(Editors Note: We’ve reached the end of Secret Empire and, with it, comes my review of the overall event. I’ve already done at least 2 (maybe 3) reviews of the beginning and middle (so, I guess 2) and promised that when all was said and done, I’d be back for the big send off. Away we go…)
The Good: This was a good story. I remember when the event started that I wasn’t completely on board with the idea. It seemed to go against everything that the Captain America character has ever stood for. How are you going to make Captain America into a facist? I understand that comics maybe aren’t selling as well in the face of movies and television shows that provide the same entertainment value at a possibly reduced cost for the consumer. But, come on, there are some things that you just don’t do. Turning Captain America into Hydra is something that you just don’t do. There are numerous instances of him fighting facists. One of the most recognizable images in comic book history is Cap punching Hitler straight in the face. I’ve shared that very image on this page probably to prove a similar point.
I won’t say that I ever came to terms with Captain Hydra. However, this story did a decent to good job of explaining a situation that, for many (myself included), had no good explanation. Granted, they jumped through hoops and the suspension of disbelief was almost too much at times. Still, it got me back into reading and enjoying comics and that is the name of the game. Well played, Marvel. Well played.
Aside from all of that, the story was compelling. It followed a good, logical arc with plenty of all the good kinds of conflict that make me want to invest my time in the story. In fact, I became so invested in the story that I did what I told myself I wasn’t going to do and I bought all of the crossover issues for the event, too. The last time I fell for that trick was the first Civil War and some of those books just felt like filler. That wasn’t the case with this event. Every book, even the crossover books, told a piece of the story. When you put them all together, you get a well executed event.
The art, for the most part, was very good, too. In a previous review, I mentioned that one of the reasons I enjoyed Civil War was Steve McNiven’s art. He didn’t do all of the books, but there was only one or two that I didn’t care for the art because another one of my favorite artists, Leinil Yu filled in for a couple of issues.
The Bad: I already mentioned that there were a couple of issues that I didn’t like the art. Granted, in the issues that I didn’t care for the art, there was a reason to use that particular style. I understand that, but I just didn’t care for it. It took me out of the story and, for me, had the exact opposite of the intended effect.
By my understanding, the art is supposed to convey an otherworldly or dream feel. It does make sense as this is an alternate reality, so every once in a while, it was interesting to have the art break down into the gauzy and ephemeral which was a stark contrast to the hyperrealism of Steve McNiven. However, for me, it was a reminder that this was only temporary. Steve Rogers was not going to remain a Hydra agent and Marvel insisted that things weren’t just “going to magically go back to normal at the end” during the whole event.
I’ve recently heard rumors that initially, they meant for the Captain Hydra event to lead to another “Dark Reign” type storyline, at least temporarily. But, response to the change in Cap’s character was met with such resistance (probably the most out of any of the recent changes) that they had to figure out another way to wrap it all up. I don’t know about all of that, but I will say that another bad thing about this arc is that it got pretty dark in the middle. Granted, there were things happening in real life that probably exacerbated my feelings about Hydra ruling the country. But, I strongly considered not reading anymore.
The Ugly: Other than that middle “despair” arc of the story, the ending was not all that great. I think that we all agree that if they were going to end the story in this fashion that this was the only logical ending. Still, I’m a guy who likes a good ending and this one was just okay. It was what was supposed to happen and it happened.
So, why put this one in the ugly column? Well, it’s disappointing for one major reason. They said all along that this wasn’t going to be one of those stories where everything just gets fixed and we pretend that nothing happened after a few months. Before reading that, I was convinced that the cube would realize her mistake and work to fix what she broke. Then, I read that’s not how it would end and I was intrigued as to how they would end it. Chris suggested the old Dallas “it was just a dream” ridiculousness. While I didn’t have to make good on my threat and return all of the books that I bought if they actually went through with that, the ending was sort of along the lines of what I initially suspected. Okay, fine, but given everything that they said about it not being that ending, this deserves an ugly.
The Verdict: Similar to Civil War, this event will go down in history as bringing me back to comics. I didn’t enjoy this one as much as that one, but I did like the cohesiveness of this story with the crossover titles. So, this one might end up being more enduring and keep me in comics for at least the next year, if not more. Soon after Civil War ended, I found other things to spend my money on and quickly dropped comics.
Even though I complained to Chris about not having enough comics as the event wound down, I still found a way to spend almost 40 dollars this week. I’m back into comics in a big way. I have branched out from my almost 40 (well, with a few decades of breaks in between) year status as a Marvel zombie to read far more DC books that I’ve ever read. I have even picked up several independent books that aren’t Image while sticking with Spawn long enough to start to appreciate that book again. I have no idea what the future of comics holds but, I’m along for the ride no matter what.