Secret Empire #1
Written By: Nick Spencer
Penciled By: Steve McNiven
Inked By: Jay Leisten
Colored By: Matthew Wilson
We’re finally here folks. The culmination of a year of work. Nick Spencer has gone to great lengths to turn Steven Rogers the once great bearer of the American Flag, into the biggest threat in American history. Now after issue 0 where he initiated his entire plan (which if you have no read Secret Empire #0 you will be more lost than someone just jumping into this event with no context whatsoever) the country now belongs to Hydra, and now we must deal with this new world order that is upon us. For a world damaging event like this that drastically alters the status quo, is it any good? Well let’s find out
Disclaimer: If you have any opinion in regards to Captain America being a fascist dictator, well too bad. This is an review of the plot, the art and how it affects the Marvel Universe as a whole. Whether or not it’s wrong for Captain America to be aligned with Hydra is neither here nor there. I care about the book and if it’s a good event with real characters and not just a contrived cash grab in the same vein as Civil War II.
This is a very dense and plot heavy book so I will try and keep the non blatantly obvious spoilers out. Captain America literally owns the country. He’s rounding up inhumans and mutants and placing them in camps, he’s changing policing, military forces and even schools to be aligned with Hydra. The hero community is either destroyed, in hiding, in space due to the events of issue 0, or captured by the new regime established by Hydra. Captain Rogers has assembled a new team of Avengers, with ⅔’s of the roster be very…odd, and ½ making sense.The Champions, along with Hawkeye, Black Widow, and other surviving heroes, are the sole resistance. They recover a kid with the cover of Patriot…my “not a Young Avenger” sense is bugging me…who was given valuable information by Rick Jones, long time sidekick to half the Marvel Universe, who has been placed in prison for stealing the info from Hydra.
The book spends it’s time laying the groundwork. This is an event with 9 issues plus several event specific tie in titles being launched plus other Marvel titles with their own tie ins. We learn that there is already corruption within the Hydra ranks, we learn that Captain Marvel’s trapped forces in space are barely surviving the onslaught of Chitaui (most notable from the first Avengers movie) from issue 0 of Secret Empire, and that even A.I programs can be drunks. For a book that only has so much time to lay everything out, it does a very good job of doing so,
One of my favorite exchanges in this book is between Captain America and Sharon Carter, once SHIELD agent now Hydra prisoner. Sharon is trying to figure out if Steve has either flown the coop, or if this is some brainwashing. Unknown to her and half the people outraged about this title is, it is cosmic level brainwashing. No one seems to get that, but I’m close to breaking my own rule so let’s move on.
Secret Empire #1 is emotional. For any Captain America fans that have been enjoying the current story, it’s hard to see the most noble man become the Universe’s greatest villain, but it’s so well executed at every level because frankly, no rational person in the book saw it coming. They trusted Cap and now their trust has been their undoing. Plus with the ending the first issue really grabs at the heartstrings.
The art is mixed for me here. 75% of it is very good, while the other 25% seems rushed. A lack of detail is noticed in a few areas that are almost unacceptable because of the fact that this is a multi issue and multi title spanning event. The art needs to be on point as well as the story otherwise people will lose interest very quickly.
Look. At the end of the day, This is a good book. No matter how you view the Captain Hydra situation, this is a very well built up, very well executed event that honestly has me confused and excited for more. For instance, finding out why Odinson, Scarlet Witch and Vision are aligned with Hydra will be a great discovery unveil. If you’re a Marvel fan and have wondered if Secret Empire is worth your time then rejoice. It’s compelling, confusing, and enjoyable for the comic reader with enough context to understand and enjoy it. Until issue 2 and the impending tie ins, I can honestly say, Hail Hydra. A new day has come.