Secret Empire has been a failure. It has been a poorly written story that has posted weak sales numbers. Spencer has given Marvel its poorest selling big event. Yup. Even worse than Fear Itself. That takes some doing. Luckily, this dreary event comes to a conclusion with Secret Empire #10. I have no hope for an exciting issue. The only question is can Marvel use the end of this big event to stop the bleeding in the sales charts and launch their own version of DC’s Rebirth. Honestly, Marvel is a clusterfuck these days and I have little confidence in their ability to turn things around any time soon. Let’s go ahead and hit this review for Secret Empire #10.
Words: Nick Spencer
Pencils: Steve McNiven
Inks: Jay Leisten
Additional Art: Rod Reis, David Marquez, Paco Medina, Juan Clasco, Jesus Aburtov & Ron Lim
Colors: Matthew Wilson
Story Rating: 3 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with Captain Nazi telling the heroes to stand down. Spider-Man asks A.I. Tony if he is mad that Captain Nazi stole A.I. Tony’s look. Captain Nazi opens his helmet’s faceplate. Captain Nazi says that he wanted everyone to know that he understands why they are fighting him. That the heroes are just trying to do what they think is right. Captain Nazi continues that the heroes are wrong. That they should look at the damage that they have done and the lives that have been lost. (Oh, yeah. All that stuff that made Captain Falcon and Carol Danvers laugh and joke about how much fun they were having in Secret Empire #9.)
Captain Nazi says that the heroes are too late. That the time for fighting is done. That it is time for rebuilding. Captain Nazi says that Hydra is going to use the Cosmic Cube to restore the world into something better and stronger. Free from all the weaknesses and corruption. Captain Nazi says that he and the heroes can do this together. (Free from corruption? So, Captain Nazi is now…a Bernie Sanders supporter? I’m confused. Is he an oppressive fascist or an authoritarian communist?)
Old Man Logan says that Captain Nazi is not going to get any takers in this crowd. (Old Man Logan continues by waiving his AARP card and saying that he only votes Libertarian.) Carol Danvers says that the time for fighting is not over and Captain Nazi’s words just make her want to fight more. (Carol rolls with Anti-Fa.)
Hawkeye says agrees with Carol. (I think Hawkeye actually doesn’t vote. Too much responsibility and effort for him.) Hawkeye grabs and arrow and says that this is for Natasha. (Our recently deceased Black Widow. Thanks for reminding me about that crap.) Hawkeye then says, “Avengers Assemble.” (Despite the fact that of the 12 heroes shown on the page there are 6 that I never associate with the Avengers. Storm, Totally Awesome Way Rad Dude Hulk, Ms. Marvel, Rocket Raccoon, Old Man Logan and Jean Grey. But, whatever. Avengers assemble!)
And then the narrator kicks in at this point. (Sweet Baby Jesus. Make him stop!) The voice says that the heroes fought united at long last. That they fought with everything they had. But, they knew that they did not stand a chance. Captain Nazi powered up and with one blow levels all of the heroes. The narrator says that Captain Nazi’s heart beat with the power of a god. That reality bent to his fury. That he overwhelmed the heroes with just a thought. That he wiped even the memory of the heroes away like the sand and tide. (Well, it depends on what tide you are talking about. If it is low tide then the tide actually creates more sand. And if it is high tide then the tide might temporarily cover the sand but it isn’t wiping it away. Often, the tide can even add more sand than it takes away. I wonder if Spencer is like an infant. Once something is not longer visible then it effectively disappears out of reality in his mind.)
We see newspapers re-telling classic Marvel storylines but with Hydra in the center of them all. Like the Fantastic Four being Hydra scientists. (HOLY SHIT!!! A FANTASTIC FOUR SIGHTING!!!) Professor X and Magneto being executed by the state. The original Avengers being Hydra agents. The narrator says that the world was Captain Nazi’s now.
The narrator says that Captain Nazi remade everything in his image. In Hydra’s image. He changed who “we” were and what “we” believed. (Who is this royal “we” that Spencer is using? Some Americans would love a fascist government. Other Americans would love an authoritarian communist government. Other Americans prefer a democracy. Other Americans prefer anarchy.)
The narrator says that Captain Nazi changed everything “we” had ever been, our history and our notions of where we came from. (Wow. Topical. There is certainly a segment of America who would like to change history these days. Not sure Spencer intended this bit of commentary.) We see the Abraham Lincoln memorial turn into a Captain Nazi memorial. (Not Lincoln! Damn, you Captain Nazi! Now you have gone too far, sir! Nobody disrespects the Presidential Beard!)
The narrator says that Captain Nazi gazed at his work and saw a vision close to perfection. Captain Nazi says that it is done. The narrator then says that something was still missing. That hope still survived. (Jesus. We are back to pile-driving this simplistic theme into the ground.)
We see Captain Falcon standing in front of Captain Nazi. Falcon has the Cosmic Cube fragment in his hand. Falcon says that a wise man once said that it is not over until the fat lady sings. (A reader probably just got triggered by Spencer using the term “fat lady.” Nice creative dialogue, by the way.)
Captain Nazi says, “Sam.” Falcon replies “Captain America.” (Spencer is just going to keep jamming that down the readers’ throat. Sorry Marvel, you can call Captain Falcon “Captain America” all you want. It won’t suddenly make his comic sell more than 18,000 units a month.)
