The hero fights escalate as Black Widow’s teen assassins finally get to Steve Rogers – who isn’t getting up again when the smoke clears?
Secret Empire #7 (of 10)
Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Andrea Sorrentino with additional art by Rod Reis and Joshua Cassara & Rachelle Rosenberg
Published by Marvel Comics
Cover by Mark Brooks
Fights break out in summer events. It happens. And as Nick Spencer showed last week, he knows how to take the wish-fulfillment of hero-on-hero fights and use them to explore painful emotional truths. This week, the dance partners change up, but the fights are even better than last time.
See, last week, Spencer set up Iron Man against Steve Rogers, as in Civil War. And he let Hawkeye and Hulk rematch after Civil War II. He paid homage to these major crossovers, and he showed how to mine these events for the pain that comes from an inability to agree with your friend.
This week, Black Widow and her team of adolescent trainees prepare to kill Steve Rogers. It’s a huge deal, and Nick Spencer has thoughtfully built the past six issues toward this point. Earnest attempts for peace have failed. Hydra’s empire threatens the lives of the Inhumans for now, but it’s already hurting more people. No wants Steve dead. But this may be the only way.
But to get there, Black Widow will have to survive a fight with the Punisher. Sorrentino’s ridiculous mastery of a grid layout throws the readers eyes around like the best action movie directors. Spencer’s dialogue makes a credible case for the Punisher marching to Hydra’s beat. This may become a Black Widow classic scene.
And things only get worse for the good guys after that. Spider-Man fights Captain America, also fighting the destiny Ulysses saw in Civil War II. Steve also fights one of his most trusted friends in a shocking moment of betrayal. And at least one hero isn’t getting back up.
The series thus far has been a sequence of escalating action scenes with little breathers between, marching toward heartbreak and tension. The loss of this week’s hero may be the most painful of the whole event, and so when the final page brings the first scene of hope for the Uprising’s forces, it feels right. We readers can’t take much more. It’s time to pivot back. We’ve given up someone we love, and Steve Rogers has to pay.
This is how you do fight scenes. Spencer may have sat down thinking, “Wouldn’t it be cool if Miles Morales punched Steve Rogers in the face?” But it feels more like he started with, “My country feels lost, corrupted. How can I make that real in a comic book? Who does that look like?” And before it loses itself in the grim muck, he pulls back to let us know it’s going to be okay. I needed that this week. I think I’m not alone there.
Secret Empire continues to be one of Marvel’s best crossover events in the past decade. And the fights in this issue deserve to echo far into the next one.