Secret Empire #0 begins wrapping up the extensive storyline that had critics and fanboys getting up in arms before the second issue of this arc even wrapped (whatever happened to letting a story pan out and actually end before waiting to get upset by it?). And if you haven’t warmed up to Captain America: Steve Rogers by this point in time, Secret Empire likely won’t change your mind. As “El Sacerdote”, I haven’t been following this arc very much, and it’s for a very simple reason: I’ve worn a bit weary of crossovers and universe-redefining events. This promises to be more of that, and as the upcoming Generations storyline promises with the return of the original Wolverine, a total reset of the Marvel Universe seems to be in order. This is after a little more than two years after the Secret Wars arc, which reset the Marvel Universe.
So here we go: Cap is secretly a Hydra agent, as he always has been, and the title has been going out of its way to repeatedly tell us that “Yes, this is the real Captain America. No, he isn’t brainwashed. Yes, he has always been a Hydra agent.” Mind you, there is a sentient Cosmic Cube named Kobik that seems to be recreating and reshaping all of history (I wonder whether that’ll be a big part in the inevitable reboot?), and there are simultaneous attacks all over Earth — and above it, as the Chitauri are launching a massive invasion — that are taxing (and distracting) the various superheroes sworn to protect the planet. While Cap leads the coalition to protect the planet, and after he is given authority by the president to lead every armed force in the country, he lets it be known that he is in fact the Supreme Leader of Hydra. Our heroes are left in disarray, and roll credits until the spinoffs, next issues, and crossovers.
Writer Nick Spencer crafts a deft enough tale throughout all of this action, throwing plenty of superheroics across various disparate settings, and crafting an admittedly tense tale. The use of action to get across plenty of exposition speeds the pace up a bit, although…again…if you haven’t been warming to this version of Steve Rogers, nothing here will sway you at all. A few heroes fall in the ensuing battles, but their passing is written off quickly, and moved on almost immediately. I was often thrown back to my first reading of the recent Secret Wars, where the destruction of the entire universe was handled with much greater urgency and emotion. Here, I could only feel that the inevitable reboot would undo any character’s demise, and if that’s the case, how could I truly care? Daniel Acuna’s art is sleek and moody, somehow conveying the underlying dread of Cap’s revelation to his former friends; there is darkness to each panel that is more implied than explicit, and as such it creates a sense of foreboding. It was welcome, although Acuna’s style has yet to really feel appropriately distinct enough for me to get excited by it.
Secret Empire #0 is the beginning of the end of the Marvel Universe before the inevitable reboot, and I can’t help but feel tired by the prospect of it. Another reboot, another resetting of the universe, and one in which the status quo will be reestablished, and Marvel the publisher will try to capture some of the spirit and success that DC the publisher has captured with their consistent and generally excellent Rebirth series (a welcome inversion of their cinematic universes; Marvel might rule the box office, but DC is ruling the monthlies). The prospect of keeping up with dozens of titles to cover this event is exhausting and might actually prompt me, the man who goes out of his way to drop $100/month on monthly comics to keep up-to-date, and who relishes the challenge of tracking down back issues, to wait out for the trade paperback. Again, if you’re not warmed to this iteration of Steve Rogers, Secret Empire will do little to change that outlook. Get ready for another company-wide crossover event, folks! 3/5 Global Shields.
Update: Now that the series is finished, if you want to see the reading order (including the tie in comics) then The Gotham Archives has the full list of comics you’ll need to buy or trade in order to read the complete series.
***EARLY REVIEW – OUT WEDNESDAY!***
If anyone were to take a look through the GHG archives, it would show them that I’m a huge fan of the majority of work produced by Valiant Comics. I’m also a big fan of both Peter Milligan (X-Statix, Animal Man) and Juan Jose Ryp (Ninjak). On the other hand, I’m not a big fan of historical fiction, so that put me in an interesting position going into Britannia: We Who Are About To Die; yet, I’m happy to report that enjoyment was had. This book is set in Rome during the reign of Emperor Nero and focuses on an investigation by Rome’s lone dectectioner into a series of murders that seem to have a supernatural element to them. Supernatural murder mysteries are inherently more interesting to me than many other types of stories typically set in Roman times and that coupled with Ryp’s brutal, moody art definitely has me interested to see where the rest of this story goes. 3.25/5 Severed Heads.
Lights, camera, action, action and more action! Nick Fury #1 makes me feel like I’m at the San Diego Comic-Con and just saw Marvel reveal a random trailer for Samuel L. Jackson’s next solo action joint. Man walks into a European casino in the French Riviera and literally escapes in a freakin’ flying red convertable with not a wrinkle on his suit. James Robinson (Fantastic Four) writes the introduction into the life of superspy Nick Fury Jr., as he gather his expertise to gathering info on Hydra operative Auric Goodfellow (homage to James Bond villain Auric Goldfinger). But, first, he must survive his first encounter with the ruthless Frankie Noble and her band of Hydra soldiers. Will Nick survive? Who is Frankie Noble? And, why can’t I stop using the Isaac Hayes voice every time I read Nick’s word bubble? This was a fun first issue, the artwork of ACO, Hugo Petrus, and Rachelle Rosenberg pretty much (re)creates the 007-setting mixed with random action scenes from Avengers movies with campy, “60s Adam West Batman” colors and onomatopoeias jumping at you in Psychedelic Technicolor. 4.25/5 Eye Patches.
Redneck: a term looked down upon or praised if your of the Walmart religious order. I would have never seen the day when a good monster/ghoul/vampire story arch would rejuvenate the word better than the previous work done by Jeff Foxworthy. Here, Redneck #1 meshies the world of demonology/vampire/occult and the supernatural just right. It’s one part backwoods meets horror movie “cabin in woods” setting. Donny Cates‘ writing is also solid, with a very engaging story right off the rip, holding a steady pace the whole way through. The storytelling, along with the well done grit, gloom ‘n doom artwork of Lisardo Estherren and colorist Dee Cunniffe was effortlessly on-point. Redneck unfolds as a cinematic flick within my imagination. Impressive. The comic also packs the ingenuity of taking Anne Rice & The Walking Dead flair, breeding a new fFrom the sticks hybrid” in a Kenfolk Nosferatu lineage. The Hatfield & McCoys’ vampire blood wars are beginning y’all. 5/5 Jugs of Moonshine.
Hail Hydra, GHG congregants! This is Hydra America’s epic storyline, everything Spencer (from the top review) has been building towards since his taking over of Captain America #1 is finally coming to a peak. And, unfortunately, it falls a bit flat —
especially after reading Secret Empire #0. This issue is the build-up towards Secret Empire #0, and, yeah, it gives the last bit of backstory to Steve Rogers World War II exploits, including just who the new Hydra Council entails. That said, this issue still feels slightly sluggish.
The artwork is the definition of the good, the bad, and the ugly in this issue with its three artists – Kevin Libranda, Yildiray Cinar, and Jon Malin. The artwork in the flashbacks is beautiful. Its muted red and black colors give off that nice ominous and Hydra-esque look that all betrayers appear so good in; but, those scenes are the best drawn panels in the book. The artwork containing Captain America is crisp and clean with beautiful colors, but it’s a hard juxtaposition between that and the flashbacks. Baron Zemo and the Thunderbolts looks rushed. Maybe 2 artists (flipping back from past to present) would’ve done the job just fine enough. 2.5/5 Hydra Bibles.