Last year two simple words rocked the Marvel Universe and fans alike. Steve Rodgers was a turncoat, a traitor, the mastermind behind a conspiracy that stretched back to his very childhood. The readers had been bamboozled! All this time Captain America had been a secret spy for his greatest enemy! What a twist!
Or at least that’s how Marvel had hoped fans would react. Instead the internet exploded with fury and rage that is normally reserved for only the trolliest of trolls. The backlash was so severe that there were death threats sent to writer Nick Spencer. The fans decried “How could Marvel do this to the Star Spangled Hero?” It seemed likely that Marvel would quickly backtrack and correct this misstep. Instead we have had to wait a year to see how Evil Cap’s plans of subverting Shield and the United States were going to fall into place.
Now we are here. Secret Empire is the big reveal to the characters of the Marvel universe, and for all the pomp and circumstance that this series has behind it, the big moment had the impact of a wet taco fart.
This is the big double cross, the grand design that Evil Cap and Hydra have been working towards for decades, and the climax of dividing the heroes of the world and taking over the government is only a surprise and a shock to the characters within the story. Readers however, we’ve been in on the secret for months now. We know who is pulling Cap’s strings. There are no stakes for the reader; we are just witnesses to our greatest American hero falling further from grace.
In what should be the start to Marvel’s big summer event for 2017, is instead feeling like the first notes of a funeral dirge that is going to be playing this series to the grave. Fans are tapping their toes in annoyance, waiting for Marvel to wrap this failed experiment up. Cap’s been a villain for a year and now we have to go through the process to watch him return to being a good guy… we get it. We don’t need to be beaten over the head with the concept. It should not take a full mini-series, with tie-ins, to execute this finale.
The storyline is flimsy at best. Cap divides Marvel’s heroes among three big threats. The big cosmic powered heroes are exiled to space, the Avenger level heroes are exiled to another dimension on Manhattan Island, and the remaining heroes are headed to D.C. to take the fight to Evil Cap and Hydra. That’s it. We watch panel by panel; page by page, as our most patriotic character betrays his friends and country and yet we are expected to be excited enough over this prospect that we will rush out and buy a whole summer event’s worth of titles to continue this story. No thanks.
Spencer has been trying to shoehorn in current social and political undertones into his work since breaking the internet with Steve Rodgers #1. The subliminal thread of American leadership being compromised by a foreign threat, a leader who works in his own best interest instead of helping those who look to him for leadership, spies in the government, and the distrust of government in general are all just below the surface in this series.
With so many hot button topics at play here I’m not sure that the American public are going to be interested in watching their fictional American icon turning heel, not when they are watching their real-life elected officials be tied to corruption. Comics are about escapism, at least that’s been their purpose traditionally, and I don’t think folks will want to see such a glaring reminder of the real world in their comics. I could be wrong. (It happens often) Maybe fans will gobble this series up and hail Spencer for being a modern-day savant… but if I had to bet. I’d wager against Marvel on this one.
The rest of the comic is up to snuff. Acuna and the rest of the creative team are holding up their end of the book, as the art is great and the pacing is excellent for a spy thriller. The visuals here do their job and create a large scope dynamic that plays into the action packed fight scenes that are placed throughout the title. I give kudos to the art side of the comic.
The real story here is Spencer and a story that is now stale. It is going to take some real serious swerves to surprise fans. We all know that this is going to be a return to the pre-Hail Hydra status quo. I just wish it wasn’t going to take all this needless effort to get there. The shock and awe of this story was spent in the first issue, now we are all just waiting for the end credits so we can move on with our lives.
Final Score: 2 ½ out of 5 Stars
Secret Empire #0
Story: Nick Spencer
Art: Daniel Acuna and Rod Reis
Letters: VC’s Travis Lanham