Earlier this year, Marvel launched several new Inhumans and X-Men titles as part of the ResurrXion event. ResurrXion also united with a second event, Secret Empire, as the springboard for one of said Inhumans titles: Secret Warriors. The series, starring a group of Inhumans fighting against Captain America’s Hydra empire (as well as each other), just released its first arc in trade paperback form. Is it good?
Secret Warriors Vol. 1: Secret Empire is one of those unique cases where an entire creative team’s potential is evident on the page, but what they create together just isn’t good. The Inhumans franchise has gotten a lot of flak recently, but has still churned out quality books Royals and Black Bolt. Each of those series established strong mission statements right from the start and then followed said missions naturally, while Secret Warriors just kind of meanders. There’s no sense of team or character growth from issue one to issue five, and that’s a big problem.
This is due in large part to Secret Warriors not really starring a team. The disparate roster of Inhumans present feels like it was assembled from leftover scraps after all the other Inhumans titles’ creative teams got their picks of which characters they wanted to use. I’ll give writer Matthew Rosenberg credit for having a solid grasp on all the characters’ voices, but their interactions aren’t very interesting. There is some witty banter here and there, but the characters repeat themselves to the point of being boring. Quake has questionable morals, Ms. Marvel calls her out on it, Moon Girl is smart but puts herself in danger, Karnak is creepy, and Inferno is just a good guy. They fight a lot and Quake insists they’re not a team until, toward the end, she has what I suppose is meant to be a touching change-of-heart and declares that they are a team after all.
Unfortunately, nothing preceding that statement actually signifies a notable change in the way the Secret Warriors cast interacts with each other. Early on, they are literally on a cross-country road trip, arguing in a car. It’s like the start of a heartwarming family movie, except the family members never actually end up reconciling their differences. This is partially due to the fact that the writing centers primarily on Quake (one of the least interesting cast members) and makes the other team members feel like guest stars. A boring villain and a brief appearance by some of the X-Men, who just rehash anti-Inhuman sentiment from Inhumans vs. X-Men, don’t make matters any better.
As I previously mentioned, the creative team does show potential here. Rosenberg’s handling of the characters as individuals isn’t bad, and I like Inferno. Artist Javier Garron and colorist Israel Silva deliver satisfactory work. Characters’ proportions and faces never look wonky, and all the basics (perspective, internal consistency, lighting, etc.) are present. Unfortunately, the artwork still isn’t unique enough to make up for the bland plot. It’s also worth noting that some of the lettering throughout the volume is jarring. The text signifying time and physical location details is rendered in very large font, often taking up the entire length of fairly sizable panels. It just feels strange and repeatedly obscures the artwork.
Overall, my biggest qualm with Secret Warriors Vol. 1: Secret Empire is that it just doesn’t make a compelling argument for its own existence. This isn’t a series that is bad by way of any one thing being an absolute deal-breaker so much as it’s a series that bores through a combination of poor choices. The characters’ arguments are often predictable, the art lacks any unique flair, the concept is flimsy, and I’m ultimately left wondering who the target audience for this book is. Ms. Marvel, Moon Girl, and Devil Dinosaur have stronger showings in their own books, and the rest of the cast members are D-list at best. Unless you’re a diehard fan of Quake, I would recommend skipping this trade.