Secret Empire continues to be a dull and lumbering big event. We are now six issues into this big event and it feels like not much has happened at all. Hopefully, Spencer has been saving his energy for the final issues of this story. It would be great if Spencer could inject some life, emotion and energy into this somnolent big event. Let’s hope for the best and hit this review for Secret Empire #6.
Words: Nick Spencer
Art: Leinil Francis Yu
Inks: Gerry Alanguilan & Lienil Francis Yu
Colors: Sunny Cho & Java Tartaglia
Story Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with Steve Rogers and another man tied up by the ankles and hanging upside down. The man asks Steve if he saw “her.” The man says that he saw “her.” That “She” is the goddess by the lake. The man says that “she” needs Steve. The man asks Steve to help him to get back to her.
The Red Skull appears and says that no one can help the man. The Red Skull cuts the man free from the rope. The Red Skull begins to drag the man away. The man screams for Steve to save him. Red Skull says that Steve’s turn is coming soon enough.
We shift to Manhattan. We see Dagger struggling to keep her light going in order to hold back the Darkforce. Cloak says that this is not working and that Dagger cannot keep this up anymore and that this effort is going to kill her. Jessica Jones says that she knows all of this. Jessica gives Dagger a shot. Jessica says that Dr. Strange is working on a solution.
We cut to Dr. Strange entering a library. We see a Jabba the Hutt styled creature reading books. The creature says that he thought Dr. Strange was too good to be around lowly Collectors. That is why Dr. Strange cast the Collectors out of his guild years ago. Dr. Strange answers that things aren’t what they used to be. Dr. Strange says that he is looking for a spell that could benefit them both.
We cut to Daredevil watching some of Kingpin’s thugs loading up a couple of vans. Daredevil descends on the thugs and beats off of them up. Kingpin then appears on the scene and begins clapping. Kingpin sarcastically congratulate Daredevil for arriving to save the day and how, once again, they could not outsmart him.
Kingpin then tells Daredevil to look into the contents of the boxes. We see that they are full of canned goods. Kingpin says that he was going to have them delivered to the people in Manhattan.
Daredevil asks Kingpin what game he is playing. Kingpin replies that this is no game. That all he is asking the people of New York to do is to remember. Remember that it was him who saved them in their darkest hour. That Kingpin never game up hope. Kingpin says that this is his city and he knows what it is made of at its core. Kingpin says New York will rise again. That once it is all over the people will trust the Kingpin to guide them forward. Kingpin then starts singing “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow” from the musical Annie. (Lord. This is soooo cheesy.)
We cut back to Red Skull eating dinner while Rogers still hangs upside down from a tree. Steve asks where his friends are. Red Skull tells him not to worry about his friends. Rogers asks how Red Skull knows him. Red Skull says he knows everything about Rogers. Red Skull asks if Rogers really does not remember him. Rogers says he does not recognize him.
Red Skull says that he is the man who put Rogers here. Rogers asks where is “here.” Red Skull says that they are in hell. Red Skull says that he and Rogers are just ghosts now. Now there is only this torment.
Rogers says that Red Skull said he could free Rogers from this place. Red Skull answers that he can free Rogers. Red Skull says that the only one path to peace is through death. Red Skull then stabs Rogers in the chest with a barb wired stick that is on fire. (I can just imagine Spencer. “Okay, so Walking dead used a bat wrapped with barbed wire. I got an even better idea! A bat with barbed wire…that has been set on fire! Eureka!”)
We cut to Maryland where the baby legacy heroes are all hanging out. Nadia screams that she is done and that she is leaving. The others try and talk Nadia out of leaving. Nadia says that she knows about the real Red Room and that what Black Widow is doing is wrong. The others point out that the situation is not as simple as Nadia claims it is. Nadia says that she is going going to be made into a killer again. And she will not let it happened to her friends. (So, abandoning your friends is your way of making sure your friends do not become killers? I don’t get the logic.)
Miles asks Nadia to give him one more night to try and talk to Black Widow and get her to change her mind. (Uh, is he planning on trying to seduce Black Widow?) Miles says that Black Widow listens to him.
We cut to later that day, with Miles approaching Black Widow out on the small house’s porch. Black Widow immediately tells Miles to leave. Miles tells Widow how Nadia is angry and wants to leave. Black Widow says that the red room training is necessary. And that it is succeeding. That the baby legacy heroes performed much better in the last mission. That there was no teenage super hero hijinks at all.
