Friday, December 08, 2017

Reader's Diary #1679- Nick Spencer (writer), various artists: Secret Empire (collected)

When Marvel announced that their Secret Empire story line would see Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, revealed to have been a sleeper Hydra agent, it was met with a fair bit of controversy. (Okay, mostly Twitter controversy, so not really.) It seems that for many long time fans, Hydra was synonymous with Nazis and this was akin to sacrilege. Creators and publishers involved quickly came to the defense urging fans to be patient and watch the story unfold.

More of a fan of the collected volumes and trade paperbacks anyway, plus never having been a huge Captain America fan outside of the movies, I was content to wait it out and weigh in after the fact.

I quite enjoyed it. In fact, as Marvel events go, this was one of my favourites. Never have I seen such a large cast of characters handled so well. Yes, I noticed the absence of a few (Spider Woman, She-Hulk, Moon Knight, etc) and yes, some had little more than a single line or appearance in a single panel, but by and large it was very well balanced. Much more so that any of Jim Starlin's major event storylines back in the day and everyone seemed to love those.

The story revolves around a bunch of cosmic cube fragments that have the ability to alter reality. The biggest change, which is revealed from the get-go, is that the star character Captain America has secretly been a villainous Hydra agent all along. He proceeds to encapsulate many New York superheroes within the city, bar the superheroes in space from entering Earth, and compete against the remaining superheroes to gather up the rest of the fragments. Once he gets those he plans to alter even more history and on an even grander scale: in this new reality Hydra will have always been in power.

It's not perfect. The use of various reality-altering gems, cubes, and other paraphernalia is so overdone by Marvel at this point that those aspects come across as a little lazy.

Still, it's entertaining and provocative but in a good way. With Trump having usurped and bastardized the American dream, the themes in Secret Empire are timely and thoughtful.

As for all the controversy, it wasn't the real Steve Rogers anyway and that was made clear right from the beginning. Furthermore, if anyone suggests that it glamourizes Nazis or even the fictional Hydra, they clearly haven't read a page of it.

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