Secret Empire #5 review: Lose a friend, gain a friend


The heroes lose this week and keep on losing – they can’t find the Cosmic Cube, can’t trust each other. But a lost hero’s return may end the whole game!

Secret Empire #5 (of 10)
Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Andrea Sorrentino; Rod Reis; and Joshua Cassara & Rachelle Rosenberg
Published by Marvel Comics

Cover by Mark Brooks

As the event of the summer hits the halfway mark, Captain America still watches heroes lose all over the planet. Mutants cower in their sovereign state. His corrupted Avengers can’t regain their heroism. Black Widow’s compromising the morals of teenagers to get what she wants. And the group trying to save him can’t catch a break, even from long-time friends.

And that little ragtag band is about to lose it all. They’ve trusted the wrong person. And it blows up right here.

But even that betrayal is nothing compared to what Steve Rogers has up his sleeve. Because the last person they expected to see is coming home. And if he’s on Steve’s side, well, they might not make it out of this series in one piece.

The art of losing

Nick Spencer doesn’t attempt the overt metacommentary of last time, which is good. He made his point, now he’s back to a concentrated push on plot. But for all the story beats landing this week, the book still feels like a thoughtful pause. His characters are exploring what it’s like to lose – to lose this big a mission, to lose hope, to lose trust. It’s a standard part of heroic storytelling. But it’s smart and wonderful in Spencer’s hands.

Sorrentino’s return to the book couldn’t have been better timed. In an issue this talky, his moody page layouts and subtly strange colors make sure the reader stays engaged. And yes, even a little creeped out for most of the time.

Next: Don't forget last issue's dinner with Ultron!

Star Wars taught us how great a story feels when the heroes lose at the end of Act Two. The fact that it’s happening now, with five issues to go, means we don’t know what to expect. But I have faith it’s going to stay this good. Just, you know, not for Iron Man’s side.