Writer Nick Spencer has pointed out you will need to read this issue before diving into Secret Empire and after reading both I couldn’t agree more. He’s been slowly developing the secret Hydra organization that runs things in this series, with Red Skull getting a definitive period on his storyline last issue. As we embark on Secret Empire we must ask the question of this issue, is it good?
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Jon Malin, Yildiray Cinar, and Kevin Libranda
Publisher: Marvel Comics
So what’s it about?
Why does this book matter?
It reveals important details about Hydra that will assuredly be important in the big summer event. You may be surprised to learn Hydra is being run by more than just Captain America, which is a key part of what makes this issue good.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
The art is split up between Thunderbolts mainstay Jon Malin, Yildiray Cinar, and Kevin Libranda and they do the job. The flashbacks continue to be a highlight of this series, which actually offer some positive vibes this issue. These scenes feel very important due to the art capturing Cap’s anger, frustration, and total bliss when he learns a truth. Without these scenes one might assume Cap is pure evil, but really he’s been seduced by Hydra in a manipulative way so that he’ll carry out his terrible plans in Secret Empire. Malin’s art, meanwhile, has a more 90’s feel with a thin line that’s efficient, but sometimes a little half baked.
It’s not looking so hot.
There are quite a few moments in this issue that are quite big and shouldn’t be missed. Spencer effectively ships Winter Soldier off, Maria Hill’s quest continues to get harder, and Cap asserts himself as a member of Hydra in a brand new way. The most compelling moments occur with Hill attempting to reveal Cap’s secret to Rick Jones. It’s a short two or three page scene, but it does well to up your anticipation. Clearly Cap doesn’t have every wrinkle ironed out–he can fail, but it’s a rather tight ship indeed.
Character work is strong in this issue, especially in the flashbacks, which help remind the reader Cap is working for Hydra for the right sort of reasons. When he takes direct action on his friends, you get the sense he’s somewhat guilty and a explanation will be in order down the road. It probably won’t go well, but it’ll happen.
This issue also leads into Secret Empire #0 well. The events in this issue end up leading to a major part of Cap’s plan in the event, which helps give them weight.
This is a good use of Hill, now she’s a wanted spy!
It can’t be perfect can it?
The art isn’t as top notch as it could be, at times doing great, but at others looking washed out or unfinished. The three artists’ styles don’t jive all that well either. That’s fine when we see the flashbacks–those are a different time so a different style is okay, but between Hill and the events with Cap the styles are jarringly different. It doesn’t help they’re not the cleanest styles either.
As far as the Cosmic Cube, I’m a tad unclear what the deal is as Baron Zemo wants one thing, and then things flip in the later half of the issue. You never get an understanding where that leaves off, which makes you question what is happening at all. Certain things happen that are clear, but the general purpose is lost.
Is It Good?
This issue does a lot of things right, most importantly giving characters more purpose in their actions. It also sets up Secret Empire #0 well and helps show Hydra is a well oiled machine.