Secret Empire is Marvel’s 2017 summer event that’ll take place over nine issues, not counting this week’s zero issue. Captain America is Hydra, a scant few know the truth, and every hero who ever fought with Steve Rogers is going to be very peeved to learn the truth. The mega-event kicks off now–is it good?
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Daniel Acuña, Rod Reis
Publisher: Marvel Comics
So what’s it about?
Read the preview to find out!
Why does this book matter?
Having read and reviewed most of Nick Spencer’s Captain America: Steve Rogers run for the last few months I can attest we’re in for psychological warfare that’ll make any character-focused reader happy. While Cap is most definitely Hydra, there’s still a part of him that’s good and he actually believes Hydra is the best way for world peace. The sad thing though, is he’s not Hydra under his own will, as Kobik, a living entity that is the Cosmic Cube, made him like this. It allows Marvel to tell a story that most editors probably would have refused because ultimately things can be rewritten with a Cosmic Cube involved. That makes this a no holds barred read that should allow for quite a few surprises.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
His costume is cast in so much shadow it’s basically black!
This issue opens with Captain America in 1945 Japan revealing a scene that flips a lot of what we know on its head. Spencer opens this issue with a major twist that should get readers thinking about Kobik and what she’s done. It apparently changed reality so much it goes way back and is very thorough. This new story element makes the reader question everything and assertively go all-in with the premise given here. These opening scenes make it difficult to doubt this story is true and a retcon is not coming out of nowhere to brush it all away. That suitably gives the story extra teeth, so to speak.
This opening is drawn by Rod Reis in a very beautiful painterly sort of way. His style gives the pages a legendary feel and an increased level of importance.
To say this issue is exciting is an understatement. Since only the reader and a few others know of Captain America’s treachery, we’re privy to his plans taking place whilst heroes trust him unquestionably. The issue itself is written like a heist film as plans are enacted and results follow. The biggest win for the issue is how Spencer makes us at once hate and still root for him to win. Essentially the worst possible scenario happens where the good guys are attacked from multiple directions and thus a special government order is enacted to give Captain America power over all military. This issue needed to be extra sized because a lot happens. It’s done so in a balanced and understandable way which keeps the action interesting and the events unfolding compelling.
As these events take place Cap is drawn (by Daniel Acuña) with a stern face that a good guy might see as steel resolve, but the reader sees as evil determination. You’re in for a lot of panels of Cap cast in shadow as if he’s evil, but also maybe a little guilty. He’s essentially screwing over the friends he’s fought with for some time so you have to imagine there’s some doubt on his part. Acuña draws a tremendous issue with a lot of characters in panels, and the action is easy to follow. The final image gave me goosebumps, in part because the buildup is so good, and Acuña draws an incredibly tragic sight that’ll make you want to wring Captain America’s neck yourself. There’s also an impressive reveal of Cap at one point, cast in red, that is reminiscent of Darth Vader in Empire Strikes Back. Really, Acuña hits all the right marks for making Captain America the scoundrel that he is, which is partly why this book works so well.
By the end of the issue you’ll be fired up and angry; you’ll want Cap arrested or worse. Spencer and Acuña have created a nearly flawless first issue that is action packed and filled with despicable acts that’ll make you cry for the heroes to win. They won’t. If that doesn’t make you need the next issue I don’t know what will.
Iron Man and Riri end up being more of the main heroes in this issue.
It can’t be perfect can it?
There’s one full page spread that left me scratching my head. Avoiding spoilers here, but NYC has a major calamity take place and it’s confusing as to what we’re looking at the way it’s drawn.
Is It Good?
I’m not sure an opening salvo could be more intense. If this issue’s aim is to make you want issue #1, it did so and then some. Secret Empire opens in the best way possible, setting up the conflict, preparing the reader for what’s to come, and putting the heroes in a position to face impossible stakes. Bring on issue #1!