Tuesday, May 9, 2017
There's a lot of questions and comments floating around regarding Marvel's Secret Empire comic that came out on Free Comic Book Day. At the end of a battle where Hydra forces, lead by Captain America, have defeated the Avengers, Cap picks up Mjolnir, Thor's Hammer. How can he do that if he's evil? He has to be worthy in order to be able to lift the hammer.
Mjolnir doesn't define being "worthy" in terms of a good-or-evil judgment call. Being "worthy" means you believe in your convictions. Kobik, the girl formed from cosmic cube fragments, was secretly mentored by the Red Skull. At a point where aged Steve lay dying, Kobik herself, not at the behest of any other, reset him to the best version of himself. This included false information that Kobik learned from the Red Skull, mainly a belief system that revolved around Hydra. Almost all other events and qualities that originally made Steve Rogers Captain America happened or still exist, although slightly altered: his origin story of how he got his powers, being a master strategist, his relationships with Bucky and Sharon Carter, blaming himself for Bucky's death, etc... Lifting Mjolnir wasn't a matter of mind control. Steve Rogers personal history was rewritten, misinformed by faulty information from the Red Skull. Mjolnir would have sensed mind control and Steve wouldn't have been able to lift the hammer. His free will is intact, which he'd need in order to be worthy. The issue of how the Red Skull managed this feat is here.
In Secret Empire #0, Seeds of doubt about Hydra's mission are being planted in Cap's head. He's lost his former partner, Rick Jones, to firing squad. He's on the outs with Sharon Carter; she hates him. I'm sure he'll lose others and discover other crimes perpetrated by Hydra. The crux will be a crisis of conscience and Steve will be left with a decision: Hydra or Avengers. Since he still has freewill, he won't need to break free of the power of the Cosmic Cube; it doesn't hold sway over him. His ability to debate himself and question authority is what Captain America has been missing since Kobik changed his history. This character trait has been demonstrated time and again in numerous Captain America stories. We've seen Cap angst over the death of Bucky, question the government and relinquish his post in the first Secret Empire event, firmly take the side against registering during Civil War and many more examples. And this trait is what Cap will get back as this event wears on, after experiencing doubt from seeing the horrors that Hydra has to offer. Then we'll get our Cap back, but he'll be tainted from this experience. And gray is the shade of Marvel's heroes in today's comic books.
This is what I hope Nick Spencer is going for. It'd be a real shame if it did come down to another cosmic widget reset or a 'big(ger) bad' brings enemies together. Or that sentient cosmic cube fragments and Uru are related in the grand scheme of the universe? Nah. I'd like to see Cap prove, once again, that'll he'll be Cap, no matter what the Red Skull throws at him; even if he has to claw his way out of a flawed, alternate belief system.
And then he'll know, while you may have the strongest belief that you are right, only by seeing the truth will you be truly worthy.