This week over at Marvel it all ends and The Vanishing Point opens up. The publisher’s latest crossover epic Secret Empire is coming to a big conclusion and it’s everybody in the Marvel Universe versus Steve Rogers, Captain America, winner-take-all! Elsewhere I’m still waiting for The House of Ideas to pull the wool from underneath my eyes and finally start to explain the premise behind this whole Generations concept with The Vanishing Point teased to open up (or be explained) in the Secret Empire finale. Of course, we’re still going to find the time to pry open the latest Generations issue and spend some time with a duo of famous archers–join us for The Marvel Rundown, won’t you?
Secret Empire #10
Written by Nick Spencer
Drawn by Steve McNiven
Additional art by Rod Reis, David Marquez, Paco Medina, Ron Lim, Juan Vlasco, Jesus Aburtov and Andrea Sorrentino
Colored by Matthew Wilson
Inked by Jay Leisten
Lettered by VC’s Travis Lanham
Reviewed by Alexander Jones
You might not expect it, but Secret Empire #10 has some pretty interesting things to say about the Marvel Universe. In a moment in time where heroes are more divided than ever, this comic brings them together. The final installment of Secret Empire is an incredibly optimistic promise into what the future of Marvel will look like going forward. This feeling stands in a very stark contrast with the rest of the title and has notably drawn criticism for the direction of the story. While the timing of the narrative feels directly at odds with our fractured political climate, the optimistic final power chord of Secret Empire almost makes the last couple of comics feel worth it. The dust has settled and the defense shield is down, as the heroes are finally getting the chance to rise up against such a powerful authority. With projects like Generations and some big returns teased in the book, the enthusiastic feeling writer Nick Spencer evokes in this comic feels potent. While there are certain moments of the issue which feel slightly tone deaf (ala Hydra Cap’s endless fascist hate speech) this comic ultimately depicts the heroes of the Marvel Universe finally getting the chance to take a stand against the man corrupting the world. Not only does this final installment of the title have a supreme feeling of catharsis, but this is finally the one issue of the series feels focused. Spencer pairs one hero off with one villain a couple times over, he lets the fight scenes come to a natural conclusion as well–many event titles are wrapped up with a fight that ends much too quickly. The plot of the story is direct but has just the right amount of twists to keep the title fresh. The cold open featuring a supremely well-drawn Captain America immediately ready for action is a wonderful battle cry on the amazing cliffhanger from the last issue that is followed up with via an intense fight.
As you can see from the credits, it took an army to get this comic out of the door. Even with the multiple pencilers and references to other stories, this title feels wonderfully cohesive. Somehow, McNiven’s art is as polished as ever in here–this is something I wasn’t expecting only based on Marvel’s fast and furious shipping schedule for the series. Spencer must have had to either write scripts out of order or work extremely far in advance, kudos to the publisher’s editorial teams for giving the artist enough time to capitalize on his hyper-detailed and creative work. McNiven’s massive fight sequences and big, splashy panels hit just the right note throughout the comic. I was particularly struck by how beautiful the sci-fi scenes with Bucky were and how seamlessly the comic switched back over to Rod Reis’ trippy pencils. The final spread in the comic with McNiven drawing Marvel Heroes in a Legacy style is jaw-droppingly gorgeous! Paco Medina’s final contribution the book is strange. I’m a huge fan of Medina’s pencil work but the artist wasn’t given the most captivating or exciting part of the issue to draw. Medina’s figures are still as expressive as ever while still retaining a more realist edge which is only dulled by the penciler in this issue changing so quickly.
The Captain America the heroes of Marvel knew has been gone for a year now and nobody noticed until it was too late. That initial hook for the event comic was strong but the middle of Secret Empire began to lose focus and move at too slow a pace. The resistance began twiddling their thumbs searching for the cosmic cube. Thankfully, the last few installments finally started paying off the last couple of years of stories. There was also some payoff towards a more direct inspiration based on the animosity between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. The last couple comics referenced Marvel continuity but this issue features a ton of Marvel easter eggs that huge fans of the publisher are definitely going to enjoy. While Rogers stands for fascism more directly than some Marvel foes, this issue finds a great way to compare and contrast the villainous roots of Hydra cap with other titles through visuals alone.
