So, anyone who thinks Secret Empire is an original story probably hasn’t seen the Star Wars prequels. At first, I was absolutely on board. The problem with Marvel is that they’ve basically shoved their villains to the side, and dismissed them as Z list threats. The constant appeal and intrigue Marvel seems to show for the hero community’s infighting has become alarming in the last few years. It literally seems like every major conflict within the Marvel Universe has become hero versus hero. With Civil War II, X-Men vs. Inhumans, and now Secret Empire, we’re seeing more and more heroes turned to the dark side, and the schisms it draws within the community. However, in Marvel’s latest Darth Vader esque tale about Captain America’s fall from grace, we have to ask…is the formula still working?
Honestly, I have to say it’s hard to tell. The intriguing idea of Captain America becoming the global face for evil is something that hasn’t yet been explored. However, 5 issues in (technically 7 counting issue 0 and the Free Comic Book Day Entry) we’re already seeing the plans that Marvel has just in case they want to kill off Steve Rogers. Honestly, it’s frustrating enough that Marvel can’t seem to keep it in their pants long enough to not blow a huge reveal two issues in, but it also takes the stakes out of everything. I mean, to have a backup plan for Steve Rogers just seems so…cheap.
Without spoiling anything I definitely have to say that the arc as a whole is very…bleak. It’s one of those classic Marvel situations that changes the status quo, but doesn’t have the ramifications of something like a Secret Wars. The unfortunate thing about this whole story is that we basically have all of the major players we could need, and the stage isn’t truly set for any kind of cool back end to everything. We also have such incoherent plot points in some cases, and if you don’t read the tie ins, you’re going to be a hundred percent lost with everything that’s going on. To that end, I want to say that there are also lots of positives within this Secret Empire Captain America heel turn.
Literally with Marvel feeling like pro wrestling these days, we’re seeing more characters turn face, turn heel, turn face, turn heel. Right now, we’ve got interesting dynamics with the Red Room and with the Underground both competing for the way to beating Steve Rogers, however I don’t think that there is a coherent plan for the end. Plot points tie together messily, and I can’t really say if Marvel has a solid plan for the ending. This series, unlike Civil War II and Secret Wars, has already been fully written. So, while they do literally have a plan, it’s a bit hard to see exactly how things are going to unfold. Introducing big bads and heroes that don’t exactly want to be under the Hydra regime into the mix, it almost seems like there are all Wild Cards, and no defined sides.
Either way, Secret Empire is an event that is seeking to shake up the Marvel cannon to its core. Unfortunately, it’s a story we’ve seen before, and at some points the plot feels more like a Monday Night RAW episode as opposed to a Hamlet-esque betrayal. I’m hoping that Marvel can vindicate the readers’ long term investment into this nearly two year long story, and wrap it up with class. It’s worth a read, but I would wait until there is a TPB available to pick up, as opposed to trying to keep it going bi weekly. There just isn’t enough meat here issue by issue to really stay interested with everything that’s going on.