Marvel Comics’ summer event series, Secret Empire, just claimed the life of a major superhero. Big name, marquee deaths are par for the course when it comes to large comics events like this, but this particular death stings a little bit extra because the fallen hero was killed by Captain America, who is an evil, Nazi-adjacent fascist.
There are spoilers for Secret Empire #7 below.
To briefly recap, in case you haven’t been reading the widely criticized, often confusing series, Captain America was transformed into a lifelong member of the villainous group Hydra thanks to some universe-altering shenanigans. HydraCap took over the United States, sending the still-good superheroes scrambling underground to try to mount a resistance. One group of heroes, the young Champions team, whose membership includes Miles Morales’s Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel, and Amadeus Cho’s Hulk, teamed up with Black Widow to launch an assassination attempt.
As you might guess, since this is only issue #7 out of a 10-issue series, things don’t work out. The original plan was for Spider-Man to kill Captain America, since another character who could see the future predicted this happening in Marvel’s last big event. Black Widow, though, wanted to save Miles from this murderous fate, and tried to snipe HydraCap herself. She fought off the Hydra-aligned Punisher, only to find that Miles had escaped from where she’d hidden him and charged Cap.
Black Widow tried to intervene, and in the process HydraCap snapped her neck with his shield in an especially brutal, x-ray vision panel. She falls to the ground and is, presumably, dead. Later in the issue, Cap refers to her as if she is dead. Black Widow, a character first introduced in 1967, is no more.
Well, until she inevitably comes back to life.
In earlier issues of Secret Empire, somehow Hydra was able to bring Bruce Banner, aka the Incredible Hulk, back to life. He was killed in that earlier event series, Civil War II, but Secret Empire didn’t really bother to spend any time explaining how they brought him back to life. The comic just did it, spending roughly the same amount of panels reviving him as it spent offing Black Widow.
Life and death are always cheap in big superhero event series. Secret Empire has already been widely criticized for using extremely serious topics like fascism, discrimination, supremacy, and the specter of Nazism for cheap thrills. In light of this, Black Widow’s death is senseless, but almost an inevitability, a symptom of Secret Empire’s attempt to be big and important while also hiding behind a flimsy, “nothing matters” shield.