Is Secret Empire the Door to a Much Needed Marvel Reset?

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Secret Empire #0

Remember how upset the world got when it was revealed that Captain America had always been a Manchurian Avenger in the employ of Hydra? That quickly subsided when it was revealed that Kobik, a being created from pieces of the Cosmic Cube, had rewritten reality to make America's beloved Steve Rogers into a traitor from childhood. She'd basically done a "Red Son" on old winghead even as she helped Maria Hill create the idyllic village / supervillain prison known as Pleasant Hill, where villains had their realities changed to become law-abiding Mayberry citizens.

Having bided his time until this moment, Captain America puts all his tactical skills to bear in SECRET EMPIRE, organizing a three-pronged attack that is designed to allow him to take over.

There's a non-stop Chitauri attack from outer space, and the atmospheric shield built to defend the planet from that is down, forcing Captain Marvel, Hyperion, America Chavez, Quasar, and other space-based heroes to fly out and run interference.

There's an army of super-villains seriously pissed off about what happened to them at Pleasant Hill attacking New York, going head to head with Luke Cage, Daredevil, and others.

And S.H.I.E.L.D. has lost one of their helicarriers to Hydra, which has amassed a stockpile of nuclear missiles. The President has been moved to a secure location, and the S.H.I.E.L.D. protocols have been put into place, which means the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. currently runs the military -- and the Director is Steve Rogers, Captain America.

With clockwork precision, the Earth's space shield comes back online -- but not to prevent the Chitauri attacks. Rather, it's on to keep the space-based superheroes locked out. At the same time, Baron Zemo and Blackout, with the aid of the Darkhold, pull New York city into a dark dimension. And Hydra, under Captain America's command, takes control of all of S.H.I.E.L.D. Only Iron Man and Ironheart have figured out what's really going on, and they put out the call to every remaining hero to come and assist, which will set the stage for the slobberknocker of a fight that will endure the rest of this 2017 summer event.

The story is narrated in past tense, from the perspective of one who credits Captain America as merciless and ruthless. And while it's initially shocking to see Captain America fulfill the role of the villain so calculatingly, he also does it fulfilling the traditional comic book villain trope. To whit: he is not merciless or ruthless. He has <i>exiled</i> the space based heroes, but they are not in danger of their air supply running out. They're not going to die. New York is under Stephen King's "The Dome," with heavy tinting. It has not been obliterated. And S.H.I.E.L.D. has been taken over -- not dismantled.

Which means the moves to checkmate are intentionally not being taken. Which is too bad, because that would have made for a very interesting story with some actual impact, even if it weren't long-lasting.

I say it wouldn't be long-lasting, because we have to bear in mind the catalyst that caused all this to happen: Kobik -- the Amazing Cube. (Sorry, I've got the old Ruby-Spears "Ruuuubik, the Amazing Cuuuube" theme song running through my head every time I bring up the plot device.) It rewrites reality. It's still out there.

And I have no doubt in my mind that it will be used again to "fix" the Marvel Universe. And if we're lucky, that "fix" will be the reset button the universe so desperately needs, bringing things back to their roots and then getting a fresh start to grow in new directions -- including a return of Captain America to his patriotic avenger persona, and maybe a few less spiders running around.

SECRET EMPIRE #0 is written by Nick Spencer, who, despite my nitpicks with the plot restraints, has a mastery of dialogue over all the characters, and has built up tremendous suspense for the storyline to come. Daniel Acuña and Rod Reis have their hands full with portraying the bulk of the Marvel Universe characters and its settings, and have done so without missing a beat. It's a good piece of comics. I'm just hoping it's a good piece of comics that serves as a stepping stone to something even better.

4.0 / 5.0