The Marvel Universe is becoming enveloped in the clutches of a Secret Empire formed by former Marvel hero Steve Rogers. Readers were shocked when the character teased that he had switched sides as the seeds for Secret Empire were planted back in 2016 in the pages of Captain America: Steve Rogers #1. After a year of preparation Rogers’ finally launched his empire in Captain America: Steve Rogers #16. Spencer, Saiz and more have prepared readers for this big moment with lots of heart and ambition and surprisingly…. I cannot wait to get this party started. Plus we get to see Midnighter alumni ACO launch a new Nick Fury ongoing with James Robinson, this week’s Marvel Rundown is an embarrassment of riches!
Secret Empire #0
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Daniel Acuna
Prologue Artist: Rod Reis
Letters: VC’s Travis Lanham
Recap Page Art: Andrea Sorrentino
Reviewed by Alexander Jones
Captain America: Steve Rogers #16 was as filled with heart an issue featuring a group of terrorists could have–the comic also revved up the gas for Secret Empire, setting up lots of the psychological reasons as to why Rogers is doing the things he is in this issue. The story begins on a high note, referencing a beloved piece of Marvel continuity with Rod Reis’ amazing pencils. The evocative, baroque opening is given a beautiful sense of majesty from Reis. This issue is where we get to see lots of threads from Rogers and the Marvel Universe wrapped together in one big package.
If this debut has any one big glaring fall it lies in the marketing itself. This comic book is absolutely essential to the main event, explaining lots of motives and giving readers the bigger picture of what Secret Empire is going to be all about. There’s one particularly huge plot thread seeded at the end of Civil War II and Captain America: Steve Rogers that is going to be a huge aspect of how the Secret Empire was able to get this far in the first place. This issue lays the foundation of what this series could be, showing Rogers make his first big moment of betrayal to someone he holds very dear. More moments like these are right on the horizon and Spencer utilizes just the right emotional beats to make them powerful.
This comic also widens the scope of the event greatly, but is clearly seeding other plot threads to do so. Even though a major inciting incident occurs here, this issue does not kick Secret Empire completely into gear. Even though many are going to be opposed to the source material just by the nature of what this series is, Spencer has handled this right from the beginning, building up to these giant moments and showing us a lot of the motivation behind Rogers’ new agenda. Readers get the slightest glimpse at just what the hero-turned-villain has been hiding up his sleeves for so long, but Spencer arguable should have taken sometime in the debut issue to show how committed he and Rogers have been to this new status quo. Seeing a Hydra-obsessed Cap tie his big plans together make me want to root for him because the source material was written so well, but that material is not reinforced in this installment.
Daniel Acuna and Reis pair really well together. Both artists draw insanely beautiful and intensely surreal works of art. The one aspect of this issue that makes me scratch my head and feel a disconnect with the art is how Acuna is drawing a large portion of this issue. Secret Empire is a very, very dark story that has far-reaching psychological horror themes that really do not suit Acuna’s beautifully streamlined pencils. Reis’ work is able to capture and pretty, more sinister look that seems to be much better suited to the work on display here. However, there isn’t a bad panel anywhere in the issue and the moments where Acuna drapes Rogers in shadow are wonderful additions to this harrowing story.
There’s a million different ways that this issue could have gone wrong, but Spencer makes this debut a subdued affair that pays off some plot threads that have been building for sometime. This is the moment where we finally get to see what Steve had up his sleeves as the commander of S.H.I.E.L.D.. I’m just glad that unlike Dark Reign, Rogers finally has the chance to shake the Marvel Universe to the very core. This isn’t going to be a story for everyone, but if you forget some of your preconceived notions about this character and stick along for the pretty art and over-the-top writing, I think you might be shocked by how much fun you’re having fun here.
Final Verdict: Buy. The dominoes start falling in this meticulously planned issue!
Nick Fury #1
Writer: James Robinson
Inker: Hugo Petrus
Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letters: VC’s Travis Lanham
Reviewed by A.J. Frost
“Not something I usually do on a mission… but that was fun.”
