We’re officially marching towards the end game in Marvel’s Secret Empire event. The big storyline that pits Captain America against Earth’s Mightiest Heroes has been a thrilling exploration into one of the Avengers greatest fears! Discovering what’s next for the scrappy resistance and seeing what happens with Rogers’ team is a thrilling new proposition especially after the huge battle that capped the previous issue with a ton of dramatic weight. I’m hoping that writer Nick Spencer will be able to cobble the plot together the different groups of characters and start focusing on the narrative. Secret Empire has been good so far and could potentially be inching towards a great finale! Let’s a take a closer look at the newest installment in The Marvel Rundown:
Secret Empire #7
Written by Nick Spencer
Illustrated by Andrea Sorrentino
Additional art by Rod Reis, Joshua Cassara and Rachelle Rosenberg
Lettered by VC’s Travis Lanham
Marvel’s big crossover event Secret Empire is well over the halfway point now and somehow the story feels like it has been integrated into the Marvel Universe incredibly naturally. Watching Steve Rogers take command of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a horrifying concept that reflects the world outside of our window a little too closely. The interesting part about the story so far is just how natural it feels. Reading this the day after the tweets from The President of the United States banning transgender soldiers from serving in our military there’s something particularly sinister about reading Secret Empire #7, which seems to be an issue centered around hope. This installment in particular see’s the heroes flying under-the-radar in the Marvel Universe fighting back against a bully.
While Secret Empire does reflect the world outside our window or rather the feeling, I think sometimes we lean into comics and culture for escapism. The anti-semitic roots that writer Nick Spencer has attempted to quell by dispatching the Red Skull just before the event does not cancel out the dictatorship that Rogers has now created. The difference in this story is that this narrative is ultimately about supplanting a dictatorship, bringing our heroes to their lowest point and having them fight back against that power. This narrative has brought the heroes to some of the lowest points they have ever seen and now Spencer is finally at the part of the story where the Marvel Universe can fight back. On top of everything else that the story currently represents, Spencer has steeped the comic in enough Marvel lore that the entire event is finally starting to feel like it is paying off something bigger than the last year of Captain America stories.
The fight in last week’s installment let up too soon, but this issue has some massive aftershocks on both sides of the conflict. Seeing Steve go face-to-face with the men and women defending the Marvel Universe was especially thrilling to see this week in spite of recent events. Now that the comic is sliding into the final act, the big fight scenes with Rogers and company can finally be explored. While I wish the overall comic was structured slightly differently, Spencer vividly depicts life during wartime for the cosmic heroes locked out of Earth as a consequence of Civil War II–it just would have been preferred to see this interesting status quota in earlier installments. The writer steers away from cliches with the team and cuts into genuine emotion which will likely give the full story a sense of catharsis when these characters burst back into Earth in the series’ inevitable conclusion.
As far as the artistic contributions go for the series, Andrea Sorrentino goes wild in the art here. Sorrentino’s depiction of the fight scenes between Black Widow and Hydra go for wild panel layouts and visual experimentation. The artist is not afraid to push the envelope of superhero comics as far as the medium can go. The greatest asset to the series is when Sorrentino uses symbolism to show the frantic movement in the fight scenes. Natasha Romanov never seems to be sitting still. Artist Rod Reis comes across just as well with scenes that push the narrative into a dream sequence daze filled with imaginative colors and bold figure work. Joshua Cassara’s inclusion into the mix is nicely stylized but makes me worried that this series is more densely packed with pages than it should have ever been. Each installment of the comic has been oversized but the pacing hasn’t sped the process along or really stood the chance to justify the page count. It would have been better and more consistent for Sorrentino to draw the entire event, but Marvel seems to be dedicated to getting this event shipped out extremely fast.
Spencer, Sorrentino and the entire team on this issue finally feel in sync with each other and while this may not be a perfect event comic, the payoff in this final batch of issues is finally showing what Secret Empire as a whole has to offer. The world outside our window can be dark, but Spencer and company really show enjoyable it can be to watch a fascist empire crumble while coding the whole thing in supremely enjoyable Marvel Universe continuity that enriches the story instead of holding it back. Even though lots of heroes seem to be in desperate times, Spencer has still managed to change the tone up and offer just the right amount of witt to go along with the whole thing.
We get a lot of payoff in this issue for Black Widow as Romanov’s deadly state of mind. Spencer makes a misstep in where he guides the character towards the end of the comic that is hopefully just a massive red herring. The banter between Miles Morales and the rest of the heroes paired with the great action scenes revealed later makes up gives the hero a key element in his slightly muddled history. The final moments where Miles Morales fulfills his Civil War II vision was better payoff than readers could have imagined and is a perfect illustration of why heroes rise up to adversity despite horrific conditions.
Final Verdict: While Secret Empire #7 is by no means a perfect comic, the creative team is finally able to show readers why this story should be told right now and why a hero means more than a fascist bully.
NEXT WEEK: Generations Banner Hulk And The Totally Awesome Hulk #1, be there!