This post covers Secret Empire #0, Secret Empire #1, and the Free Comic Book day Secret Empire issue. And beware: spoilers ahead!
Comic books as a whole, need to keep stories fresh and exciting I get that. I was already an avid comic reader when Superman died, Batman was replaced by Azrael, and Spider-Man turned out to be a clone. But even back then I knew the originals would return at some point. Now we have Secret Empire, a story so unpopular, it has Marvel is begging for patience from readers.
The basic premise of Secret Empire is that reality as we knew it has been rewritten with the help of a Cosmic Cube. In this new world Steve Rogers has been secretly working for Hydra for decades, slowly setting the stage for the day he and Hydra take control of the United States.
I know this book will have its defenders, but for me Secret Empire fell flat. But maybe not for the reasons you might expect. The problem for me was that Secret Empire‘s first issue unfolded much like the first issue of any other Marvel crossovers: the basic plot is introduced, we meet the main characters, and the bad guys, and then the villains do something horrible to let readers know that this crossover will change everything! (at least until the next Marvel crossover).
Writer Nick Spencer has been building to this crossover for over a year, so I was hoping for something more than just “Captain America believe he’s doing the right thing.” I mean come on, how many times has that been tried in comics before?
Over and over, we keep seeing Cap and other Hydra members complaining about how hard this ordeal is. At one point, Cap tries to save his relationship with his girlfriend, who can’t stand to look at him now, and all he does is complain about how hard his life is now that he’s in charge. and how she just doesn’t understand how he’s doing the right thing for the world.
For this story to really work, you gotta give us more than a whiny Captain America. W need to see how Hydra has integrated into normal people’s lives. We see a few hints here and there, but not enough of it. This is one are where Nick Spencer needed to swing for the fences, or not swing at all.
Another problem with Secret Empire is the art. Each issue of the series has a different art team, and the results are jarring. In Secret Empire #0, Sharon Carter looks like she’s about 55-60. But in issue #1, she looks much younger to me. Even Captain America looks different from issue to issue.
The one bright spot when it comes to the art department, was Andrea Sorrentino’s work in the FCBD issue. The Italian artist has a unique style, but a few panels remind me of Jae Lee’s Hellshock days.
We all know Captain America’s turn to the dark side is temporary, so it all comes down to the execution of the story. But I have to be honest, the Secret Empire storyline could have worked well 10 years ago, or even a couple of years ago. But with all the real world stuff going on today, it left me with an uneasy feeling.
Marvel wants us to be patient as the story unfolds. But with Marvel’s history of crossovers that don’t mean anything in the end, why should we drop $4.99 per issue?
Secret Empire score (for now): D