Miles asks about the last mission that involving busting an old sick guy out of a Hydra jail. Miles asks who the old man is. Black Widow replied that it is none of Miles’ business.
Miles responds that Black Widow needs to start giving them more details. Black Widow says that the world is what it is today because her generation was too weak, too petty and too selfish and now they have left the baby legacy heroes to deal with the mess. (This is a horrible way to view all of the heroes that we grew up loving.) Black Widow says that she can teach the baby legacy heroes how to survive the mess. Black Widow says that things are going to get much worse.
Miles counters with the possibility that Iron Man was correct. And that maybe they are going to fix Captain Nazi. Miles says that it is not a bad thing to hold out a little hope. Miles says that some part of Black Widow must be pulling for Tony’s team to succeed.
We hop over to the Mount. We see Captain Nazi and his Hydra army arriving on the scene. Captain Nazi narrates that Iron Man’s team have so many sins to pay for. That these people want to be called heroes. That they told they world they were to protect them and keep them safe. However, the real fact is that it is always about themselves. Their own power, their own sense of glory. Their own pride. They choose to ignore their many failures, betrayals, atrocities and cataclysms that they have brought on. That they hid the truth and tried to bury their shame. That they built their better safer world on a foundation of those secret and lies. (This perfectly sums up how miserable and awful of a place the Marvel Universe has become ever since House of M.)
Captain Nazi narrates that eventually the truth comes out. And when it does the walls come crumbling down. We see Thor saying “Forgive me!” as he attacks the walls of the Mount.
We cut to inside the Mount. Iron Man tells his team that the Mount’s shields will protect them from the combined attacks of Thor, Vision and Scarlet Witch. Iron Man then says that their problem is not what is outside. But, what is inside. That someone in the room is Hydra.
Captain Nazi continues to narrate how everything the heroes built was on their deceptions. That they are corrupted to their core. That deep down inside they know this and they hate themselves and each other for it. That is why it is always so easy to turn them on each other.
Mockingbird then accuses Quicksilver of being a traitor. That Quicksilver has motive in trying to help his sister.
We cut to Captain Nazi talking to Bruce Banner. Bruce asks why Captain Nazi is now Hydra. Bruce asks how long has he been dead.
We hop back to Quicksilver and Mockingbird still arguing with each other. Quicksilver says that Mockingbird is the traitor. That she is always sneaking off and making calls. Mockingbird says that it is none of their business what she is doing. The other heroes disagree.
Mockingbird then admits that she has been calling Mariah Hill. The reason being that Hill had a plan to take out Captain Nazi and Mockingbird asked Mariah to hold off in order to give Tony a chance to save Captain Nazi.
At this point, MarvelNOW Giant Man says that it is time that Tony told everyone the truth. The truth that Tony never build a cosmic cube detector. The heroes get mad at Tony for risking their lives on a wild goose chase. Mockingbird, Quicksilver, Tony and Sam also start arguing with each other.
At this point, Ant-Man steps forward and tells them to stop fighting. Ant-Man says that he is the traitor.
We hop back to Captain Nazi talking to Bruce. Captain Nazi says that the heroes’ weaknesses dictate their every move. Like how they dealt with Bruce. First, they threw him into a rocket and blasted him into space. When that didn’t work they put an arrow through his brain.
Captain Nazi asks what it is about Bruce that the heroes act like bloodthirsty savages. Captain Nazi says that he believes it is because they hate whatever does not bend to their supposed enlightened authority. They hate real strength.
Captain Nazi says that he would like to give Bruce a change to see some justice done. Captain Nazi says that the heroes who murdered him in cold blood are right next to them in the Mount. That Captain Nazi can give them to Bruce.
Bruce says that he will pass on the offer. Bruce says that he feels like he came out of ice and found the world got dumber while he was frozen. Bruce says that he is angry about what the heroes keep doing to him. However, Captain Nazi is Hydra. And Hydra are the bad guys. Bruce says that he is still an Avenger. Bruce says that Captain Nazi can go ahead and put Bruce back into whatever box he pulled him out of because it was honestly the best sleep he had had in a very long time.
Captain Nazi says that he understands Bruce’s position. However, Captain Nazi says that he was not talking to Bruce. Suddenly, Bruce’s eyes turn green. (This was a fantastic “Oh shit!” moment!)
