Secret Empire ends today, and it has been one hell of a ride. Nick Spencer has crafted a story that’s shown what America (and the world) would be like if a fascist super power took over everything and it did not look good. Human rights were subjugated, the people were controlled, and it was only going to get worse. That is, until heroes rose up and fought back. That’s kind of what this final issue is all about and in a lot of ways I think readers can take heart in its message.
So what’s it about?
Why does this matter?
If you’ve read the issues before this you’re going to get this no matter what — it’s the finale to the big Marvel event of 2017! Plus, readers can finally get answers as far as where Steve Rogers has been adventuring and how the divisive choice to make Cap Hydra ends up. Oh, and the incredible Steve McNiven closes this one out on art!
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Iron-A would be a good name for him. As in a-hole!
Brandishing a green Iron Man-like suit, Steve Rogers holds his hand up, ready and willing to blast all our favorite Marvel heroes to dust. That’s the first image in this issue and Spencer does a good job reminding us a sliver of the Cap we know is still inside this character. In a calm way he asks the heroes to give up the fight since his vision of the world is making it a better place. Yeah right! The heroes don’t stand for that and they fight back! There are only a few pages of all these heroes going at Cap, but this and a key scene later reminds readers that with fascism there’s only one way to beat it and that’s to fight. And fight. And fight some more. Fascists can’t be reasoned with, this issue suggests, but they can be fought back against. There’s a rousing fight scene in the last third of the book that exemplifies this, but I’ll say no more to avoid spoilers. Spencer nails this message which I think many will appreciate given the political climate these days.
Mixed in with this message are some interesting cosmic cube Kobic related twists and turns. One of which includes an amazing full page spread from McNiven of Cap glowing in victory with newspaper covers of famous Marvel moments that are now turned into Hydra victories. It’s an interesting way to visualize Hydra not only winning, but remaking history. It’s also a bit frightening and is another example of how this story might be washed away similar to “House of M” but it’ll resonate with readers for quite some time.
Those of you frustrated with the alternate Steve Rogers story–and I was one of them–should rest easy as that aspect is more or less explained. When dealing with the Cosmic Cube not everything has to make sense and readers won’t be getting a detailed explanation to how this conclusion worked. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if we get more on this in the epilogue Omega issue. Speaking of epilogues, this issue ends with one which focuses on a character you may have forgotten existed: it’s the same older brother from the first issue who was jailed for being Inhuman. It’s a nice choice to bookend the volume with this character as it reminds readers Hydra’s takeover affected the regular people in the world too, not just the heroes.
McNiven is a good choice for this issue as he supplies a few gorgeous double page spreads. If you dig pages with tons of characters on the page you’ll love this. There’s an incredible sequence involving Mjolnir that’s choreographed quite well and puts a definitive period on the end of Hydra-Cap’s story. You can’t deny the detailed scales on Cap look awesome too! Rod Reis continues to draw the Steve Rogers scenes well with a dreamlike look that suits the story and artists David Marquez, Paco Medina, Juan Vlasco, Jesus Aburtov and Rom Lim all supply art too. Dang, when you list it out like that, what a team effort to get this comic out on time! Given the horrible delays past Marvel events have gone through it’s a very welcome sight and not once did the art jarringly change style in this one.
It can’t be perfect can it?
Referenced above, the Cosmic Cube’s ability to change things on a dime is somewhat frustrating. We’ve known from the start it’s the perfect retcon device so it’s hard to complain, but the turn is so quick it doesn’t feel earned. The narrative has shown us Steve Rogers fighting in some kind of dreamlike forest, but he didn’t serve much of an arc at all beyond not giving up. Why he was trapped and why Kobic–who presumably controlled how things worked there–is yet to be explained.
There isn’t much explaining in regards to the big turn of events in this issue involving the Cosmic Cube, nor is there much explanation as far as where the story goes from here. The good guys won, the world is changed back more or less, but what about Hydra-Cap? Is Steve Rogers the same person or half a person? What happens to Hydra and their machinations and power? This series has been very good at mixing politics and intrigue while delivering it in a believable way, but this ending is more focused on rushing to get to its end in order to bang on the message that fascism requires we fight rather than satisfyingly explain a thing along the way. I’m holding out hope there’s more to it all than this, but at face value this complex event has been reduced to a fight. I know this is a superhero book so I shouldn’t expect anything different, but Spencer has done well to make it feel like more than that. Here’s hoping.
Is It Good?
Nick Spencer concludes his 10 issue summer event with twists, fists, and a message to always fight fascism until the very end. It’s the kind of issue that’s big on superhero heroics but not quite satisfying if you’ve been reading it for its complexity. That said, it brings big action and story beats worth cheering over.