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Secret Empire #1

by Kalem Lalonde on May 03, 2017

Writer: Nick Spencer
Aritst:  Steve McNiven

So far, Secret Empire bears strong resemblances to Secret Wars. The first issue is the battle that tears down the world and the issue sets up the new world. America is a very different place since Steve unleashed his master-plan in Secret Empire #0. Secret Empire #1 takes the time to explore the intricacies of Steve’s fascist America and that’s what makes this issue such a winner. Nick Spencer promised to shake up the Marvel universe last year when Cap uttered “Hail Hydra”, and he is delivering with this event.

Events are often plagued by a weak mix of compelling character drama and intriguing plot. It is very easy to muddle a plot by getting lost in a sea of characters. So far, Secret Empire has succeeded by keeping its focus on Steve Rogers. Nick Spencer uses Secret Empire #1 to establish Steve’s struggle to rule properly amid of group of disloyal super villains. The difference between he and them is he genuinely believes what he is doing is right. He wants to have the markings of a great country like low crime rates, low unemployment, and low poverty. He believes fascism is the correct way to achieve these goals, while most other members of his evil cabinet are simply power-hungry.

Evil Steve Rogers isn’t just a moustache-twirling villain here and this is essential to the success of Secret Empire. What has made Spencer’s vision of evil Cap so great is that deep down you can tell that he still is Steve. He cares about doing the right thing, and he sticks to his principles when facing challenges that tempt him to betray them. It’s odd to say but Steve is a complex and fascinating villain and this series succeeds by placing his struggles at its core.

The second aspect of Secret Empire #1 that makes it so great is the world-building. Much like Secret Wars, this second issue (#0 is the real first issue) establishes the effects of Hydra’s takeover on regular people and introduces us to the uprising. Nick Spencer writes a terrific scene in a classroom where children are being taught false history that perfectly communicated what happened to America when Steve took over. Now under a Hydra government, alternative facts have taken over and freedom has been stripped from the people. This one small scene was able to perfectly portray the dark police state that America has become more effectively than any giant action shot. Nick Spencer found a perfect way to relate this larger-than-life story to regular people and that’s where the strength of his world-building lie.

One of the greatest event artists in the business, Steve McNiven, joins Spencer to bring HydrAmerica to the page and he does hi usual remarkable job. McNiven’s action scenes are fluid and clear, but most importantly, his characters are emotive and human. Without Mcniven’s art, I don’t think Steve’s turmoil would have been half as interesting. His Steve is sympathetically evil and that was at the heart of Secret Empire #1’s success.

It comes at no surprise that after a stellar 0 issue, Secret Empire #1 is able to deliver on the promise of Captain America: Steve Rogers #1. After a year of fantastic build-up, Steve has taken over America and turned it into a fascist nation. This event is succeeding on the back of its brilliant lead character and unique world-building. Captain America’s hydra has taken over the Marvel line and you should not miss out. Marvel and Nick Spencer may actually deliver a fantastic event from beginning to end. What a breath of fresh air.

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