Bleak, Bleak and More Bleak (Secret Empire #6 Comic Review)

Secret Empire #6

Writer: Nick Spencer
Artists: Leinel Francis Yu, Rod Reis, Joshua Cassara, Rachelle Rosenberg

Captain Trump, I mean, Hydra, I mean, America continues his siege on the United States in a thinly veiled political statement as the Resistance is seemingly crumbling beneath his fascist combat boot. (Side Note: I am not trying to make any sort of “statement” here. I am simply making note of the obvious political undertones. Please, don’t kidnap my dog or throw stuff at me on the way to my car. God, I hate the current state of politics.)

What you need to know

The Resistance is falling apart from within when a traitor (which last issue seemed to have been revealed as Mockingbird, but more on that later) has compromised their secret location to the forces of Hydra, who have been bombing the hell out of the mountain headquarters and resurrected the f’n Incredible Hulk, Bruce Banner, to deliver the death smash to Hawkeye, Ant Man, Giant Man, The Thing, Quicksilver, the badly injured Hercules, the new Giant Man, A.I. Iron Man and the others.
Super Spy Black Widow has struck an uneasy alliance of convenience with completely untrustworthy and uber ambitious Viper in order to take down Captain Stevil once and for all. As in… dead. Black Widow wants Steve Rogers dead. Her charges, the Champions, passively disagree with her, however. They were sent on a mission to rescue a mysterious and infirm elderly man, which they have succeeded at with help from the treacherous Viper.
Hydra continues its control over its goose stepping “Avengers”: the reprogrammed Vision, the possessed by an ancient evil god Scarlet Witch, the in it for the money Task Master, the loyal to his best buddy/insane Deadpool and the morally struggling Thor Odinson. Thor is at an impasse, more on this later.

In order to remove the heavy hitters and the threats to Hydra’s rise to power, Steve Rogers has orchestrated a sinister plan: Captain Marvel, the Ultimates, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Starbrand, Alpha Flight, Quasar and others have been trapped in outer space, unable to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere due to a Hydra designed force field. And New York City has been encapsulated in a Dark Force powered force globe, trapping Dr. Strange, Cloak, Dagger, Spider-Woman, The Defenders, The X-Men Gold Team and its students within. Dagger has been serving as the sole source of light against the Darkforce.
In a dream like possible other paradise-like dimension, an amnesiac Steve Rogers and his friends (unbeknownst to him Bucky and Sam Wilson) have been captured by The Red Skull
You also should know that in Civil War 2, Hawkeye shot Bruce Banner in the forehead with an arrow, killing him.

What you’ll find out

Amnesiac Spirit Steve continues his journey through the bizarre dream like realm, but the picturesque paradise he and his two pals have been enjoying comes crashing into a hellish landscape with the Red Skull’s arrival. Red Skull taunts Steve mentally (also, possibly while eating the remains of Bucky?) regarding their intertwined past before he begins to torture him physically.

On Earth, the heroes trapped in New York City are barely managing to survive. Kingpin has stepped up as a savior, albeit it with avaricious motives. He plans to bank his acts of good will for a future rise to power. Dagger, serving as the only source of light in the blackness of the Dark Force, is well beyond physically exhausted and Cloak worries that it might all be too much for her.

Wasp (Nadia Pym) is leaving the Red Room (Black Widow’s team of would be assassins consisting mostly of the Champions). Miles Morales attempts to convince Black Widow that assassinating Steve Rogers is not the answer.
The Resistance fights amongst itself as it is revealed that one of them is a traitor. Mockingbird is quick to blame Quicksilver, who is quick to sling the blame back on Mockingbird. She is forced to admit that she has been working secretly all along with Maria Hill, former head of S.H.I.E.L.D ., but not with Hydra. As the argument becomes increasingly heated, one of their number admits to having been blackmailed into betraying his/her friends. (Side Note: It’s kind of an obvious reason, but I give credit to the effort in misleading the reader.) And the Resistance learns that Tony Stark lied about the detector he created to detect fragments of the Cosmic Cube in order to save Steve. The Hydra wolves are now at their door, and the cost of Tony’s actions could be the Cosmic Cube falling into enemy hands after all.

Bruce Banner and the Hulk carry VERY different allegiances. As Captain America pleads his case to Banner, he finds that he is not very receptive to a totalitarian government seizure of the United States and the crushing of his friends in the Resistance, despite their horrible past actions against him (launching him into space in a rocket ship where he was forced into arena slave fighting, shooting him in the face with an arrow… you know, that old bag.)But, it turns out Cap’s narrative wasn’t aimed at Banner but at his alternate personality. And the Hulk is ANGRY.

Hulk tears into the Resistance’s secret hideout, which leads to an internal conflict for Hawkeye, who comes face to face with the friend he killed. But, luckily, The Thing is there for yet another rematch against the Hulk, which… let me just say, does NOT work in The Thing’s favor. Hawkeye, realizing the direness of the situation thanks to his former flame, Mockingbird, leads the innocent civilians to safety. As they attempt their escape, they run directly into Thor Odinson and the Avengers are sent in to crush what’s left of the Resistance after the Hulk’s rampage.
Captain America decides to get his hands dirty and leaps into battle with the A.I. Iron Man, Tony Stark. This becomes yet another philosophical debate between the old frenemies.

In the meantime, the new Giant Man unleashes a group of A.I. Avenger Androids to attack the Hulk.
The final scenes here are explosive, as Madame Hydra (Steve’s mother figure) makes an end move that leaves things looking very, very bleak for the heroes.
And, in the aftermath, the Black Widow determines that there is no other course of action… it is time to kill Steve Rogers and end the evil reign of Hydra. Her resolve is absolute.

Final Thought:

This issue is just so very dark. There is very little hope here. A lot happens, but the direction is murky.
The story is solid, despite the lack of a clear direction. But, again, it’s just depressing. “Darkest before the dawn”, I hope. The artwork is just uneven and often times just a mess. As I have said in my past reviews, I do not feel that this is on par with so-called “Event Comic” standards.
Agree or disagree with Nick Spencer’s blatantly obvious political leanings and overall message, it is obvious that he is passionate. Captain America truly believes that he is in the right. So purely and righteously that he can wield Mjolnir! As sick to death of political narratives as I’ve become, this story has been an admittedly interesting twist. I love Captain America’s “Cabinet”, consisting of horrible monsters, manipulative traitors and actual f*cking Nazis, and the parallel it is supposed to draw. I seriously chuckled at the ridiculous formality and polite friendships at the table.
I hope that, unlike most of the recent Marvel events, this comes to a satisfying conclusion and that Secret Empire does not wind up being a promotional launch for the company’s next sales ploy.

Rating: 7/10

 

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