Review: Secret Empire #0

What if your greatest ally was secretly your greatest enemy? What if the most trustworthy, stalwart hero history has ever known has been planning in secret a massive betrayal? That time is now!

After lots of build up (and controversy), Marvel’s next big event launches with this zero issue which doesn’t fire off the first salvo (that was done some time ago), but instead brings together Steve Rogers’ plan to bring a fascist veil over the Marvel Universe.

Like a long chess game, Nick Spencer has been putting together the various moves to get us to this point. How we’ve gotten to here is actually impressive in how it’s laid out and the dots being put together, but the overarching story and its politics is where things fall apart.

For those who don’t know, the living Cosmic Cube Kobik has manipulated Steve Rogers’ history so that he’s always been an agent of Hydra as per Red Skull’s wishes. Rogers has acted as a sleeper agent who while fighting for the allies, was also helping Hydra who allied themselves with the Red Skull, and serving the Red Skull… while also undermining him. Spencer’s story falls apart on that aspect alone in that Kobik has learned about Hydra from Red Skull (remember Skull is a Nazi/neo-Nazi), but in that manipulation Kobik has put in the ability to betray the Red Skull and take over Hydra? When you dive too deep, like any movie summer blockbuster, the specifics shred apart creating a story that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when you think about it.

We get that here as an attack on New York, by the Chitauri in space, and Hydra, all take place at the same time splintering the heroes and allowing Captain America to set his traps. Again, the specifics of it all don’t make a hell of a lot of sense when you nitpick each and all together it’s overly complicated. What Spencer delivers is a story of betrayal and “reveals” that feel about as emotionally deep as a Michael Bay film. All the issue was missing was a slow motion shot of jets flying over with an American flag waving on a pole.

But, the other issue is, we’ve seen this same story with an event from years ago, Secret Invasion. Both stories featured fanatical extremists infiltrating our heroes and taking over government positions leaving us to ask who we can trust? In this case the green has switched from the Skrulls to Hydra. Same story, different skin.

While this first issue has a lot of what, there’s not a hell a lot of “why.” For a politically charged story, the first issue lacks discussion of the politics instead givings us a generic reveal that lacks deep rooted meaning. We should hate Hydra and what Steve does, but the issue barely registers emotionally. It goes through the motions but likes oomph behind the punch.

The art by Daniel Acuña and Rod Reis is pretty good. For as blah as the story is, the art is entertaining to look at with the big action sequences laid out in a way that packs a lot into a panel. There are some issues with characters looking the same. A panel of Captain Marvel looking surprised looks the same as Quasar looking surprised, down to the bug eyes. While I do enjoy is how some of the action breaks the panels on the page with a character in an action pose covering multiple panels across a page. It’s an interesting style and layout that works well and feels different.

Spencer, Acuña, and Reis, pack in a lot into this issue attempting to catch up new readers while giving everything a go after the dominoes have been set up for so long. But, in packing a lot, there’s a complete lack of emotional punch or justification for Rogers’ actions. For that, you’ll need to have read over a year’s worth of comics. This debut isn’t fatal, but for all the build up as far as controversy or defense of Rogers’ philosophy, what’s presented is another mile wide inch deep summer event.

Story: Nick Spencer Art: Daniel Acuña, Rod Reis
Story: 5.0 Art: 6.95 Overall: 5.5 Recommendation: Pass

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review