We cut to Quicksilver slamming Ant-Man against a wall and asking what he has done to them. Ant-Man said he had no choice. That Hydra found Cassie in France. (France? Why in the hell would you ever pick France as your place to hide? I would pick a more stable country with an actual economy and employment. Maybe Scott should have selected Switzerland. Or maybe Australia. There are much better choices out there.)
Ant-Man says that Hydra was going to kill Cassie. Ant-Man says that he is sorry. Ant-Man keeps apologizing over and over.
Suddenly, the Hulk appears on the large computer screen in the room. The Avengers prepare for the attack. We then see the Hulk ripping through the exterior of the Mount. (So, the Mount can withstand the combined attack of Thor, Vision and Scarlet Witch. But, not the Hulk. Somebody got a power upgrade.)
A voice narrates that this is the story of how we fell for the last time. The moment we were broken and overrun. That we had seen everything that we had done to cause such devastation. The voice asks how they had managed to fall so far.
We see Hawkeye kneeling, putting down his bow and closing his eyes as the Hulk rampages his way toward him. The voice asks why they do this to ourselves and to each other. The voice says that we closed our eyes and waited for the judgment. But, not all of us did so.
Suddenly, we see the Thing appear on the scene. The Thing yells “It’s clobberin’ time!” and spear the Hulk. The voice narrates that some of us still knew how to be heroes. The Hulk starts beating up the Thing. Mockingbird runs over and carries Hawkeye away from the scene. Mockingbird tells Hawkeye to snap out of it.
Hawkeye says that they did this to themselves. That all of their ghosts are coming back to haunt them. Hawkeye says that they deserve this. Mockingbird says that maybe they do deserve this. But, then Mockingbird points to all of the civilian refugees living in the Mount and asks if these people deserve it.
Hawkeye suddenly snaps to attention and begins to help to evacuate all of the civilians. The voice says that they began to remember how to stand again. We shift to Giant Man activating the android Avengers that Egghead had made him build. (Uhhh, wait a minute. Spencer is referencing the A.I. Avengers that Egghead had created in Ant-Man Annual Vol. 2 #1. In that story the A.I. Avengers consisted of Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers), The Beast, Hawkeye, Wonder Man, Thor and Iron Man. But, here in this scene we see the A.I. Avengers consist of Captain Nazi, Lady Thor, Hawkeye, Miles Morales, Captain Marvel and Riri? WTF? Is this a joke? Does Marvel even give a fuck anymore? Jesus. Someone get me a DC comic, ASAP!!!)
The android Avengers rush into battle. We see Hawkeye and Mockingbird leading the civilians to a ship. Suddenly, Thor appears in their way. Thor then says, “Go” and stands aside. Mockingbird, Hawkeye and Sam get all the civilians on the ship and get ready to take off.
We cut to AI Tony battling Captain Nazi. We see Hulk taking down all of the android Avengers. Suddenly, the Hulk collapses for no apparent reason and the entire Mount caves in on itself for no apparent reason. (Don’t worry. It isn’t just you. I have no idea what is going on, either.)
We see AI Tony on the ground. His armor is badly damaged. His helmet is off. Captain Nazi says that when AI Tony returned that he thought AI Tony was a simulation. AI Tony says it was part of his Clean Slate Protocol.
Captain Nazi says that Arnim Zola explained that Tony downloaded his actual consciousness into this AI Matrix. Therefore, by most definitions this really is Tony. Captain Nazi says that is good since all of this would be a lot of trouble to go through just to kill an answering machine.
Captain Nazi raises his shield to kill AI Tony. AI Tony tells Captain Nazi to wait. AI Tony says that he is sorry.
We then cut to Madame Hydra’s ship arriving at the Mount. Madame Hydra is informed that they are picking up an unusual energy signature from the Mount. Madame Hydra responds “No.”
We shift back to AI Tony saying that he knows Captain Nazi isn’t really Steve. But, that AI Tony still wants to say that when they first went to war that AI Tony knew he did not win anything when he defeated Steve. And AI Tony swore he would never make that mistake again. But, then they went to war again and again.
AI Tony said this war was going to be different. This was AI Tony’s chance to be Steve Rogers. To give them all hope and make them believe in something. But, AI Tony screwed it up. Because AI Tony can do anything and build the most amazing things but he cannot make himself what Steve was. That there is something lacking inside of AI Tony and that he was jealous of Steve.
