Why Most Secret Empire Takes Are Wrong

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It’s the Super Tuesday Recap you’ve been asking us for. Kriss, Dpalm and Justin are back to discuss Nick Spencer’s Secret Empire. If we sound a bit animated during the show it’s because there has been an incredible amount of poorly written takes on this event. Now of course, not everyone is going to like or even agree with everything that happens in this event. That’s perfectly okay. What’s not okay though is when entire articles are written or discussions are had and basic facts are misconstrued or worse, ignored. Here are some of basics we talk about in breaking down this event:

This is as much Sam’s Story as it is Steve’s

One of the instant ways I can tell if an article or discussion on Secret Empire is worth my attention is if there’s any mention of Sam Wilson. This Io9 article mentions him twice but only in passing, not as central to the story. To be fair that’s 2 more times than most other articles trashing Secret Empire. This IGN article that’s been passed around a lot, Why Secret Empire Failed, mentions Sam Wilson zero times. You cannot have a real discussion about Secret Empire without Sam Wilson. He’s at least half (if not more) of the story. Everyone’s been so focused on Steve but Nick Spencer’s run on both Captain America books and Secret Empire has been about making Sam Wilson the hero and Captain America the Marvel Universe needs even when they didn’t know it. Yes, Sam gives up being Captain America for a bit but it’s understandable why. It wasn’t just Steve working against him but also the country (or at least the folks Sam was listening to). But Sam is a hero. So even when he gave up Captain America he was still helping people. He was still bitter though, even saying that maybe the people didn’t deserve Captain America. But it takes Misty Knight and a young Patriot to tell Sam that his problem was he was too busy worrying about the opinions of the wrong people and not those who really needed him and supported him.

And that’s when Sam Wilson reemerges. Right when the rest of the heroes think they’ve been defeated Sam picks the shield up and leads them to victory. Make no mistake: Sam is the hero who saves the day here, not good Steve. By the time the other Steve Rogers shows up, the fight is over. Kobik is rescued and the fight is over. The end panels of Secret Empire prove this: Steve gives the shield back to Sam (“This doesn’t belong to me”), the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes shot has Sam not Steve and most telling, at the end the kids are fighting over a Captain America doll that is revealed to be…Sam.

It’s a Discussion on America

The panel of good Steve knocking out Hydra Steve with Mjolnir spread around social media fueling the idea that bringing back the “good” Steve was the end game for Secret Empire. The problem is, the panels before and after the Steves fight offer a lot of missing context. As I mentioned above, by the time the Steves square off, the war is over. Kobik has been freed and Hydra Steve no longer has any power. But Sam stops Bucky from intervening because Sam knows that Steve basically needs to face himself. It’s a metaphor for white people in America confronting their own white privilege. See, fighting fascism and bigotry isn’t just about confronting the low hanging fruit (Hydra or Nazis or Neo-Nazis or Alt-Right). It’s also about confronting the evil bigotry inside which is what the fight between the Steves is. And in that fight, Steve uses the tools of a black person (The Shield) and a woman (Thor’s Mjolnir) to defeat the evil reflection in himself. But the most important part comes after the fight: He hands the shield back to Sam and Mjolnir back to Thor (Jane Foster). He then leaves. Steve is no longer in the panels after that. This is basically an example of what being a “good ally” means: Use the tools of the marginalized to help them then when it’s over, give the tools back and stand out of the way. 

But beyond just the fight, there’s plenty of times in Secret Empire and in the Captain America books where Spencer is clearly drawing parallels to today. My favorite is from Captain America: Steve Rogers #17 when he has a discussion with Magneto:

Things Aren’t Going Back to Normal

One of the most inexplicable complaints about Secret Empire is that everything got changed back to normal. This is just a flat out lie. Kobik restores the history but “leaves the scars”. Those scars being the dead. Those scars being an entire American city being decimated (Las Vegas). Those scars being Inhumans were locked up and thrown into camps. The events of Secret Empire weren’t wiped away. They happened. What's interesting about this is, once again, it can be used as commentary for today. We see the erasing of our history by the white washing and downplaying of the horrors of slavery, the genocide of Native Americans and other shameful American acts. In order to move forward, we need to remember the past and also acknowledge the painful scars and consequences of that history.

There will definitely be consequences for all the characters because of what happened. And that includes Steve Rogers…both of them. See, Hydra Steve didn’t get wiped away. He still exists. Yes he was defeated, yes a good Steve Rogers exists but it’s foolish to think that Steve will face zero backlash. Now folks will say because of previews that Steve goes back to being Captain America and Sam gives up the shield. Maybe. Comic Book previews never tell the whole story (Remember when Magneto was Hydra because of a variant cover?). But one thing we know from comics is, the fallout from events continue on for decades after. Every event, good or bad, has had lasting impacts on the universe. It's honestly too early to tell the impact and we damn sure can't do it using preview pages (that's how a lot of bad opinions were formed on Secret Empire to begin with).

 

People should read Secret Empire and the associated Captain America books. Reading what other people have written (even us) doesn’t do it justice. This is a great Captain America story, the best Sam Wilson story ever written and a pretty relevant book in light of recent events in America.

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