The opening shots of Secret Empire hit this week, and Bam Smack Pow begins an ongoing recap of all the crossover’s issues – what do you need for this event?
What happened? After Winter Soldier refuses to let Kobik convert him to Hydra, the little Cosmic Cube throws a tantrum. This shreds reality around a battle between Zemo’s Masters Of Evil and Winter Soldier’s Thunderbolts. Moonstone talks Fixer into turning Kobik back into a Cube, and she breaks into scattered pieces in the atmosphere. Moonstone, Fixer, and a reluctant Atlas join up with the Masters. They teleport out with an unconscious Winter Soldier, stranding Songbird, Beetle, Ghost, and Jolt in the Arctic.
Is it good? Hard to tell. I think the writing was fine, a straightforward team fight issue. But the art hobbles this book. It’s very static, and characters often twist and face away from the action they’re describing.
Recommendation: Leave it.
U. S. Avengers #5
What happened? Steve Rogers visits Roberto DaCosta, trying to get intel on his operation. Meanwhile, a Hydra agent undercover in AIM circumvents the safety cutoff for the new Red Hulk. And as the issue closes, Roberto sees the three crises from Secret Empire #0 and drops his coffee cup.
Is it good? Yep. Al Ewing’s work with this team, from New Avengers to now, keeps getting better, and the tension between Steve and Roberto simmers.
Recommendation: Don’t go out of your way to pick it up yet – I’m not sure how closely it’ll tie in to the main series. But it does look like it will be a tighter fit to this series than to previous events like Civil War II.
Captain America: Steve Rogers #16
What happened? Maria Hill finds Taskmaster’s proof that Steve Rogers is secretly in Hydra. She tries to convince Rick Jones, but he chooses Cap’s side and sends him access codes for the global defense shield. Zemo and Fixer try to reassemble the shattered Cosmic Cube. Dr. Selvig feels bad that they want to keep little Kobik in nonhuman form, so he scatters her fragments again and kills himself. Zemo ties Winter Soldier to a missile and shoots him into an aerial explosion. And a Hydra agent sets off a suicide bomb, dropping the global defense shield.
Is it good? Very. Nick Spencer has been building his event for over a year, so he’s able to drop a lot of dominoes in quick succession this week. It’s taut and thrilling.
Recommendation: Yes, odds are good that Nick Spencer’s other Captain America titles are going to add the most to the overall Secret Empire experience.
Secret Empire #0
What happened? In the prologue, Captain America meets up with the evil Sir Isaac Newton and Kraken in 1945 to magically bury his Hydra sympathies until Kobik can uncover them in Avengers Standoff. In the present, he and Sharon Carter coordinate global efforts to simultaneously take out an invading Chitauri fleet, an army of supervillains in Manhattan, and a Hydra takeover of Sokovia. It’s not going well – Nitro exploded in Midtown, and a sentient warship ate the new Quasar in space.
This much chaos leads to activation of the political power upgrade given to Steve Rogers in The Oath. He immediately uses the global defense shield to lock Captain Marvel, Alpha Flight, The Ultimates, and The Guardians Of The Galaxy out of his planet. Per his strategy, Blackout wraps Manhattan up in the Darkforce. And he drops all his secrecy, coming out as Hydra’s Supreme Leader and dropping poor Sharon Carter into the helicarrier brig. Ironheart and Iron Man rally as many heroes as they can to prevent Cap’s attack on D.C., but things don’t look good.
Welcome to Hydra World.
Is it good? It’s great. The tension ramps up at a perfect pace, and the emotional beats of Sharon’s heartbreak and Captain Marvel’s betrayal get as much love as the big explosions.
Recommendation: Buy it. It may say #0 on the cover, but it’s essential to the story.
This is one of the stronger starts to a Marvel event in the past few years. The main book hits hard, and each of the tie-ins has a reasonable connection to it. Of course, as the summer goes on, that Secret Empire banner will hit some questionable links. But for week one, this event works.