AI Tony says that he wanted to save Captain Nazi so bad because he wanted to be Steve Rogers. Because Steve Rogers has always been AI Tony’s hero. AI Tony says that he is sorry he keeps letting Steve Rogers down.
Suddenly, Madame Hydra rushes into the scene. Madame Hydra yells “Steve!” Madame Hydra casts a spell and says “Banish.” Madame Hydra then whispers “Goodbye, son.” We then see the mount engulfed in a massive nuclear mushroom styled explosion.
We slide over to Black Widow sitting on the porch alone and listening to a news report about how the Mount has been destroyed and that there was no word on survivors. Black Widow pours herself a drink and then cries.
Black Widow then wakes up the baby legacy heroes and tells them that Hydra has won and all of their friends are dead. Black Widow says that tomorrow we will kill Captain Nazi. End of issue.
The Good: Secret Empire #6 continues the trend of this big event being light on substance and excitement. However, there were a few positive aspects of this issue. First and foremost, it was fantastic to see the real Hulk back and better than ever. And kicking some serious ass.
Despite Axel Alonso’s wishes, Bruce Banner is THE Hulk and I loved seeing his character once again. The more the classic iconic characters play a greater role in the story the more engaging and impactful the story becomes. The addition of Bruce Banner to the story cranks up the intensity and the tension. Bruce’s return also engages my interest far more in Secret Empire.
I also loved how Spencer used The Thing in this issue. Thing is such a fantastic Kirby character. In fact, The Thing is the closest that Kirby ever came to creating a comic book version of himself. The Thing embodies that tough blue collar American never say die and never give up attitude that is not so prevalent in these modern times. I dig that the Thing is the old school throwback character that embodies what is a “true” hero. I also like that the Thing because he is a classic Kirby character. And the Thing is the one comic book character that is the most similar to his iconic creator.
I liked that Spencer had Scott Lang be the “traitor” to Tony’s team. Scott is a logical choice. Scott’s checkered background as a criminal makes his reveal as the traitor a believable plot twist and also consistent with Scott’s core character traits. I did appreciate that Spencer gave Scott a valid reason to be a “traitor.” The reader can easily sympathize with Scott and his fatherly instinct to do absolutely anything to protect the safety of his daughter. This excuse enables the reader to give Scott a pass and prevents any permanent damage being done to Scott’s character.
Secret Empire #6 delivers a fair bit of action thanks to the ten page fight scene at the Mount. This scene was critical in keeping Secret Empire from being a completely dull and nearly comatose read.
The Bad: Secret Empire #6 possess all of the same defects that have plagued this big event since the debut issue. This issue is slow, way too decompressed and offers up very little in terms of plot progression and substance. The general lack of excitement and emotional disconnect with the reader continues to be ever prevalent in this lumbering big event.
I was curious to see just how slow moving the story is in Secret Empire. So, I skipped Secret Empire #5. I wanted to see if I could skip an issue and not feel lost at all in the story. Sure enough, I picked up Secret Empire #6 and did not feel like I missed a beat at all. That is not a good sign when you can completely skip a single issue in a big event that is only eight issues long.
The three page scene with Steve Rogers and Red Skull was pure filler. This was nothing more than Spencer engaging in some blatant time wasting in an effort to stretch out this thin plot line over the course of seven issues. There was next to no substance or value here.
The five page scene in Manhattan was utterly useless. This was another time waster. Spencer told us zero new information. Dagger is still powering the light in Manhattan. Dagger is still on the verge of dying. Dr. Strange is still looking for a solution. Kingpin reiterated his plan to garner support from the people of New York that he had unveiled all the way back in Secret Empire #2! That’s right. This plot line is still stuck in the same spot that it was four issues ago.
Then Spencer wastes three more pages with the baby legacy heroes and Black Widow having the same tired debate they have been having since Secret Empire #2. This is a lovely combination of being boring and repetitive.
We then get 10 pages of our “heroes” continuing to beat themselves up over their moral failings and for Captain Nazi to drone on and on with Bruce Banner. There was some good stuff in here. However, unfortunately, those few good moments were suffocated and overwhelmed by way too much useless fluff. Spencer could have delivered a far more impactful and poignant scene by condensing this scene into five pages. As almost always, less is more.
Then Spencer delivers the final 14 pages which consists of the fight scene and the one page scene with Black Widow. These fourteen pages were easily the meat of the issue. These fourteen pages provided the reader with the only real substance in this issue. These final fourteen pages also offered up the only real entertainment in this issue.
