Happy Birthday, America! Have three short stories of how your oppressive regime crushes the spirits of all, in Secret Empire: Brave New World #3! Is it good?
The first tale, “Back in the Fight,” is actually pretty uplifting, but maybe not as much as it should be. Ethan Sacks writes the story of what happens to the Daily Bugle and Marvel journalism when under the boot of fascism (and a darkforce dome). It’s really more of a device to show off J. Jonah Jameson’s old sleuthing skills, but there are a couple subtle references to more serious, related issues. This might not be the time for subtle, when given the opportunity to illustrate a point with a beloved Marvel institution.
The art by Marco Lorenzana and the colors by Erick Arciniega fit the tone of “Back in the Fight” well, with scratchy lines and somewhat muted hues. A more grounded depiction of a more realistic story.
Then there’s a four-page Starbrand story by Mags Visaggio that, quite frankly, doesn’t make a lot of sense. I mean, it probably doesn’t make sense to revisit a Jonathan Hickman creation/reinvention whose solo/duo book about godly superpowers in college tanked harder than pretty much anything in recent memory, but then again, the right story can turn anything around. I don’t think this one with a puzzling ending and no subsequent issue to follow up will do it.
The pencils by Sean Izaakse and the colors by Tamra Bonvillain are standard superhero stuff, which would make sense for a bombastic space battle, but aren’t the best at depicting whatever internal struggle it is that Starbrand is dealing with in “Walls.”
And finally, the one that keeps you coming back, the continuation of “Sanctuary,” by Paul Allor! Namor’s evil cousin has arrived, and with the help of the original Human Torch, Jim Hammond, she’ll … wait … use a monster to overthrow Atlantis? Did I miss an issue? The art is equally confounding, but that’s nothing new, as Brian Level reminds us of his poor sequential storytelling and Jordan Boyd makes the whole thing look like it was colored with sidewalk chalk.
Maybe I just can’t comic today, but these three stories taken together make for the most disjointed and disappointing installment of this anthology tie-in book yet. “Back in the Fight” accomplishes its (meager) goal, but “Walls” and “Sanctuary” fail on multiple levels. Secret Empire: Brave New World #3 is a poor chapter of a series that started out great. Happy Birthday, America, there is no lesson to learn there at all!