Written by: Nick Spencer
Art by: Steve McNiven
Published by: Marvel Comics
When people talk about comics being dumb, they’re talking about Secret Empire #10. I’m not using “dumb” here in the vague “silly, pointless, and uncool” sense (although those certainly apply). I mean “dumb” as in the opposite of smart; as in “I feel less intelligent for having read what I just read.”
Secret Empire #10 features two ideologies punching each other in the face. Literally. Two different political ideologies were given flesh, made man, and set to punching each other. “In this corner! Standing 6’2” and weighing in at 220 pounds! With a career record of 0-3… Fascism!” *Boos* “And in THIS corner! Also standing 6’2” and weighing a slightly pudgier 235! With a career record of something like 138-27… Democracy!” *Cheers*
That’s just about the totality of this book. There are no clever plots. No sharp dialogue. No references or payoffs that reward the reader for sticking with 11 issues of inconsequential punching. Granted, there is a plot, which I think was attempting to be clever… but since all it turned out to be was a mechanism to set up a deus ex machina, I’m not counting it.
If I’m being extremely generous – and I do try to be generous whenever I can – I suppose one could argue the point Secret Empire was trying to make was “those who seek power are ultimately destroyed by it.” Steve Rogers spent the entirety of this series hunting cosmic cube fragments, and once he got them all, the cube ended up being the means of his destruction. Which, fair enough. But we took a long, long walk to get there, and I’m not even sure that was the point. The real message that came over far louder and much clearer was: Just. Try. Harder… and then hope God intervenes.
Here’s another weird thing, though: I can’t even definitively label Secret Empire a failure. That’s mostly due to the fact that I have no idea what it was trying to accomplish. Whether you consider things like Civil War or Infinite Crisis to be good or bad, you can’t deny they got the heroes from Point A to Point B.
Secret Empire got our characters from Point A to… Point A? With some destruction and a character death thrown in? Everything reset to the status quo… except for that character death? Everybody remembers the true history… but they also remember that time Captain America was basically a Nazi? I mean, is the cosmic cube lazy, or just a jerk? From a practical standpoint alone, why not just reload from a previous save? To teach a lesson? And what lesson? Don’t be a Nazi? Don’t mess with a cosmic cube?
I have so many questions. I should have, like, three questions, five, tops, after I’m done with a series, and they should all be reflective or “what are they going to do next?” type questions. I shouldn’t have 50 “Wait, what?” questions.
But, for some good points, and to convince myself I didn’t entirely waste a lot of time and money here: I maintain that this premise would’ve made for a very good alternate Earth story. “Captain America gets brainwashed – like, for real, not with a cube, and then goes about subverting American democracy and installing himself as supreme leader.” That’s potentially a good story. And it can end any way you want. This obviously wasn’t ending any other way than “Good Cap Comes Back.” (But that’s not what this is, so I can’t give it too many bonus points.)
Also, not in this issue at all, but that issue (#4? Maybe? I’m too lazy to look it up right now) where Ultron-Pym hosted an Avengers dinner was admittedly awesome.
Final Bonus Point: For some reason, when Hydra Captain America was remaking the world into his image, he turned the Washington Monument into a giant unicorn horn. I have no idea why and no explanation was given. But I laughed out loud and managed to think “what’s going on in that head of yours, Steve Rogers…”
Overall, this just felt like a waste of everyone’s time. Nothing happened. Nothing changed. There wasn’t even any character analysis since Captain America wasn’t acting of his own free will. Let’s just all do like Marvel is apparently going to do and pretend this didn’t happen.