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 – Civil War #1

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he reviews of one of them, with potential minor spoilers.

More Secret Wars tie-ins are coming out from Marvel every week, with varying quality and relevance to the main event series. Some are entirely new concepts, while some have been based on classic storylines that are being retold or continued, like Old Man Logan or Planet Hulk. So far I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve tried, but the Secret Wars series itself is especially strong for a summer event. This week Civil War #1 came out, a new spin and continuation of the hugely popular 2006 series by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven. This new series was written by Charles Soule, with pencils by Leinil Francis Yu, colours by Sunny Gho and letters from Joe Sabino.

Civil War follows the original plot of the Superhuman Registration Act, a government initiative to have all masked heroes have their identities known to the government and to be trained properly before going out to fight crime. Tony Stark thought this was all a great idea, while Steve Rodgers (quite rightly) considered this a breach of civil liberties, leading to most of the heroes of the Marvel Universe siding with Iron Man or Captain America and fighting it out. In the original series, the Civil War eventually ended. Not so in this new tale (which bears the Secret Wars banner on the cover and the same intro, but seems totally unconnected to the Battleworld).

The story picks up during the prison clash, but this time the prison detonates and many heroes are killed, along with 15 million others in the city. 6 years later the country is divided. Literally divided down the middle, with the east side of the USA dubbed ‘The Iron’ and led by President Stark, and the west presided over by General Rodgers, known as ‘The Blue’. After all these years a peace treaty is organised on the bridge where the two sides meet. Each man is joined by one of his most trusted compatriots, the former by She-Hulk and the latter by a Peter Parker in what looks a lot like MCU Falcon gear (presumably because The Blue seems like a lot of open expanse, not a lot of buildings to web sling around). Steve and Tony meet and discuss terms, more land for The Iron, more resources for The Blue. But before they can get any further an attempt is made on Cap’s life, and the negotiation breaks down as soon as it has started. He and Peter depart, certain that the war can only end one way.

The potential for these retellings of classic stories that has come out of Secret Wars has been exciting to see, providing the opportunity for these tales to go towards a far more extreme end, rather than something that shakes up the MU status quo in some small way before ultimately being righted or changed again due to the nature of serialised superhero comics. Soule has done just that in Civil War, taking what was already a fairly bleak and grim story and making it even more so, resulting in an America that we never would have seen in the original story without it being savagely retconned a few years later. While there are a few narrative jumps as to how we got there, the real meat and strength of the issue comes when the two former comrades are negotiating. The character work is great, and there are some nice concepts like The Punishers and the Bullseye Boys teased which could be a lot of fun in the later issues. Yu’s art shines when showing off the landscapes of The Iron and The Blue, the latter particularly looking desolate but beautiful. The grizzled look of the two men, especially Stark who is starting to look a lot older even in 6 years, adds weight to the never ending conflict between them.

Civil War is a great ‘What if?’ tale if the question you ask is ‘What if the original Civil War never ended and was also far more depressing with loads more death?’. You don’t need to be reading Secret Wars to enjoy it, and the writing and art are both very solid. Check this out at your LCS or digitally.

Score: 7.5 SHRAs out of 10