WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Captain America: Steve Rogers #17
Captain America's promotion to supervillain is gaining speed, now adapting the language of Islamophobia in Steve Rogers's mission to not just register potential threats, but intern them in prison camps. It's only the latest fascist, tyrannical move by the onetime Marvel Comics mascot, as his Secret Empire strengthens its grasp on the American public. While the first issues offered a look at American life under Hydra, including Inhumans being hunted, Captain America: Steve Rogers #17 shows the life of internment that awaits them.
By now it's abundantly clear that writer Nick Spencer and Marvel have transformed Captain America into a monster - and an unforgivable, irredeemable, fascist monster at that. And while Steve Rogers's attack on 'fake news,' bleeding heart, liberal media shows that the publisher is using some pointed language to reflect the current American political climate, they've now added a racial, or ethnic wrinkle. Captain America is questioning the rights of even American citizens, labeling them a threat based on the actions of their ancestors.
"Let's Talk About The Camps"
The primary setting of the issue is a TV interview arranged by Hydra, intended to win over hearts and minds of the American people still resisting this hostile takeover. Operating in the same role as dictators like Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, all the way back to Julius Caesar, Steve attempts to bring the public to heel by boasting of threats at home and abroad (whether real or imagined). Keeping to the fascist's handbook, Steve reminds viewers of the terror that existed before Hydra's brutal order, and the otherworldly attacks and superhero-averted world-ending disasters that happened week after week.
With every move made to promote the progress made under Hydra's leadership - renewed sense of patriotism, the working class put to work creating new dreadnoughts and machines of war, and increased safety - the interviewer, Sally Floyd responds by highlighting the opposite perspective. The idea that for someone to gain more security, another section of society must have less. Steve takes it as a bias on the media's part, and a determination to focus on the negative - all in the interest of a smear campaign focused on the dissidents, the resistance, and Hydra's political opponents. Whereas he thinks only of those who have benefited: "the people who matter."
But not all threats to American lives and lifestyle are from other planets or realms: there are still "the threats lurking right next door." He speaks of the Inhumans, and is soon questioned on Hydra's decision to not just track down or restrict the movements of that community - but imprison them without cause.
Inhumans Outlawed, Guilty Until Proven Innocent?
It's here where the early clarifications that HYDRA ARE NOT NAZIs become a little confusing, since Captain America is operating in the same way as the Axis powers of World War II, simply choosing a different subsection of society as his scapegoat. Some will argue that Spencer and Marvel are merely using the language and imagery of fascism in general, and any attempt to suggest they've made a Nazi out of Captain America is sensationalist (in some part, the kind of "fake news" being criticized by Steve in this very story). And prior to this issue, we would agree that the seductive power of fascism as a whole - seductive to those who "matter," anyway - is ripe for commentary.
But at some point readers are likely to inspect the difference between clarifying Captain America and Hydra are NOT NAZIs, and showing them embrace and implement the exact kind of systems used by any and all tyrants, Hitler included. A previous issue of Secret Empire overtly showed that, just as under Hitler and Mussolini, "the trains (and planes) run on time" thanks to Hydra's rigidity. But the introduction of internment camps for Inhumans confirms that Spencer is seeing this tale of tyrannical dominance through to the very end.
Steve does as all dictators do: assure the public that those deemed potential threats are treated with dignity and understanding - as the reader sees them treated like criminals, and tortured for Hydra's own purposes once disappearing into the system. Once again, Sally Floyd points out that the family members of these imprisoned Inhumans (Inhuman mutations are not genetic, but due to dormant genes placed there by ancient Kree) are fighting for their loved ones' rights.
But as is too often the case in our own world, Steve explains - as if he has the moral high ground, no less - that the damage inflicted by some Inhumans is all the cause his government needs to suspect, imprison, and detain all Inhumans.
Inhuman Citizens No Longer Have Rights?
Now any modern reader with even a slight grasp on global and American politics can see the rhetoric and allegory at work. As the United States' Executive and Judicial Branches are currently arguing the legality of the so-called "Muslim Ban," the question is the same: are American citizens of Muslim faith, or hailing from predominantly-Muslim countries able to be classified as threats to the American public, or does their citizenship grant them protection against such suspicion, deportation, or detainment? And it all stems from the fact that to many Americans (and Westerners around the world) the word "Muslim" has become synonymous with "terrorist."
It's a conversation, debate, and Constitutional dispute that most comic book readers would probably prefer to avoid, but it's the social climate in which Secret Empire is being written. Step into the Marvel Universe at present, and Steve Rogers is proclaiming that due to the actions of Inhumans in the past, the term "Inhuman" marks a threat worthy of internment - and apparently entitled to as few rights as that moniker implies. That these threats originate in a race showing values "incompatible with modern society and a history of violence."
What's worse, these threats were being allowed to live in American homes - and the prior government was actually asking people (presumably "the people that matter") to live with them, and work with them. Now, Steve explains, the public have accepted his rule for acknowledging the truth: that no matter who these "Inhumans" were, the past actions of some of their kind meant they were to be feared. In no uncertain terms, asking citizens to live next to these threats meant agreeing to put their family's lives in danger.
It's hard to claim that Captain America's rhetoric doesn't work - it has proven effective in the Marvel Universe, and in our own world to a startling extent in recent years. There's no way Marvel makes such strong, politically, socially, and racially-charged content by accident, and those following Nick Spencer's previous work (including Captain America: Sam Wilson) know that holding a mirror up to society is something of a trademark. And given the overall tone of the series so far, there's no doubt Captain America is in the wrong, having gone to extremes in the name of a 'greater good.'
So if readers find themselves more disgusted by Steve Rogers's actions and politics, or his sheer hypocrisy than usual, you may want to keep reading. Because at the rate his story is going, some well-earned payback is on its way.
Captain America: Steve Rogers #17 is available now.