Secret Empire #5 Review
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artists: Andrea Sorrentino, Rod Reis, Joshua Cassara and Rachelle Rosenberg
Cover Artist: Mark Brooks
Captain America continues his reign of politically motivated terror on the world as forces align to either save him or destroy him.
What you need to know:
The Red Skull convinced a sentient Cosmic Cube named Kobik to alter reality and reshape Captain America’s past making it so he has been a secret agent of Hydra all along. Cap has risen to the rank of Supreme Leader of Hydra, and seized control of the United States through manipulation, betrayal and careful scheming.
First, Cap dutifully removed the heavy hitter superhero threats against his rise to power by entrapping the heavy hitters (Captain Marvel, Quasar, The Ultimates, Alpha Flight and the GOTG) outside of the Earth’s atmosphere battling wave after wave of Chituari Invaders. Then, he encased New York City under a dome of Darkforce energy, imprisoning The Uncanny Avengers, the Defenders, Doctor Strange, Cloak and Dagger and any other Manhattan based super hero types inside.
Meanwhile, following a retaliative attack on Las Vegas for knowingly assisting the rebellion that left thousands dead, Black Widow has assembled a team of teenager Champions (Totally Awesome Hulk, Viv Vision, Miles Morales Spidey, Falcon, the new Wasp and Ms. Marvel) to kill Cap because she is HARDCORE.
The Underground, led by the AI Tony Stark and Hawkeye, have learned the truth about Stevil and the Cosmic Cube, which has been shattered to the winds. They devise a plan sending the rag tag team of field leader Mockingbird, AI Tony Stark, Quicksilver, Ant-Man, Hercules and Sam “Don’t Call Me Falcon or Cap Anymore” Wilson to collect the cube’s fragments. But, Captain Hydra is onto them, and he’s scattering his own forces to do the same.
Oh, and there’s another bearded, non-evil Steve Rogers, and he’s trapped in some sort of dreamscape or alternate reality with two individuals that seem all too familiar trying to make their way home.
What you’ll find out:
Black Widow truly is a master spy. She allows herself to be imprisoned and tortured by Hydra in order to secure an alliance with Viper, offering to return the former Madame Hydra to power in exchange for her assistance in killing off Captain America. And you know Viper will do anything for power, so she is definitely on board. In the meantime, BW’s junior Champions have been sent on a mission to rescue a random old dude on a respirator who apparently can win this war for them. Who this is, I’m not sure. He may just be Nick Fury, Sr. or maybe he’s old man Steve Rogers from before Kobik transformed him? All we know is he’s old, he’s infirm and possibly incontinent.
We rejoin Good Steve, half naked fishing with the two men in Heaven. He speaks of how the bonds of friendship and brotherhood kept them alive in their darkest hour.
Mockingbird & Co. continue their efforts to collect elements of the cube, but after failing to convince Black Panther to hand over his nation’s fragment and failing to find Shang Chi’s fragment (which was snatched from him by the Secret Queen of the Mutants, Emma Frost), they decide the time has come to throw in the towel, return to base and chart another course of action to stop Hydra Steve.
And speaking of Captain Hydra, Steve has heard rumors that someone in Tian possesses one of those missing fragments of the Cosmic Cube and decides to show Beast (Hank McCoy) that he has the bigger hammer… literally. In what is nothing more than a pissing contest, Steve threatens to use Mjolir to destroy Tian and slaughter its mutant residents unless Hank produces the rumored missing fragment of the cube. (Side Note: Secret Empire continues to cement Beast as my least favorite X-Man and a spineless coward who would negotiate with freakin’ Hydra.) This scene really drives home the true nature of the corruption of Steve Rogers’ soul that has occurred at the hands of Red Skull and Kobik. His belief in the philosophy of Hydra is so pure, so strong that he is actually worthy of possessing Mjolir.
Stevil then goes on to have a creepy ass Freudian moment with his pseudo-mommy, Madame Hydra, as the Scarlet Witch remains enthralled by the elder god, Chthon, Vision struggles against the A.I. virus Cap had him infected with and Thor agonizes over morality and his role in Steve Rogers’ horrific rise to power.
What Just Happened:
This issue has a lot of plot twists and betrayals, and I do not want to give any of it away.
That inevitable moment arrives when Hydra Steve’s forces discover the Underground’s secret headquarters through an act of betrayal on behalf of one of their own; an honestly shocking act of deceit, at least from my seat. The traitor amongst the Underground stands revealed, and while it’s not really an A-Lister, it’s still a shocker.
Following this reveal, a MAJOR Marvel character makes a return that I honestly didn’t see coming. And things are looking reaaaaaal bad for Hawkeye and crew.
While the writing here is pretty solid, but a very unusual choice in artists, in my opinion. This sort of epic-blockbuster-summer-popcorn-fest is generally paired up with a more prominent, mainstream artist along the lines of a Steve McNiven, Olivier Coipel or even the cover artist, Mark Brooks. It’s not bad, just unusual. I’ll be honest, considering the shit-storms that the last few Marvel crossovers have turned out to be (don’t get me started on that ending to IvX), I did not expect great things from Secret Empire. I have been refreshingly surprised by how well Nick Spencer has crafted this story thus far. PLEASE, Marvel, don’t make me regret saying that.