We’ve all heard the age old adage “war is hell,” but what they don’t tell you is it can continue even when it’s over. Nick Spencer continues to tell his summer event as Hydra has taken over America and in some ways the entire world. They’ve won the war, but it’s far from over.

Secret Empire #3
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Rod Reis, Andrea Sorrentino
Publisher: Marvel Comics


So what’s it about?

Read the preview to find out!

Why does this book matter?

Aside from this being the big summer event many issues tie into, it’s also leading to Marvel’s next big shift in their universe come the fall. Considering the bad guys have won and seem impossible to defeat, one might feel an extra urgency to read this to see how the heroes can win the day. Or maybe they don’t! With the current political climate one might imagine this all ends in a horribly depressing and crushingly sad way.

Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?

This issue opens with the major revelation that ended the last issue and had many wondering what the hell is happening. Revealing nothing to avoid spoilers, I think Spencer has done a good job continuing the question mark that is this new character while also allowing it to offer us hope. We’ve seen the evil plotting of Cap long enough to think there’s no saving him and this new character may just be the cure. Four pages are devoted to this character to make it quite clear they are pure and possibly the real deal.


I’m not exactly sure where this is going…

The major thread of this issue is the rush to find the MacGuffin…ahem, I mean cosmic cube pieces. The heroes want it to save Cap and Cap wants it to stop them from “saving” him. Given that the heroes are quite weak and only need to be discovered to be stopped it’s clear their chances of finding anything before Cap are slim. Luckily though, Spencer shows off how being the top dog can make acquiring things you want a little more difficult. Atlantis gets a major moment to shine in this issue and it’s a nice way to show how Hydra is not the most welcomed.

Thematically this issue seems to be all about how killing is a necessary evil when at war. Hydra is obviously fine with it, but what about the heroes? Some might remember Miles killed Cap in the vision revealed in Civil War II and it seems we might be going down that road since the lesson that killing may be the answer is a hot topic. Miles and the other characters appearing in Secret Empire: Uprising #1 show up here though that issue takes place after this one. Considering how the heroes barely have a pot to piss in it makes sense and Spencer does a good job making the argument for it. Given how often we’ve seen these heroes fight to the very end to avoid killing it’s a striking element to see especially when it’s so convincing.

There’s much more to the issue outside of this of course, with fun cameos from characters you might not expect, check-ins with heroes and quick reminders of what is going on with major characters too. Considering how many moving parts are in this series it’s a wonder it doesn’t get confusing, but that’s a testament to Spencer’s plotting.

The art by Andrea Sorrentino (with Rod Reis drawing the scenes featuring the mysterious new character) is striking to say the least. Like a graffiti artist in tough times scrawling on walls, Sorrentino draws some vivid imagery that reminds us how bad it has gotten in the Marvel universe. Nearly every page is dark or seedy in some way. In an awesome double page spread Captain Marvel fights against an unending horde and the layout is just incredible. Featuring a star outline with panels shooting off of it, the energy of the moment is incredible. Colored in a dark red with heavy blacks you still get a sense of hopelessness, but the star seems to highlight there’s still hope for our heroes.


Some tasty dialogue on this page.

It can’t be perfect can it?

Though the theme of killing being a necessary action and the search for the Cosmic Cube give the narrative a skeleton of sorts, it does feel as if it’s coming apart a bit due to how many characters and locations are being juggled. Captain Marvel for instance, all alone outside the Earth’s shield and getting closer to defeat, is touched upon just enough to gather it’s getting worse with no reprieve in sight. But that’s basically where we left off with her in a previous issue. Sam Wilson meanwhile (looking oddly white here…this is the same Sam Wilson right?) clearly is a bit war torn and bedraggled, but we don’t have enough to gather why. It’s an inherent issue with events that require tie-in storytelling since it can leave something to be desired with so many characters in play.

There are also a hell of a lot of crushingly depressing moments. This is a dark book with a lot of bad situations and bad guys winning. When comedic characters do pop in–and somehow can still maintain some charm–you don’t want them to ever leave. The event is still early yet, but dammit we need to see some winning already or else the book will continue to be less entertaining and just crushingly depressing.

The mysterious character who ended up serving as the cliffhanger last month continues to be an enigma. Frustratingly so. The scenes with this character are further confusing as the girl being rescued is also a stranger. A message is relayed via captions, continues to lay on the depressing and crushing message that even when we’re down we’re still being crushed. At least I think. The message is so obscure and poetic in nature it’s hard to tell. This further makes this character and the portion of the story annoying and confusing.

Is It Good?

This is another good chapter that progresses many story threads with solid dialogue and character beats we’ve all come to expect from event comic storytelling. The fact that you’re not confused by the end is a testament to the plotting, though some characters feel thin due to their developments in tie-in issues. The message, however, is loud and very clear: The heroes lost and there’s insurmountable odds to climb their way out. Unfortunately for them there’s a foot crushing their throats at every turn.

Secret Empire #3
Is It Good?
Balances so many threads it's a wonder it all makes sense by the end. It's also dark, morbidly so, which may be the most unique thing about it!
Juggles so many characters in a way that's cohesive and understandable
The art is striking with some incredible pages within
Certainly feels unique as it's crushing--and painfully--depressing
It's so damn depressing it's hard to find joy in this story!
The mysterious character that opens this issue is frustrating and has yet to show a purpose
Some characters feel thin, or progress is barely made due to how little time there is to spend with any one group of characters
8
Good

  • mc900

    I think you need to pay more attention to the cons column. This book was more confusing than ever. Non stop disparate elements- depressing themes- Is that Tony Stark- alive?!
    And the art was so murky and dark.
    This book was simply a mess.
    It’s like a little kid trying to tell a story– “And then- and then he fights namor and then the punisher shows up– Bam- and then a pretty lady saves him and then Tony Stark is there- But wait isn’t he dead- No he’s alive now- and then—“

    • David Brooke

      Yeah, it’s juggling a lot that’s for certain. I was never confused, but the skipping storytelling is certainly as you describe it.

      That’s Tony Stark’s AI (apparently his body is asleep).

      • mc900

        Hmm see I would get it was AI Tony Stark if there was an armor- he was drawn as human Tony Stark – now unless AI Tony is using an LMD that wasn’t explained here or anywhere else- what gives? Was that just an artist mistake?

        • David Brooke

          The lighting is a bit funny with all the grey’s, but you can tell in a few panels he’s blue. That blue is supposed to be a hologram (I think?) or some kind of projections. Def looks like regular person skin in a few panels though.