Secret Empire #4 review: Creepiest Avengers party ever


The Avengers, both good and evil teams, race to save or serve Captain America, but the prize goes to whoever survives a dinner party at Ultron’s!

Cover by Mark Brooks

In the first issue of Hydra’s new America, we saw an Avengers team of Vision, Scarlet Witch, and the original Thor. Classic. Cool. But they fought alongside known villains Black Ant, Taskmaster, and the Superior Octopus. After several weeks following Steve Rogers and his corrupt control of the country, Nick Spencer takes an issue to check in with this skin-crawling iteration of Marvel’s premiere super team.

Hydra’s Avengers and Iron Man’s team of rebel heroes both search the globe for fragments of the Cosmic Cube that originally turned Steve Rogers into an awful fascist. It’s a fun, globe-trotting scavenger hunt until both teams convene trying to steal a piece from a fortress Ultron established in remote Alaskan wilderness.

The teams fight to a stalemate, and the battle will go to whoever can navigate the murky psychology of a family dinner at Ultron’s. It’s tough. Because Ultron has an upgrade. Half his body is his own. And half of it is the original Ant-Man. And no one knows which side’s in control.

Dinner and some metacommentary

Nick Spencer nails this dinner scene. The gruesome fusion of founding Avenger Hank Pym and the mechanical body of their greatest foe leads to fascinating exploration of heroism. Heroes trying to win his favor meet with reasonable arguments about how crappy they’ve been to each other through Civil Wars and Disassembly and Axes. On a meta level, yeah, they’re kind of crummy people.

So the resolution moves forward not just the scavenger hunt subplot of Secret Empire. It’s moving the thoughtful reflection Spencer has taken from political commentary to aesthetic criticism. Why do we love seeing our heroes punch each other? Why can’t we stick to stories where they just punch Nazis?

He’s not whining; Nick Spencer genuinely wants to talk about it. And his miserable family dinner does just that.

Next: Check out last issue's review!

The art team shifts again this time to Leinil Francis Yu, an artist I haven’t loved. But his attention to details and expressive body language elevate what could have been a flat talking-heads piece. His Ultron-Pym monster defies physics in a way that kicks the creep factor to a 10.

As the series approaches the halfway point, Nick Spencer shows no signs of losing focus. I look forward to how he’ll challenge and scare me next.