to put here to illustrate the point - it takes place on Genosha where the mutate population have been put into camps to "protect" them from the Legacy virus that was ravaging the country, and when Captain America finds one such camp he is... less than happy - but I can't find a scan of it anywhere and I don't know where my own copy is, so just take my word for it.)

So we have those problems with the whole thing. Then we have the way Hydra is keeping control of the US now that they have it. Propaganda and information blackouts are one thing, but they're also putting mind control agents in the water and encouraging people - including children - to inform on anyone they think is harbouring "anti-Hydra" thoughts. And if they catch you... well, it seems all you have to do to stop the torture/execution is to "Hail Hydra", and again, how the hell can Captain America still be thought of as in any way "good" or still heroic if he's going along with this? He kills two of his friends because of this! In panels where they discuss these things he looks more annoyed by the bureaucracy than anything else.

It seems that Marvel might be starting to realise that they've written themselves into a corner with their portrayal of Captain America now, as the end of #2 of Secret Empire seems to be setting up a "good Steve/bad Steve" situation, but certainly right now they can't go on trying to make Captain America be all, "It's all for the best! No really, my murderous brainwashing Hydra allies aren't bad!" without completely destroying the character forevermore.

So in conclusion: no, Nick would not have been agreeing with Steve Rogers and Hydra on this. At all.

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