All empires eventually crumble. Can Secret Empire: Brave New World #2 live up to its standout debut issue? Is it good?

Secret Empire: Brave New World #2
Writer: Paul Allor, Rodney Barnes, Fabian Nicieza
Artist: Brian Level, Juan M. Frigeri, Will Robson
Publisher: Marvel Comics

The Lowdown

The continuing story about Namor and the Invaders is shunted to third billing in Secret Empire: Brave New World #2, and this installment suffers for it. Paul Allor writes some nice dialogue that paints Namor as a hero forced into a villainous role by outside occurrences, but it’s a lot more telling than showing, as Allor makes the curious decision to focus more on Toro and Jim Hammond’s prison breakout.

Brian Level’s art looks as rushed as ever, with poor facial expressions on top of would-be realistic bodies, if the concentration was put more on proportions than musculature detail. Jordan Boyd’s smudged colors contribute to the unfinished feeling.

It’s a disappointing turn, all to make room for Rayshaun Lucas’ debut as the new Patriot. I guess the other one is sick. Rodney Barnes tells the tale of the young do-gooder introduced by Nick Spencer in Secret Empire #1, in an interesting use of continuity. Rayshaun has no powers, but stuck in the rebels’ Nevada refuge, he still wants to help. This is a time for doers and not dreamers, after all.

But there are different ways to “do.” It would have been great if this ordinary kid could have found a non-super way to contribute, as we all can when faced with real oppression. Instead, after being duked some equipment by the Tony Stark AI and taking a couple karate classes from a BLACK WIDOW AI, Rayshaun is ready to join up with the Champions on the front lines. Even in a comic book world, that’s not realistic, and it misses the chance to illustrate that fighting for what’s right is a human struggle, not a four-color fantasy.

The pencils by Juan M. Frigeri and colors by Erick Arciniega are perfectly fine for both the super stuff and the inner monologue panels. Imagine a very young Leinil Yu and you’ll understand how.

All that leaves four measly pages for the Secret Empire story you’ve all REALLY been waiting for — Hydra Bob, written by his creator, Fabian Nicieza! There are good four-page stories, but this is not one of them. Instead we get a funny foreigner and some slapstick that doesn’t really land. The pencils by Will Robson and the colors by Tamra Bonvillain are suitably cartoony, but they can’t elevate what’s essentially a stretched-out, two-panel gag.

The Upshot

Secret Empire: Brave New World #2 is a disappointing follow-up to the surprisingly satisfying debut issue. The Invaders story seems pressed for time while the Bob snippet somehow makes four pages seem too long. The new Patriot’s journey is told reasonably well, but it’s a tale that maybe shouldn’t end (begin?) the way it does. All in all, this tie-in anthology regresses to the mean for this kind of thing, and can’t repeat the same magic as before.

Secret Empire: Brave New World #2
Is it good?
Brave New World #2 is a return to the reality that tie-in anthology books aren't usually very good. Hydra's smokescreen has cleared!
The tale of Rayshaun Lucas is told reasonably well, and the art is a good display of what the team is capable of
The Invaders story takes a strange, hard-to-follow meander
The Hydra Bob story is somehow too short and entirely too long at the same time

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