(I didn’t like how I did this the first time, it felt a little cluttered. SPOILER ALERT: I will try my best but I can’t promise 100% spoiler free content)
April gave us one issue of Secret Empire, May is giving us 3! Talk about overload (Not that I’m complaining, I’m loving Secret Empire). The story is already proving to be complex (And confusing, truth be told) and the more it unravels the more intense it is becoming. Let’s get started on reviewing!
Secret Empire: Free Comic Book Day
- The Assault on Washington has begun! Our Heroes are trying desperately to hold back the waves of villains. Things are just about holding together.
- However, the arrival of Captain America leaves the heroes rightfully shocked. The tide quickly turns against them as the big hitters are taken out of action and the group are soon overwhelmed.
- Captain America’s final pose suggests the impossible: What he is doing is… Right…
Though this came after Secret Empire #1, it is technically set before, I think, judging by the fact that #0 had all the heroes not trapped in space or Manhattan heading to Washington DC. This issue maintains the intensity of #0 seamlessly and offers up a fair bit for such a small page count. My only gripe is that the battle really was very short but I guess that reflects just how quickly the situation changed. Spencer has done a stellar job in such a short space and, to top it all off, it comes free of charge.
Sorrentino illustrates this issue and his style suits the tone tremendously. His art had an edge to it that makes everything feel a little more gritty. I’m also really liking the idea of revolving artists. It should keep things nice and fresh. Brooks‘ cover is fab and this is looking to be the case for every issue. I may even dedicate an entire post once they’re all released because I have yet to be disappointed by one of his covers. All in all, a great free comic (But only if your following the story, it might be a little confusing actually).
- Story – 8/10
- Art – 8/10
- Overall – 8/10
Secret Empire #1
- The worst has happened. Hydra have taken over and are controlling everything from Education to Public Works. Weakness must be punished so make sure you comply. At it’s helm: Captain America, Hydra’s greatest agent.
- Not everyone is bowing to Hydra. The Underground are made up of heroes and civilians resisting this nightmare. They aren’t in the best shape but they are getting by. Just.
- The Champions cause a situation in Las Vegas whilst trying to bring in someone with important information. The Hydra High Council are far from pleased and push Captain America to take action.
- Captain America is struggling. His relationship with Sharon is under strain and his role has come with some challenges. However, with careful guidance from Madame Hydra, he asserts his new found authority and orders Las Vegas to be bombed.
Having now pondered it several times, I don’t actually mind the time jump. It is plausible to think that Hydra were able to rise quite so quickly what with such a great strategist at the helm (He is a super soldier, after all). This issue provides a helpful summary of all the “good” Hydra has done whilst in power. It is a lot to take in but the rise of such a regime was never going to be an easy pill to swallow. The Hydra Avengers are awesome mostly because the team has such interesting characters. However, my interest is because it raises some questions over why some of the members are even members (In some cases, the villains’ motives aren’t really a challenge). Spencer has got something beautifully complex going on and it’s honestly a delight to see it all.
The “Shock” death was actually quite shocking. I knew about it prior to reading but, with context, it bared more symbolism, something I have not previously seen with a comic book death. In addition to that, A.I Stark’s recount of the losses of the Underground left me feeling emotionally raw. The sheer scale for a start was intense and Spencer does a fine job conveying so much emotion in little under 6 panels.
McNiven is on illustrative duties this issue. I’m not overly fond of his style but I do think it portrays the uneasiness of it all rather well. His facial expressions convey great emotion which help carry the plot.
- Story – 8.5/10
- Art – 7.5/10
- Overall – 8/10
Secret Empire #2
- With Las Vegas in ruins, the Underground attempt to find survivors of the incident. Tensions rise over what should be done. Black Widow takes a firm stand in support of killing Cap whilst others still believe he can be saved. Black Widow breaks away from the Underground but is later joined by the Champions who want to help.
- The Situation in Manhattan is looking equally dire with the Defenders trying desperately to defend the population from all manners of creatures. Kingpin is helping where he can but with reputation building at the heart of his motives.
- Scattered Cosmic Cube shards are revealed to be a solution of this nightmare’s undoing. However, both Hydra and the Underground are searching for them. It is a race against time and Captain America has the upper hand.
- The issue ends with what can only be described as a real curve ball. When I say curve ball, I mean curve ball.
Captain America toughens up a bit more this issue (I found him just a touch whiney in #1) but I do appreciate his personal conflict, more so than when I first read it. Seeing him struggle over issues does adds a little more depth to his turning and is does give me hope that all is not lost on that front. His inability to personally order an air strike on Las Vegas suggests there is something of the Cap we all know and love still inside him. That being said, he isn’t keen to see his empire fall which does make it all the more confusing. Whilst talking about Cap, the reveal at the end definitely raises some interesting questions.
The trouble with the Underground goes a long way in reflecting the state of affairs, all the confusion embodied by their divide. Their desire to find a way to save Cap is inspiring. Despite all Captain America has done, they are still willing to do what they do best: Save people. Black Widow’s stance keeps things interesting, though having the Champions stand by her is a little weird. Thus far, they’ve been opposed to Punching Down as they put it. Desperate times, desperate messages I guess. On the note of the Champions, where in the world is the brilliant moral compass that is Kamala Khan in all this?
Sorrentino takes over art again here and again it is superbly apt. Las Vegas, Manhattan and the Underground’s arguments are given stronger meaning with his illustrations. I’m glad he is part of the carousel of artists, that’s for sure. Reis provides a softer style that suits the tone of the reveal very well.
- Story – 8/10
- Art – 8/10
- Overall – 8/10
Secret Empire #3
- Hope, the name we shall give the #2 plot twist, provides some information on where exactly it is that they came from. The plot is most definitely thickening on that front.
- The situation on the other side of the Shield is looking dire. The space-faring heroes attempt to reach out to other alien nations but are chased away. Injured, tired and low on morale, things are not looking good up there.
- The quest for the shards is going well for Captain America, his Avengers making short work of Namor’s forces. The Underground have yet to even leave the country, Sam Wilson remaining stubborn on his isolated position in all this.
- Black Widow’s team are hitting bumps in the road, their ideologies making adjustment difficult. To make matters worse, the Punisher is hunting Black Widow down in the good name of Hydra.
The sheer number of perspectives being considered here is exhausting, not going to lie. Though I appreciate Spencer’s efforts in trying to get as much covered each issue as possible, I do feel a little drained trying to keep up. That being said, it was great to see how the cosmic front was doing and I was glad to see that the heavy-hitter wasn’t out of the fight as was suggested in #0. The inclusion of the Punisher promises to make things very thrilling on the Black Widow side of things and I was glad to see Sam Wilson talked about a bit more. I kind of regret not really following his story at all but hopefully it will be fleshed out just enough here.
Sorrentino and Reis again prove to provide a fab contrast. The opposing tones they are illustrating are handled perfectly by their respective styles, though I did confuse Star-lord for Hawkeye whilst Sorrentino was illustrating.
- Story – 8/10
- Art – 7.5/10
- Overall – 7.75/10
I feel like this approach gave each issue a bit more justice in terms of my thoughts. All in all, the first 3 issues indicate this event is going to be one heck of a rollercoaster. It’s safe to say I’m going to be riding this out till the end with pleasure. I will be re-reviewing Secret Empire: Uprising and Doctor Strange #21 (Tomorrow, if I can). Please feel free to leave any questions or thoughts below. Thank you.