Comic Book Review: Secret Empire

Details: Released in 2017 by Marvel Comics. There are ten issues in total.

Secret Empire is Marvel’s big crossover event this year. They have one every year or two where they take everyone from the comic books and smash them into one story.

The story of Secret Empire has a lot of baggage with it and it’s not going to make a lot of sense if you haven’t been following Captain America for the last few years and if you didn’t catch the ending to the last big crossover event, Civil War 2.

To summarize, a while back, the Red Skull used the Cosmic Cube, an item that can reshape reality, to change Captain America’s entire history and change him from the lifelong American hero into a lifelong double agent for Hydra, a terrorist organization with connections to the Nazis. Up until recently, this evil Captain America has been mostly quiet in his true allegiances, but now, evil Captain America has put into a motion a plan to take over the world and remake into the ideal world he envisions. It’s now up to the remnants of a beaten and bruised Avengers to rally together and defeat him before all is lost.

While you don’t need to read everything prior to the publishing of Secret Empire, this is one of the most convoluted crossover stories Marvel has ever put out. This story is built on so many prior events from so many books that you’d have to spend a fortune being fully aware of everything that happened before and upon which Secret Empire is built upon. To help with that, here are a few of the plot points that take place before the events of Secret Empire:

  • Evil Captain America kills Red Skull because he’s unworthy to lead Hydra.
  • Evil Captain America kills a bunch of good guys, including his old friend Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier.
  • Secret Empire actually takes place after evil Captain America has taken over the whole country. We only get glimpses of the battle with the Avengers.
  • Female Thor gets banished.
  • The new Madame Hydra is a sorceress of some kind and a motherly figure for the evil Captain.
  • Ms. Marvel built a planetary defense shield which is currently being used by evil Cap’ to keep the most powerful heroes of the Marvel Universe outside the planet.
  • Tony Stark has been in a stasis pod since Civil War 2. He did create an artificial intelligence copy of himself and sent it out into the world before going under.

And there’s a whole bunch more. Which just contributes to this disjointed, oddly paced story.

There’s some action, there’s some talking, there are a lot of artists who take turns drawing panels from issue to issue. I can derive some sort of theme relating to the current political climate in the United States and some kind of message about that, but that message is so diluted and disjointed that it really doesn’t come across.

It feels like Marvel wanted to say something against our current president and intolerance, but pussied out because of a fear of the consequences from those who support him. If they wanted to say something political, then they should’ve just come out and said it. If they were afraid of the consequences, then they should have just avoided the subject altogether rather than slightly brushing upon the issues.

Overall, Secret Empire is a strange story. I was very much looking forward to this because the events in Captain America and the betrayals taking place there were fun to watch. Unfortunately, Secret Empire drops the ball in many respects and avoids plot points that I was looking forward to as well as resolving plot points in unsatisfying ways. Traditionally, these crossover events are also meant as a jump off point for new readers to hop onto new books. After Secret Empire, I’m not so sure this will be the case as Secret Empire required tons of knowledge from the prior Marvel comic books and subsequent stories will likely build even further upon that.

Score: 5.8/10

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