Now here is something special. I think of one of the vexations caused by modern superhero comics, especially from the Big Two, is the inability to let loose and truly embrace the surreality of the form. In too many instances, darkness and mood are substituted for unalloyed fun. This Zach Snyder-school-of-comic-thought is severely limiting and enough to produce ennui in regular readers wary of yet another drab, plodding faux existential meditation on the nature of power or whatever. But there’s still hope for this trend to reverse itself and Nick Fury #1 is a prime paragon of a shift away from the insipid palimpsest of lingering moral ambiguity back towards effervescent and winsome comic book action and daring-do!
For what it’s worth, Nick Fury is inherently flamboyant character. (Anyone who wears an eyepatch as part of his everyday ensemble has to be, right?) It’s just that when we usually see him, he’s in the drab confines of S.H.I.E.L.D headquarters. But here, in a stunningly realized first part of a standalone Fury series courtesy of James Robinson and by ACO (pencils) & Hugo Petrus, readers are thrust into a stylish neo-noir heist tale with our singled-eyed protagonist at the helm. Flying solo for the first time in an ongoing series context, Fury is tasked to take down a fellow named Auric Goodfellow, a financier with illicit connections to the evil HYDRA, and retrieve some highly sensitive data. Naturally, the locale is a grand casino located in the French Riviera where security is nominally high and the target is nowhere to be found. Rather than running into his charge, Fury is met by a mysterious HYDRA agent Frankie Noble and the chase is on.
Typical boilerplate, right? But that’s the beauty of Nick Fury #1: it subverts genre expectations and creates instead a vibrant, 80s-hued adventure. In fact, major kudos should go out to Rachelle Rosenberg, whose colors for this issue stand out with a singular fluorescence. But even more so, from panel composition to juxtaposition of action, this comic features art that is far more interesting that your standard tier one title; this comic definitely harkens back to the Steranko days in its vision.
Nick Fury is a much more well-known character now, and his exploits can have a wider resonance, especially now that he doesn’t have to be a support character. So rather than doom and gloom, we get brash and bold. Aesthetically, everything here it works in a powerful synchronicity. Robinson’s story is cinematic and, accordingly, it thinks big in how it wants to place itself in the Marvel canon. The art is up to snuff as well, complementing the writing wonderfully.
Overall, Nick Fury #1 is a welcome addition to the Marvel family of comics. It’s not innovative per se, but it has a sense of retro adventure that shouldn’t be overlooked. Even when there isn’t progression, there still lingers old fashion super-heroics. And that can be a good thing.
Final Verdict: BUY
Monsters Unleashed #1
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: David Baldeon
Colors: Marcio Menyz
Letters: VC’s Travis Lanham
Reviewed by Alexander Jones
I wish I had something nice to say about Monsters Unleashed. Since the initial mini-series it has been a difficult to find anything about the concept worth praising. I’m just not sure where Kid Kaiju’s place in the Marvel Universe is. When it comes to small children and big creatures, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur is the premiere Marvel Universe destination. There are too many cliches in this comic and not enough time for lead Kei Kawade to stand amongst the rest of the cast. The character’s lack of charm gives the Monsters some time to shine, but let’s face it, these guys aren’t fleshed out enough to have their own book together. Otherwise this issue ticks off the Marvel debut issue checklist with joy. There’s a throwaway villain, not enough time spent developing any threatening protagonist and a cliffhanger that teases a couple of things to come in the book. Baldeon’s pencils convey the sense of scale of the Monsters nicely. The artist is able to handle all of the wacky things that Bunn throws in his face during this issue. His depiction of regular humans excels except when it comes to a few panels of Elsa Bloodstone looking very strange. While there is a lot to like about this comic and the rise of Kei Kawade in the context of the greater Marvel Universe is admirable their just isn’t enough story to go along with it!
Final Verdict: Pass. Monster’s Unleashed “unleashes” another bland ongoing into the Marvel publishing slate.
Fruit snack aficionado. @AlexandComics