Comic Review – Secret Empire: Omega (Marvel Comics)

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

Warning: minor spoilers.

“The war is over. All around me my country is regaining what it lost. Healing. Rebuilding. So why am I here?” Captain America

Well Secret Empire is finally complete. It’s been a series not without its controversies, from the backlash against Steve Rogers – a character created by Jewish comic book writers turning to the very far right  to issues around Magneto’s portrayal as a pro-Hydra villain on one of the comic book covers (he very much stays pro-mutant, anti-Hydra throughout) but for me I think there was very much value in the story it sought to tell, as can be seen in a previous article of mine – ‘Captain America and the Rise of Hydra’ (warning, contains political rambling!), found here.

I didn’t however, review issue 10 of Secret Empire. This was honestly because I found it a little disappointing. The series finale felt rushed with a ‘Cosmic Cube fixes the world’ ending and for me personally what I saw as the key idea the writer Nick Spencer was trying to get at wasn’t properly addressed, i.e. Captain America going Hydra being a metaphor for the rise of far right populism in America. That was until now. I picked up Secret Empire Omega a little tentatively, at a high price and off the back of an ending which didn’t quite hit the mark but as I’ll explain, for me Spencer added some of the ideological struggle to the epilogue of this story the ending was sorely missing.

This comic was bought to us by:

  • Writer – Nick Spencer
  • Artist – Andrea Sorrentino
  • Additional Art – Joe Bennett with Joe Pimentel
  • Letterer – VC’s Travis Lanham

The plot to Secret Empire Omega is necessarily simple. Now the fighting is over and the clean-up beginning Steve Rogers, both good (Captain America for reference) and bad (I’ll refer to as Captain Hydra for lack of a better term) clash again. This time in an ideological debate rather than hand to hand combat. There’s a line from Captain America that may communicate Spencer’s feeling on this that he himself may have wanted more time to dig into this during the main series – that when he saw his enemy there wasn’t time to talk, only fight and close the series out. Omega also touches on what the longer lasting impacts of Secret Empire will be – Captain America’s emotional scarring and loss of influence globally (think how America will be post-Trump), the death of a significant character and how other characters are coping now its over.

There is a key message in all this as well, if you read Captain Hydra as a metaphor for modern America – You allowed this to happen. Captain Hydra blame Steve Rogers, Carol Danvers, US politicians and pretty much everyone but himself for his rise to power. It’s possible to read this as a criticism of those with influence in the real world where Trump was elected, which was only possible because of the state of the US to begin with.

I was a little cheeky with this review and had a flick through one or two of the other early reviews before writing. There’s more I wanted to say than normal and it helped to see if I was missing any other major points. One of the reviews I read criticised the artwork, that Sorrentino’s portrayal of the two Cap’s out of costume not distinctive enough. I noticed this as well but actually liked that they were less distinctive. They look very similar and that’s the point. They’re the same or at least the same bar ideals and the point made earlier – that Captain Hydra could take the power he did because of the actions of Captain America amongst others means the line between them is currently a little blurred. There’s a sombre tone to the art in this issue, with a grey pallet used for Captain America and red for Captain Hydra. I feel the art was exactly how it should have been for this issue.

Final Verdict

I have complicated feelings towards Secret Empire as a series, but there was an intent with the story which Spencer sought to tell. If you’d asked me before reading this I would have said the point hadn’t been made properly, now it has. On balance, I would rate the series as a whole at 7.5 out of 10, starting close to 10 but moving down to maybe a 6.5. I would have liked to have seen a more optimistic note struck for the other characters than Cap with all this coming to an end as the series does have a fairly downer ending, that isn’t to say it’s bad though. This issue really helped make the ending much more satisfying for me.

Score: 8.25 Legacies out of 10

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!