Comic Review – Secret Empire #0 (Marvel Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Then he reviews one every other week.

This week saw the start of Secret Empire, the latest event from Marvel comics that marks the culmination of over a year of build up in Captain America Steve Rogers. We’ve been assured that this will be the last major event from Marvel for 18 months after this 9 issue series (although I don’t know if this issue counts as 1 of 9, or 0 of 9…), which is definitely a good thing since everyone is feeling serious event fatigue. Not that every event has been bad (Secret Wars was great), but a break in the constant story interruptions, world resetting, series ending and new #1s is certainly welcome. Here is hoping that Secret Empire leads us into that break on a high. Secret Empire #0 was written by current Captain America (both Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson) writer Nick Spencer, with prologue art by Rod Reis, main story art by Daniel Acuña and letters by VC’s Travis Lanham. Cover art was provided by Mark Brooks.

Cover by Mark Brooks

Following on from the events started in Captain America Steve Rogers #1 in May 2016 and the Pleasant Hill event, Captain America has had his reality rewritten by the Red Skull and a sentient cosmic cube in the form of a little girl, known as Kobik. You may have heard about it when the internet melted down as a result. In the new reality, Steve Rogers was recruited by Hydra at a young age to be their spy, and so unbeknownst to all of his allies, Captain America has always been an agent of Hydra. Over the last year he has been maneuvering and scheming his ultimate plan to take over the world, now finally revealing himself and his allegiance to all who thought they knew and trusted him.

I won’t go much more into details of the plot, but Secret Empire #0  is action packed and a thrill to read. Spencer has weaved a layered and complex plot with the fall of the greatest Avenger and his betrayal, and the time he has spent with the character really pays off. The most puzzling aspect of this issue is therefore the question of why this is a #0 rather than the opening issue of the event itself? Zero issues typically set the table for the event, and recap the plot leading up to it for anyone that might not have been following. But Secret Empire #0 seems to be essential reading and an integral part of the story, and it would be confusing and a shame for readers to miss out due to that #0 rather than #1 on the cover. Also I don’t know why Tony Stark is back in the land of the living. I read Invincible Iron Man too and as far as I was aware the only Tony was RiRi Williams’s AI. Is this the AI? Because there was definitely a man inside that can at one point. Those quibbles aside, the storytelling in this issue was great.

Art by Daniel Acuña

As for the art, it is consistently strong throughout. The prologue from Rod Reis is a gorgeous and ethereal opener that displays the weight of the story to come. Acuña’s art throughout the main story is similarly incredible, jumping between some fantastic action that stretches from New York, to Earth’s orbit and the skies above Sokovia, and the dark, heavier moments that drive the plot and show the determination and grim resolve behind the master strategist with his efforts aimed at dominating the world rather than saving it. Acuña’s bold art makes these latter character moments really land, with the surprise these heroes are experiencing feeling really genuine.

Secret Empire is off to a good start, with strong art and a story that feels like a real payoff to a year of story. Issue #0 feels like essential reading for the plot, and even then it may be a little impenetrable to new readers. Even so, I definitely recommend Secret Empire #0,  which you can pick up at your local comic shop or digitally now!

Score: 8 Helicarriers out of 10

 

Pick up the first two volumes of Spencer’s Captain America Steve Rogers run here and here!

Comic Review – Captain America: Steve Rogers #7 (Marvel Comics)

Our pal Kit reviews comics for us! This is one of those reviews.

Warning: minor spoilers.

“I want to restore the glory of Hydra” Captain America

I’ve been meaning to pick up more Captain America comics. He’s one of my favourite Avengers, especially the way he’s portrayed in the MCU. These days things are not quite as rosy in the comics as they are on the big screen. To bring you up to speed with Issue #1 – 6 there is one big thing you need to know. (SPOILER!) The cosmic cube has been used to warp reality so Steve Rogers has always been a Hydra Agent. I’m sure some fans won’t be too keen on this (see what happened last time) but this is the world of comics. People die, reality gets rewritten, and as long as your name isn’t Uncle Ben one day you’ll be bought back to life/un-mind controlled or reality set back to normal if you’re from the main Marvel or DC universe. Issue #7 is picking up a new story arc, so it’s a good jumping on point. Anyway, this comic was bought to you by:

  • Writer – Nick Spencer
  • Artist – Jesús Saiz
  • Letterer – VC’s Joe Caramagna (when does this guy get time to rest? He seems to do every Marvel issue)
  • Cover – Stephanie Hans
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Cover by Stephanie Hans

The comic is set during two time periods. One, back when Steve Rogers was a young, proud, Hydra Youth back in 1935, and the other the present day. The flashbacks provide an on-going narrative to give the reader context as to why Cap is now the way he is and fills in a brand new, much darker past for our ‘hero’. Meanwhile the Red Skull is rallying the people of Sokovia while he gathers his plans to take on the world, march across Europe and do all of those classic Nazi things. Steve Rogers meanwhile is having none of that. Yes, he is a Hydra Agent, but he wants the Red Skull out of the picture so he can ‘restore the glory of Hydra’. The Red Skull of course has his own plans. He’s going to take on the world and has something up his sleeve to bring down the best of the best.

Although there’s some action in this comic it is absolutely not the focus. There’s plenty of text to read and story to get into. The stage is being set for the Skull’s, and Cap’s big plans and there is certainly the promise of battles to come. Every character has a very strong presence. I’ve read comics where you could switch the villain, give them the same text and get the same impact. Not this one though. The Skull, Cap, and supporting cast each fulfill their roles as only they can.

cap-interior

Art by Saiz

There are two predominant art styles throughout. The present day and the flashbacks. The present day art itself comes in two tones. When Cap is involved colours are brighter and more intense. When the focus is the Red Skull the pallet is muted and greater attention given to the detailed line work. During the flashbacks Saiz has opted for a more colourless, greyscale pallet, with the exception of school ties and badges. The school kids definitely have a Slytherin-ish feel about them, which fits the setting. They are Hydra, and even at a young age pretty evil afterall.

Saiz has taken on a hell of a lot, doing the entirety of the art for this issue. Are his hand drawing skills up to scratch? With the limited action in this comic the majority of the hand drawing is done to support conversations, communicating power through the Red Skull, nervousness through General Novty and defiance through Steve Rogers. I’d like to see what Saiz can do in a fight scene or two and look forward to the next issues to see. It’s a very solid effort this time around. 8/10 for hand drawing skills!

Final Verdict

One review for this comic dropped it a couple of points for the lack of action and how much text there was. Personally, for the first issue of a new arc I’m don’t think these take away from the issue at all. The characters are given a chance to develop and the stage is now set for what I hope will be a fantastic new arc in Captain America’s story.

Score: 8.5 Unsupervised Creative Expressions out of 10

 

Kit had a few extra thoughts on what the current arc of Captain America represents in the wake of this week’s US Election, the current global political climate and the role of art and fiction have when discussing politics. They are well worth checking out, which you can do right here!