While just about everything in this Secret Empire finale works, the last few pages still had me rolling my eyes. In a collected fashion I have no doubt this last scene will make more sense, but the integration of the big finale moments reads as hokey at best. This is a moment where Spencer indulges too far in the optimistic, hopeful tone of the book. The small aspect of the issue aside, Secret Empire #10 ends with a huge fight which will have long-time Marvel fans excited for what’s next. The fan service in this comic alone cements this title into being an extremely important milestone in the life of Captain America. Another long-standing criticism this issue directly confronts is the idea that these event comics never end. The comic presents a very clear ending point to the story and only has some thematic ties on what’s next for Marvel. The tale may be light on surprises but with a story this well drawn containing such a strong emotional punch, I’m willing to look the other way and be happy with how this mega-event turned out. The publisher took one hell of a chance with this comic and watching how the story unfolded proved to be more entertaining than any event since the masterful Secret Wars.
Final Verdict: Secret Empire #10 feeds you cake and ties a bow on the event.
Generations: The Archers #1
Written by Kelly Thompson
Illustrated by Stefano Raffaele
Colored by Digikore
Inked by VC’s Joe Sabino
Reviewed by AJ Frost
“Sometimes being a superhero is super annoying.” With this sentence alone, Generations: The Archers #1 became one of my favorites yet in Marvel’s Generations series of one-shots. And in a nutshell, this line of dialogue encapsulates the fine line that Marvel has been treading by bringing together the different iterations of their characters together as we quickly approach the launch of Legacy. Nonetheless, as a more sardonic and meta story that some of the past issues we’ve reviewed on these digital pages, Hawkeye proves to be not only a fun excursion into the jungles of comic history, but also a breezy and light-hearted meeting of past and present that indicate where Marvel is headed into its future.
The story, like most during the Generations run, is straightforward, direct, and to the point. While the conceit of having the modern version of the character suddenly meet the older version is beginning to wear a thin a bit (how many mysterious time jumps/dimension crossings can one person take!?), the execution here is as good as it can be. Indeed, from the outset of the issue, when readers are immersed in a quasi-Hunger Games setting of an island, all the way until the tranquil and meditative ending, this is a story that manages to fit in a remarkable amount of action and—well, emotion isn’t the correct word—but connection between the characters that feels immediate and real. The new Hawkeye, Kate Bishop, is such a delight to read and her interactions with Clint (who appears here in costume reminiscent of his early adventures) feel as genuine as can be reasonably believed by two people running around with bows and arrows. That being said, writer Kelly Thompson, who has been helming the Hawkeye line for awhile now, really knows how to extrude even the finest nuances in her characters in ways that are surprising, warm, and engaging. It is obvious that she knows the intricacies of Kate Bishop, but more welcoming is her understanding of Clint and his view of the world. And coupled with Thompson’s winsome story is the dynamic art of Stefano Raffaele, who has the great ability to create action even in scenes of quiet introspection. This mastery of quiet and loud scenes assists greatly in the pacing, which is solid; the moments where Kate and Clint connect are simply riveting.
The writing of the issue is self-aware, but not to point of being obsequious. Thompson is definitely having fun at the expense of hyper-masculine figures in costumes running around saving the world, but it is a light touch. There is too much to be had. I suppose its been interesting creative dilemma, and maybe one that hasn’t been explored so often with these Generations one-shots, but it is difficult to assume that the melding of past and present takes into the account the original totality of the motivations of the classic renderings of the characters. In either case, when Kate and Clint bond, it is an entertaining sight to behold.
Final Verdict: Buy. Generations: The Archers #1 is a success in displaying the vitality of the Generations concept.
See you next week for more Generations!