Secret Empire #0 Thoughts (Spoilers)
Previously: The Red Skull used Korbik (a sentient cosmic cube that sometimes takes a child’s form) to turn Captain America into a bad guy. Captain America is now a loyal agent of Hydra an evil organization that is sometimes Nazi affiliated and sometimes not depending on who is writing. Captain America planned a bunch of bad stuff behind everyone’s back. Captain America turned on his evil master. Red Skull desperate to make Cap stop admitted that Captain America that his new history (that we saw in extensive flashbacks over many issues) was all lies he made up. Captain America doesn’t care because he’s EEEEVIL! He kills Red Skull and sets out to take over the world… his way! This took 15 fricking issues to get to. Meanwhile we learned that Nick Spencer should really stay off twitter.
Notes: Despite the bad reaction Spencer’s Cap run has gotten I’m actually a fan of most of Nick Spencer’s work. Superior Foes of Spider-Man is of one the best comics of the last decade and the The Fix is hilarious. His run on the two Captain America runs are really mixed bags. The first two arcs of “Captain America: Sam Wilson” are really good but Spencer struggled trying to deal with real life politics in the later issues. As for the eeeeeevil Captain America book well… it’s better than painful fever dream of Rick Remender’s Captain America book. I’m going to try to be fair and optimistic going into this one.
- Our story opens with a World War
II flashback in of Hydra Cap in the mountains of Japan meeting with
Kraken an obscure villain from Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Warriors.
Hydra’s secret base looks like the Legends of the Hidden Temple set.
Kraken tells Captain America that the Allie will use the Cosmic
Cube (not Korbik but another one) to change reality so that Hydra
doesn’t take over the world. He says they’re going to change his
memories and no matter what he must not forget he’s a Hydra Agent.
Of course we know all of these new World War II memories are
bullshit so… they’re either illusions or maybe Kraken was
manipulating Steve the whole time or… uuuugh. I am three pages in
and I have a headache!
- We now have a flow chart of characters.
I know Secret War did the same thing but… hoo-boy. That’s a bad
- We cut to modern day. Cap is at S.H.I.E.L.D command with Sharon Carter. We learn that a Chitari (those aliens from the first Avengers movie) invasion is headed towards Earth. But the Planetary Defense shield is down. Wasn’t there a whole other organization called S.W.O.R.D that handled this? Where is Abigail Brand?
- We see the Guardians of the Galaxy and
The Ultimates fighting aliens in space. I am wondering why most of
the focus isn’t on this and is instead on S.H.I.E.L.D HQ? Daniel
Acuña draws pretty fight scenes. Let him do that!
- Meanwhile a boatload of supervillians
lead by Gravitron are attacking New York and the Defenders are
fighting them. Unfortunately more of the focus is on S.H.I.E.L.D
headquarters. So we’re mostly watching EVIL Cap and Sharon watching all the action.
- Meanwhile Hydra has invaded the country of Sokovia the country that Ultron completely destroyed back in Kurt Busiek’s run. I know it’s played a role in Specer’s run but shouldn’t it just be all empty space and dead Ultron drones now?
- The narrator is REALLY going out of his way to tell us what a brilliant strategist Hydra Cap is and how all of these couldn’t have happened by coincidence. It’s sort of like how every three pages in Avengers Arena someone says “gee Arcade is really a clever villain now. He sure thought of everything.”
- Back in space Quasar is eaten by a
space whale. I should be upset at the apparent death of a new
superhero but like… this HAS to be a set-up for her to punch
her way out of the belly of a space whale an issue or two later.
Right? I mean why would you waste an opportunity for an awesome
- I just realized that Hydra Cap planning
his scheme while the heavy hitters are in space is a LOT like the
plot of Infinity. Also the whole novelty of an EVIL Captain America
story would have been a lot more at home in Axis. Remember how Tony
Stark was eeeeeevil for a year and no one cared?
- Now Nitro shows up while the Defenders
are fighting and Jessica Jones throws him high into the air while he
triggers an explosion that looks like a homage to the opening of
Civil War. This comic is turning into a greatest hits album of other
- The Secretary of Defense gives Captain
America full control over the U.S. Military and Law Enforcement
thanks to a new act of congress so everything bad from here on out is
caused by an ill conceived piece of legislation… just like Civil
- The defense shield is turned on locking
aliens out and the Defenders get backup from the Uncanny Avengers.
Things are looking up for the heroes.
