Writer: Nick Spencer
Pencils: Steve McNiven
Inks: Jay Leisten
Colors: Matthew Wilson
Letters: VC’s Travis Lanham
The New World Order is upon us as Secret Empire #1 establishes the new status quo for the Marvel Universe, and unless you like a fascist dictatorship you are not going to like it. Hydra is firmly entrenched as the rulers of America and for most of the US population they seem to be fine with that and going about their normal business. It seems that finding out that the Allies did not actually win WWII and that the NAZI’s, sorry, I mean Hydra actually won seems to not be that controversial of a change. Never mind that this means that Hitler and the Holocaust were justified and now accepted as being in the right, if we’re taking this story literally. But this is comics and I don’t want to walk down that avenue so I’ll stick to Hydra simply being Hydra, not the NAZI regime it stood in for when Jack and Stan first created it.
At the end of Secret Empire #0 Hydra Cap finally revealed himself and since he is a master strategist he was able to divide the worlds heroes and spread them so thin that he was able to capture or strand them in a way that he could assume control and turn America into a Hydra run country. Secret Empire #1 picks up with a bit of a time jump as the country is settled in to the new system and for the most part accepting. We see school life where students are being indoctrinated to sell out their neighbors, which includes anyone Inhuman and I assume Mutant. We discover that Captain Marvel and her Alpha Flight and Ultimates teammates are still in space and dealing with wave after wave of Alien incursions that are decimating her forces. But the bulk of the story deals with Captain America dealing with his new role as leader and the underground ‘Avengers’ who are actively working to save the world, which could be the hardest achievement they’ve ever attempted.
Secret Empire #1 reads very much like the beginning of a larger tale, which it is, and established a lot of the players. We find out that several Avengers have joined Captain America including some heavy hitters like Thor Odinson, Scarlet Witch, and the Vision. The Underground includes the Champions as well as Ant-man , the new Giant Man, the new Wasp, the Thing, the AI Tony Stark while being led by Hawkeye and Black Widow. There is friction amongst the underground, as the Champions want to take the fight to Cap while Hawkeye and Black Widow want to protect them and the civilians under their care which is a battle of the ages and will be interesting to see play out. What I found I liked most about the Secret Empire #1 though was the Hydra hierarchy and the various strings Captain America is trying not to get entangled in. It seems that although Cap is the supreme leader not everyone in Hydra Command is on board with his plans and there are several willing to actively challenge his leadership and unwillingness to enforce the Hydra World Order. Even though I liked this aspect of the story it also leads to what I really didn’t like about the issue, that Spencer is trying to make Hydra Cap a sympathetic character. Having spent the last year turning Captain America into a villain you cannot back out now and treat him like he actually has the best of intentions. Spencer and Marvel have committed to this story and Hydra Cap that they can’t back out now. Take it to the extreme since you already have in a built in failsafe, the Cosmic Cube.
I don’t want to sound completely negative. I did like aspects of the story, especially the political intrigue and potential infighting amongst the Hydra Command. I enjoyed the Underground and how it is an analog to the French Underground of WWII. But it has a long way to go to pull me in, but I am mildly curious to see how it plays out. Steve McNiven’s artwork is excellent, as it usually is. I know the title has rotating artists (Andrea Sorrentino being the main reason I’m reading the event) so I don’t know how the switches are going to read on a whole but we’ll just have to wait and see.
Verdict: Unless you have been on board with Nick Spencer’s Steve Rogers: Captain America run and need to see the conclusion I would recommend you Pass. It’s not that the issue is awful, it’s not, but it is a bit jarring and somewhat insulting to history and some readers may take a offense to the insinuation of the Allies not winning and America so easily adapting to Hydra’s way of thinking. But if you want to see it play out then buckle up for what could be a long slog this summer.