Image: Marvel Comics. Secret Empire #0 Art by Daniel Acuña, and Travis Lanham

Marvel’s new big event Secret Empire officially begins tomorrow, but an immense level of backlash has been leveled at the company’s use of a symbolic figure like Captain America as the villainous head of Hydra, an organization affiliated with Nazis. It’s gotten to the point where Marvel has had to release an official statement in an attempt to reassure fans.

The company responded to the anger fans have expressed at Secret Empire’s subject matter via ABC News, ahead of the first issue in the series hitting stands tomorrow:

With Marvel Comics’ Secret Empire, the forces of Hydra have taken over and, due to the villainous actions of the Red Skull, have manipulated Marvel’s greatest hero, Captain America, and forced him to adopt their cause. 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.

With Marvel pushing Secret Empire in the run up to its beginning in mainstream outlets like ABC News itself, Time Magazine, or Entertainment Weekly (where it attempted to backtrack on heavily political undertones of the story), audiences’ reactions to the storyline has been quick and angry. To them, in a time where white nationalism has seen a resurgence in the Western world, Captain America has been twisted and perverted into an icon for the intolerant. Meanwhile, despite pushing Hydra away from its retconned connections to the Nazis in the comics for years, Marvel’s movies and TV shows—which have introduced millions of people who don’t actively follow the comics to characters and factions like Captain America, the Red Skull, and Hydra—have been telling audiences over the last few years that Hydra and the Nazi party might as well be one and the same entity.

Backlash reached a fever pitch with the recent Secret Empire #0 comic that kicked off the event in earnest. Many readers believe the issue’s prologue heavily implies that Steve Roger’s history was not purposefully corrupted by the powers of the reality-altering cosmic cube to becoming a Hydra Agent as audiences had been lead to believe, but instead the restoration of an original timeline in the Marvel universe where Hitler and Hydra won the Second World War, a reality averted by the Allied forces using their own cosmic cube to alter existence.

Secret Empire #0 Art by Rod Reis, and Travis Lanham

It is the reaction to this latest turn of events that has lead Marvel to release this unprecedented statement to ABC News today, which, after imploring audiences to wait and see how Secret Empire plays out, also promises that the series’ climax will see Steve Rogers restored to his former heroic self:

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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.

What you will see at the end of this journey is that his 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.

While the statement itself does little to assuage concerned audiences beyond the fact that Steve will be back to normal by the end of the event, the fact that Marvel felt it had to release such a statement speaks to the levels of controversy surrounding Secret Empire.

Whether the uproar is actually diminished by the announcement is yet to be seen. But even if Steve Rogers recovers, will Marvel Comics be able to recover from what they’ve done to Captain America?

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[ABC News]