- Suddenly a heli-carrier crashes into
S.H.I.E.L.D HQ and a bunch Hydra mooks show up. Only the S.H.I.E.L.D
guards aren’t fighting back because Dr Faustus is brainwashing
everyone. I should have mentioned before this whole mess started
that the Red Skull had psychic mindscrew powers and dude whose sole
power was brainwashing people working for him. If you really wanted
to do a Captain America is EVIL story the whole cosmic cube and
prolonged elaborate false history flashbacks are kind of superfluous.
- Captain America orders the Hydra Guards and the mind controlled S.H.I.E.L.D guys to take Sharon Carter prisoner. Sharon is not under Faustus’ control despite the fact that if I had a drink for the number of stories where Sharon Carter was mind controlled I’d be drunk. Sharon thinks Cap is being controlled by Faustus but…
- A Hydra guy is just standing there and has this slackjawed look like “I can’t believe this shit.” I’m going to pretend he’s Bob from Deadpool. Bob’s presence is the most entertaining thing about this book so far.
- I could be reading “The Button” right now. That comic has Batman fighting Professor Zoom AND Flash fighting Samurai Robots… Samurai Robots! And it doesn’t have walls and walls of exposition text…
- Iron Men Riri Williams and Force Ghost
Tony Stark (it’s a long story) discover someone has sabotaged the
planetary defense shield and Hydra guys attack them. Just as it looks
like we’re going to get a good fight it cuts away.
- On Space Skype Captain America reveals
to Captain Marvel that wave after wave of Chitari are coming and he’s
keeping them walled off outside with fierce alien warriors to their
doom. Cue Cliffhanger #1.
- Tony Stark and Riri Williams just beat
up all the Hydra Guys OFF CAMERA! We’ve got like a bazillion action
scenes going on and NONE of them are given any time to breath under
these unending walls of exposition text.
- Hey it’s HELMUT ZEMO! Which Zemo is
it… the morally complex anti-villian/anti-hero from Thunderbolts?
Is it the Cobra Commander-esc idiot from Avengers Undercover? A combination of the two? I don’t
know because he has all of three panels in this issue.
- Zemo and a guy named Blackout (not the
Ghost Rider Villian) have stolen the book of Darkhold. Does anyone
remember Darkhold: Pages from the Book of Sins? It was like this
early 90s quasi-horror comic about this cursed book whose pages
granted evil monkey paw wishes and the people who made those wishes
usually turned into monsters. Plus there was an evil dwarf. Like
that you should be revamping that into something so if you wanted
Peter Dinklage to be a villain in a Marvel movie. Oh and there were
people called The Darkhold Redeemers who were trying to stop the
Dwarf and one of them was a lesbian and this was like long before
LGTB representation was anywhere near common in comics. Dude I want
a Darkhold Redeemers comic.
- So Zemo and an obscure Avengers villian
named Blackout (who looks like the poor man’s Electro) use the
Darkhold to banish New York City isolating it under a Dark Force
dimension dome. It’s like when the Hand sealed off Hell’s Kitchen in
Shadowland but bigger. ANOTHER crossover callback. Cliffhanger #2.
- Tony deducts that the next target of
attack is going to be Washington DC he calls for The Avengers
(several teams worth), The Champions, and Spider-Man (who I guess
wasn’t in New York.) We get some big epic hero arrival poses that
would look great if they weren’t crammed into TINY… TINY panels.
- Back in Washington an army of Hydra
Helicarriers loom ominously over the White House. Hey do you remember
the C-Plot from Fear Itself. When Skadi’s Army attacked Washington
but no-one cared because the rest of the book was about fighting
monsters with Evil Thor Hammers? ANOTHER CALLBACK!
- This the B-side of a Marvel Comics
Crossovers Greatest Hits Album. Side A is about 70% tracks from
Secret War, the Worthy stuff from Fear Itself and a trio of tracks
from Civil War, Secret Invasion, and House of M. that were popular at
the time but doesn’t hold up.
- The nicest thing I can say about this
comic is that Daniel Acuña’s art is really good and if anything this
is one of the best looking bad comics I’ve ever read.
- Despite the involvement of Hydra and
the 40s flashback EVIL Cap doesn’t really come across as a Nazi at
all and just a generic “take over the world” badguy. On one hand
that kind of seems to be Marvel backing away from the obvious “Cap
is a Nazi” angle that was making people uncomfortable and angry and
yet on the other hand it’s also backing away from the “America is
more messed up than we thought” allegory that could actually make a
point this time. Spencer isn’t the guy to be doing that kind of
project though. Not sure who I could see doing that and making such
a gut punch work. Grant Morrison or Kyle Baker maybe?
- If this is any indication it’s going to
be a loooooong six months. Maybe I should be polishing off my “Rikki
Barnes: The Winter Soldier” pitch.