By Corey Patterson
Marvel Comics’ Civil War event was one of the biggest phenomenons to shake up the comic book world. The tensions between those heroes in favor of superhero registration and those who weren’t continue to reflect our conflicting desires of freedom and security. Marvel cleverly expanded these themes in the next event to hit the shelves: Secret Invasion.
The story begins shortly after the apparent death of Captain America, which has left the heroes in further disarray. The anti-registration crowd continues to hide underground lest they’re captured by Iron Man and his pro-registration forces. But all of these divisions seem to be dwarfed by a world-changing discovery in Japan: The assassin Electra was an alien Skrull spy.
With this knowledge, Iron Man and the rest of the Avengers, both those who registered and those who operated underground, began a full-scale investigation to determine how many more Skrull agents were among the heroes’ ranks. Distrust of fellow heroes was already at an all-time high thanks to the Civil War conflict, but the possibility of having undetectable Skrull spies in their ranks made it difficult to trust even their closest companions.
This sense of distrust threatens to dismantle the entire superhero community. Former allies cast watchful eyes over each other with the assumption that they may be the “enemy.”
In a world infiltrated by terrorist Skrull factions, whom can one trust?
This is where it’s pertinent to turn to a man who dealt with a similar widespread distrust in the dangerous society of Nazi Germany: Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Bonhoeffer knew about the dangers of society; business owners and local townspeople alike may have been Nazi sympathizers. But in spite of the potential dangers of being arrested by Nazi forces, he preached his message of love through Jesus Christ. Bonhoeffer used this message to voice his opposition to the widespread feelings of fear and mistrust, believing them to be antithetical to God’s love and purposes for humanity.
The theologian cleverly noted how distrust in society stems from an obsessive trust in security. People want to make sure they and their loved ones are safe, healthy and thriving, and they believe these conditions will bring about peace. However, Bonhoeffer claimed the opposite was actually the case:
“There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared. It is itself the great venture and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security.” (Wind, p. 93)
For Bonhoeffer, the desire for security is driven by fear, which fervently stands in opposition to trust in God’s love. Securing one’s safety by refusing to place one’s trust in God and others may keep you alive, but it will also keep you from connecting with your fellow person. You will become so focused on safety that you will selfishly forget to show love.
Returning to Secret Invasion’s story, we find Reed Richards (aka “Mister Fantastic”) trapped on a Skrull spaceship as he’s tortured for information about Earth. Fortunately Abigail Brand, head of S.W.O.R.D. (Sentient World Observation and Response Department), infiltrates their headquarters to save Reed. Disoriented from the unexpected rescue, he attacks Brand believing her to be a Skrull in disguise. Realizing that Brand is who she says she is through her self-sacrificial actions, the two form a truce and craft a plan that gives Earth’s heroes a fighting chance.
Adopting an attitude of trust will ultimately put one at risk, whether during a Skrull invasion or Nazi Germany. But it’s the only way to achieve peace in our society. As Bonhoeffer knew well, fighting solely for security will only breed mistrust and cause chaos in the world. It’s only through trusting and living selflessly that we can achieve peace.
Corey Patterson is a writer and webmaster. He is passionate about the synthesis of theology and geek/pop culture stories. His interests lie primarily in superhero and fantasy genres. Check out his blog here.
Wind, Renate. Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Spoke in the Wheel. Eerdmans. 1992.