Surprising absolutely no one, Captain America is to return to heroism this week after 15 months as the leader of Hydra, a Nazi-like organization.
The moment of truth comes in Issue No. 10 of Secret Empire, which will be released by Marvel Comics on Wednesday. The series has chronicled the Captain's takeover of the United States and many of his former allies forming an underground resistance.
The Secret Empire storyline, written by Nick Spencer and drawn by several artists, has been controversial since Captain America uttered the words "Hail Hydra," back in May 2016. There were death threats aimed at Spencer on social media, accusations of anti-Semitism (the Sentinel of Liberty, as the hero is nicknamed, was created by two Jewish men, Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, and fans did not like the character cozying up to evil) and more.
Axel Alonso, Marvel's editor-in-chief, stands by the project, and Spencer's desire to tell a tale about creeping fascism. "We understood the story would challenge readers, but we also know how it ended," he said. "We also thought the story had something important to say about democracy, freedom and the core American values that Captain America embodies."
Any parallels to the current political climate have been coincidental. Marvel had no idea that Secret Empire would end "at a time when our country would be engaged in let's call it heated debate about fascism," Alonso said.
Captain America's transformation to villain (including a muted green-and-yellow uniform) and back to goodness (and his classic red, white and blue costume) involves cosmic shenanigans better left to the comic book pages to explain. A more easily understood moment is (spoiler alert) seeing the Marvel heroes, drawn by Steve McNiven, no longer at odds with one another, but standing tall, united and smiling.
It seems fitting that the announcement of Captain America's return to the side of angels was Monday, what would have been Kirby's 100th birthday. The Jack Kirby Museum and Research Center is celebrating him in New York through Wednesday.
Another of Kirby's and Simon's creations will return in October when Titan Comics publishes the first issue of Fighting American, another patriotic hero — though this one with a satirical bent. One of the covers for Issue No. 1, in comic stores on Oct. 11, which would have been Simon's 104th birthday, displays some of that edge.
It pokes at the Captain America controversy with cover lines that read: "No secrets. No empires. Just an all-American hero."