Writer: Nick Spencer
Artists: Daniel Acuna
Prologue Art: Rod Reis
Letters: VC’s Travis Lanham
Wednesday saw the release of Secret Empire #0 and thus Captain America’s final plan for Hydra to seize power has begun. What began with a lot of hype and controversy in the pages of Steve Rogers: Captain America#1 when Captain America pledged his loyalty with a simple “Hail Hydra” finally begins it’s what will no doubt be the final chapter of Hydra Cap and seemingly the end of Marvel’s never ending parade of Events that began so long ago in 2005’s House of M. Secret Empire is the brainchild of Nick Spencer as he has been the guiding force behind both Captain America books (Steve Rogers & Sam Wilson) and Marvel has put a lot of faith in him as usually their events are handled by the big guns with names like Millar, Hickman, Aaron and principle Marvel architect Brian Michael Bendis. Those are big shoes to fill and after Secret Empire #0 the verdict is unfortunately still out.
I’ll be upfront and honest; I’m coming into Secret Empire a little blind, which is a first for me when it comes to an event of this size. I dropped off both Captain America books months ago, not because I didn’t enjoy them, I just didn’t enjoy them enough to pay $4 apiece for them and figured I’d catch up on Marvel Unlimited once they were released on the app. But even though I’ve read some of the series I am nowhere near where the books are today so going into Secret Empire #0 I was hoping to get caught up but coming into the issue I was a bit lost. If this is going to be a stand alone event it wasn’t inviting to readers not current with the Captain America books and to me an event should always be inviting to new readers. That being said the prologue hooked me as the Hydra elite always intrigues me and I enjoy alternate timelines and both were present here. We see how Hydra took control of Steve Rogers and how they ‘protected’ him over the years so he would be in a position one day to both save Hydra but also take over the world so the meek are controlled by the strong. I really liked this set up and would have been happy if this story was the entire issue but it’s only a few pages and then we are thrust into yet another world ending event that even the heroes aren’t sure they’re going to survive, a la Secret Wars #1 from a few years ago.
After the prologue I felt like I was in a Captain America book more then an Event. But to be fair since Secret Empire was announced it was insinuated that the core Captain America books were vital to the story but once the main story kicked in it felt like a continuation more then a beginning. This isn’t my first rodeo and I found my footing pretty quickly but when the reader is informed that there are three world ending threats yet were not informed of how they came about. We have a Chitauri invasion fleet heading toward earth (I bet those aliens are very happy Marvel Films didn’t/doesn’t have the rights to the Skrulls since they have never had this much time in the forefront in their entire history). Captain Marvel and her Alpha Flight and Ultimates teams are joined by the Guardians of the Galaxy to deal with the Chitauri situation. The Second threat is a massive Super Villain team up that is destroying New York in retaliation for the Pleasant Hill prison from the Standoff event of last year. Shockingly the new incarnation of the Defenders (inspired by Netflix), Cloak and Dagger as well as Doctor Strange are on hand to deal with the villains. The third threat is that Hydra has invaded Sokovia, of Avengers: Age of Ultron fame, and has taken possession of their nuclear arsenal. SHIELD, under the direction of Captain America, is on hand to deal with this threat. Spencer does a nice job of switching the action around and moving between conflicts so the reader never gets bored but I am tired of the studio side of Marvel dictating who is on hand for these events. Marvel has a beautiful and deep bench of characters that are consistently being put to the way back burner to put front and center their MCU and Netflix stable. None of the situations go the way of the heroes and by the end of the issue Captain America has revealed himself to his friends and the world that he is Hydra and Hydra is the New World Order.
I’ll give Spencer credit. He plotted a nice issue that sets the stage for what could be a fun story. There are a lot of questions to be answered and if the point of a #0 were solely for set up then this issue would have done its job. But for an Event this is not new reader friendly, by that I mean readers not reading the Captain America titles. Any casual fan of Marvel could have stepped into Secret Wars, Infinity, or even Civil War II and been ok from the outset but with Secret Empire it felt like I needed to be in the know to get the whole of the book and unfortunately I am not in the know. I’m hoping as we get deeper into the story this won’t be the case and I actually have faith in Spencer. It’s also helpful for Secret Empire that it has an incredible list of artists joining Spencer on the title and I found what Daniel Acuna did with Secret Empire #0 to be strong but I’m not sure how the switch of artists is going to read once Secret Empire is read as a whole. Daniel Acuna is a wonderful artist but his style is unique and with McNiven, Andrea Sorrentino, & Lenil Francis Yu doing the main book and each of them have distinct and non-similar styles, which could prove to be wonderful or incredibly jarring. Only time will tell and at least the title will be on time.
Verdict: I’d have to Pass unless you’re reading the Captain America titles, specifically Steve Rogers: Captain America as Secret Empire #0 felt like a continuation of that title more then an introduction to Marvel’s newest event. But if you’re hopeful for a grand event, like me, then you’re in for the long haul on Secret Empire.