Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Daniel Acuna
Additional Art: Rod Reis, Sean Izaakse, & Java Tartaglia
Letters: VC’s Travis Lanham
“Off the rails” isn’t the fitting phrase for Secret Empire #8 but it is pretty damn close. Over the course of 10 issues (including #0 & the Free Comic Book Day issue) Nick Spencer has been juggling multiple balls, maybe too many, as this issue is a jumbled mess. After the last issue I had high expectations as Secret Empire #7 built to an incredible final page that actually put a huge smile on my face as Sam Wilson donned his Captain America uniform and hefted the classic shield in the air. I smiled, did a little (very little) fist pump, and prepared myself for an issue where the underdogs rallied around Captain America (Sam) and turned the tide against Hydra and Hydra Cap. Instead Secret Empire #8 is disjointed mess that has way to many twists and reveals for one comic.
Secret Empire #8 centers around freeing the heroes trapped in space outside the shield barrier as well as ending the Darkhold magic that has encased New York City to bolster the Underground Avengers numbers and bring some of Marvel’s heavy hitters into the fray. The Underground Avengers have not had a an easy go of it over the past few issues and they really needed a win and luckily Sam Wilson has a plan and over the first few pages I really thought I was going to get the issue I wanted, especially an incredible Dog Fight scene between Cap and Hydra jets. Then the twists begin and then again, and again until I wasn’t really sure what was going on and what plan was actually in place. There were big reveals that fell flat, there were build ups to potentially epic scenes that were quickly neutered, there was a return of a character that I didn’t even know was missing, and by the end of the issue I was a little lost and unenthused for the last two issue of the mini-series (or is it a maxi-series by this point). Even the ‘alternate reality’ Cap story was a disappointment, since the big reveal was buried in with all the other twists and reveals of the Hydra reality that it felt flat and honestly was confusing.
I like Nick Spencer. I have really enjoyed Nick Spencer comics. I really enjoyed the beginning of Secret Empire, more then I thought I would but it’s going to have a hard time sticking the landing. It’s become overinflated, which has really hurt the look of the book since Marvel is just throwing new pages to artists to inflate the page count and it is jarring as the artists switch continually. I was fine when it was Steve McNiven, Andrea Sorrentino, and Leinil Francis Yu handling the artwork. Then Rod Reis was added for the “Alternative Cap” storyline, and then Daniel Acuna was brought back from Secret Empire #0 to draw more of the event. Then Marvel decided to push the book from Eight issues to Ten issues and quickly rushed more artwork and it clearly looks like rushed artwork. The story is meandering in the main title and way to many crucial plot elements are taking place in ancillary titles that, like many people, I’m not reading. With two issues left, hopefully Secret Empire gain regain its footing and finish strong but with the way things are going it may take a Cosmic Cube to pull it off.
Verdict: If you’re reading Secret Empire #8 then you’re probably in it to the end like I am but I cannot recommend this issue as it just falls apart and reads like a movie that is trying to hard to have twists just to mess with the audience. Disappointing to say the least since I liked the first few issues of the event but now I’m just waiting for the end and hope Marvel holds firm on their policy of no new events for at least 18 months.