Sadly, Spencer takes 38 pages to deliver about 19 pages of actual content. That is far too much fluff and time wasting for an issue that is part of what is being billed as a “big event” and comes with a massive $5.00 cover price.
Spencer delivers dialogue that is cheesy at worst and average at best. There are moments where the dialogue is too heavy handed and becomes a bit groan inducing. The character work is average. None of the characters have much of a unique or well developed personality or external voice.
The lack of emotion and pedestrian character work result in every little chemistry between any of the characters. The scene with Captain Nazi and Bruce Banner and the scene between Captain Nazi and AI Tony were scenes brimming with potential. These two scenes should have been powerful moments that delivered riveting tension and emotion and been like a 1–2 punch to the reader’s gut. This should have been passionate and gripping reading.
Instead, Spencer’s general bland and emotionally detached writing made these two scene seem mechanical. The characters came across robotic as they stiffly went through the motions. The result is what should have been passionate scenes that captivated the reader’s attention were more like mannequins going through their lines in a perfunctory manner. There is so much juicy and complex histories between these characters that these two scenes should have delivered a far more engaging payoff.
I am not that crazy having to see Tony continuing to prostrate himself before the cross and flagellate himself. Ever since Civil War, this seems to be an obligatory plot line that we have to go through again and again and again. Enough already. It is becoming especially old given the fact that Steve Rogers has been on the wrong side of the debate just as often as Tony. Steve’s actions have been just as questionable. I would even go so far as to say that Steve was actually the villain by the end of the original Civil War.
In fact, my issues with the continual portrayal of Tony and Steve extends into the general Avengers franchise as a whole. Ever since Avengers Disassembled way back in 2004, Marvel has spent over a decade constantly deconstructing our beloved and iconic characters that make up the great franchise that is the Avengers. Marvel has spent the past 13 years making the various characters in the Avengers franchise as unlikeable as possible.
I am over it. It is beyond old. Hell, it stopped being interesting and got old after the end of the first Civil War. I have no need for the characters in the Avengers franchised reduced to horrible and awful people down to their very core. I have no need for our heroes to hate each other more than they do the villains of the Marvel Universe. I am tired of our heroes battling themselves rather than a villain. And that is what has happened. House of M? Avenger (Scarlet Witch) versus Avengers, Civil War? Avengers versus Avengers, World War Hulk? Avenger versus Avengers, Fear Itself? Avengers versus Avengers. Avengers versus X-Men? Heroes versus heroes. Original Sin? Continuing to tear down our heroes. Civil War II? Avengers versus Avengers.
Enough. Having Marvel continue to shit on our heroes is old. Having our heroes constantly battling each other is old. It is a tired and worn out theme. In fact, it was old pretty much after the original Civil War ended. It is time for Marvel to bring back the real Iron Man, the real Thor, the real Captain America, the real Hulk and the Fantastic Four. And then make our heroes damn heroes who fight villains.
One last problem with the writing in this issue was that the ending of this issue was a bit of a clusterfuck. Who or what took down the Hulk? Who or what took down the the Building? And Madame Hydra’s entrance into the scene was clunky and seemed forced. All of it felt random and disjointed. It certainly was not a smooth transition into the final page of this issue.
We also had another editorial error in Secret Empire #6. Spencer has Raz recount the story that was told in Ant-Man Annual Vol. 2 #1 published in 2015. The AI Avengers in that issue were the classic 1970’s Avengers including classic Iron Man, classic Captain America, Beast, Wonder Man, Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers), classic Hawkeye and classic Thor. However, either Spencer screwed up or Yu screwed up because the AI Avengers in this issue included Riri, Miles Morales, Captain Nazi, Lady Thor, Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel and current Hawkeye Seriously? It’s like with the advent of MarvelNOW that nobody at Marvel cares anymore.
Leinil Francis Yu and Gerry Alanguilan’s artwork was serviceable. Personally, I am not crazy about their style of art. I also think it looks so much better on a street level title or a horror title. I still do not see their style of art being a proper match with a mainstream super hero big event.
Overall: Secret Empire #6 was another slow read that offers a thin story. There is simply not enough content in this issue to justify the massive $4.99 cover price. For that much money the reader has a right to demand that Marvel deliver an exciting issue full of content and plot progression. That is certainly not the case with this issue.