Marvel Comics released a statement to ABC News on its imminent summer event Secret Empire today, asking fans to “allow the story to unfold before coming to any conclusion.”
Secret Empire, the culmination of over a year of build up from Marvel, concerns the secret, fascistic, Nazi-associated society known as Hydra mounting a successful takeover of the United States government with the help of a cosmically altered Captain America, now revealed to have been a Hydra double agent all along. The event has created significant controversy among fans since Captain America’s secret Hydra allegiance was revealed a year ago.
Recently, Marvel’s Free Comic Book Day Secret Empire tie-in book leaked, revealing a Hydra-aligned Captain America wielding Thor’s hammer (despite Mjölnir requiring its bearer to be “worthy”). Last week, the prequel issue, Secret Empire #0, detailed Captain America’s Hydra takeover of the Marvel heroes, and revealed that in the true, un-cosmically-altered timeline of the Marvel Universe, Steve Rogers was always a Hydra agent.
The first issue of Secret Empire hits comic shop shelves tomorrow, and today, Marvel released a statement to ABC News, an unusual outlet for the company, perhaps indicating that Marvel and ABC News’ corporate parent, The Walt Disney Company, had a hand in it. The statement is unaffiliated with any specific Marvel editor or higher up, ABC simply attributes it to “the folks at Marvel.”
"At Marvel, we want to assure all of our fans that we hear your concerns about aligning Captain America with Hydra and we politely ask you to allow the story to unfold before coming to any conclusion,” says the statement.
“The statement continues,” according to ABC, by saying “that the ‘passion’ of fans is what keeps the company moving forward and that ‘Captain America, will always be a cornerstone of the Marvel Universe who will stand up for what is right, and 'Secret Empire' will be the biggest challenge Steve has ever faced.’”
Marvel’s statement concludes with what looks like an awfully big hint at the climax of Secret Empire:
"What you will see at the end of this journey is that [Captain America’s] heart and soul — his core values, not his muscle or his shield — are what save the day against Hydra and will further prove that our heroes will always stand against oppression and show that good will always triumph over evil.”
This would seem to be implying that Steve Rogers will eventually turn against his Hydra allies.
“Allow the story to unfold” is, in effect, what numerous Marvel writers, artists and editors have been saying for over a year to readers complaining about the twist. It’s a request familiar to anyone who’s been through the “things will never be the same” cycle of big comic book events a few times. “Just wait and see,” writers, artists and editors insist. “We promise it’ll be good. And in the meantime, keep buying the book.”
Reader complaints about Secret Empire have run the gamut, but the response has not been dominated by complaints that Captain America would remain a Hydra agent forever. Superhero comics, after all, always return to the status quo.
Rather, fans have brought up that Captain America was created by two Jewish comics artists as a directly anti-Nazi hero, and Hydra was created to be used as a Nazi analogue — and that Magneto, a character who has also been linked to Hydra in Secret Empire, is canonically a survivor of the Holocaust. More recently, fans also voiced uneasiness with the optics of Marvel promoting a story about a fascistic Captain America in a political era where Marvel’s CEO is an advisor to President Donald Trump. And throughout, fans have taken umbrage with what has been perceived as a callous attitude toward unhappy fans from Marvel creatives.
It seems unlikely that the division between those fans and Marvel will be healed by today’s statement alone. For more on the more-than-a-year long history of Secret Empire and fan reaction to it, read our explainer.