We cut to Bucky and Ant-Man nearby. Bucky tells Ant-Man to get ready. The narrator says that in that moment when facing down unspeakable evil that they remembered how Steve Rogers did the same. How Steve never wavered. The narrator says that they honored Steve’s legacy by forging a new path. (Evidently, it is a new path that very few readers want to read.) We see a panel with Steve Rogers staring down Thanos during the Infinity Crusade.
We then see Sam take a knee and offer Captain Nazi the Cosmic Cube fragment. Sam says, “Hail Hydra.” Captain Nazi is surprised. Sam says that he gave up the fight a while back. That he just came along to stop more people from getting hurt. (He lies, Captain Nazi! This is the same guy who was joking with Carol Danvers in Secret Empire #9 about how much fun it was to kill people during war and creating collateral damage that kills innocent bystanders! Captain Falcon is bloodthirsty! Watch out!)
Captain Nazi says that Sam is making the right decision and that he is proud of Sam. Captain Nazi takes the Cosmic Cube fragment. Captain Nazi thens says that Sam has something else of his. Sam then hands over Steve Rogers’ shield to Captain Nazi.
Captain Nazi places the Cosmic Cube fragment into his armor chest plate. The narrator says that Captain Nazi now possessed the power of the full Cosmic Cube. But, that the power immediately slipped away. Captain Nazi looks at his chest plate and says, “The Cube–Where did it–” Captain Nazi yells “W-where is it? What have you done?”
We see Ant-Man suddenly appear. Captain Nazi yells at Ant-Man. Ant-Man replies that it wasn’t he who took the Cosmic Cube. That Ant-Man was just the ride. We then see Bucky teleport onto the scene.
We cut to “Moments earlier.” Bucky asks Ant-Man if he is sure he is up to carrying out their plan. Ant-Man says that he screwed up badly at the Mount. (When he alerted Captain Nazi to their location.) Ant-Man says that he has to do something to make things right. That this is how he operates. Make a big mistake and then do a big gesture to try and fix it.
Ant-Man grabs Bucky and the two men shrink. We see them flying into the Cosmic Cube fragment. They are flying inside of the Cosmic Cube fragment. Ant-Man hands Bucky a disc that will allow Bucky to keep shrinking. Bucky tells Ant-Man to get clear. That this is something that Bucky has to do alone.
We then hop back to “Days Earlier.” We see Bucky, A.I. Iron Man, Hawkeye and Captain Falcon all meeting with each other. Bucky says he has a plan to defeat Captain Nazi. That they must give Captain Nazi their Cosmic Cube fragment. That the Cosmic Cube is Kobik. A scared and confused kid. Bucky says that he can reach her. That these fragments are pieces of Kobik. That Kobik is strong. That if she is still in there then that means so is her memory of Steve Rogers. Bucky says that he just needs to get to them.
We shift back to Bucky flying through the Cosmic Cube fragment. We then shift to Steve running through Pleasant Vally trying to find Kobik. Steve finds Kobik hiding in a daycare. Kobik apologizes for messing up. That she just wanted everyone to be happy. Then made Captain Nazi because she thought Hydra was the best thing. But Captain Nazi and Hydra are horrible.
Kobik says that Captain Nazi is now too strong. Kobik says that they can hide here. Steve says that hiding will not work. Steve says that he has been fighting fascists for his entire life. (And communists. Actually, he’s been fighting communists for an even longer period of time. But, that does not fit with Spencer’s personal narrative.)
Steve says that there is nowhere that Kobik can run and hide that will keep her safe from Hydra. That there is only one thing to do. Stand and fight. Steve says that she does not have to face Captain Nazi alone. Steve takes Kobik’s hand. The two of them walk out of the daycare.
Suddenly, they here a voice saying “STEVE.” The clouds part and a bright light comes pouring down. Both Steve and Kobik yell “Bucky!” We see Bucky in the light. Bucky tells Steve to take his hand. Steve reaches out for Bucky’s hand. We see a World War II flashback of Steve falling off the plane with a bomb while Bucky stays on it. We cut back to the present with Bucky saying, “It’s okay–I’ve got you.” Bucky grabs Steve’s hand.
We cut back to the present. Captain Nazi screams, “Where is the Cube?!” Captain Nazi asks Bucky, “What did you do?” Bucky replies that he would like to take credit but that “she” did most of the work. We then see Kobik stepping through the teleportation portal.
We see Kobik transforming the world back to how it was right before Captain Nazi got control of the Cosmic Cube. Captain Nazi screams, “NOOOOOO!!!” The infernal narrator returns and says that Kobik swept away Captain Nazi’s creations in an instant. The old order restored. (What? The old order?! You mean the real 616 Universe is back! Tony Stark as THE Iron Man! Steve Rogers as THE Captain America! Thor as…well, you know, Thor! Bruce Banner as THE Hulk! Clint Barton as classic Hawkeye! Carol Danvers as Ms. Marvel! The Avengers and X-Men operating on their own separate from each other! The Inhumans no longer replacing mutants! The Fantastic Four back and better than ever! Oh, Happy Day! The old order has been restored!)
The narrator says that Kobik also brought back the man who would stand for all of them. Their champion. Captain America. (Steve Rogers. Cause Spencer seems confused about exactly who is Captain America.)
Captain Nazi says that Steve is not real. Steve says that it is time for the people to see the truth. Captain Nazi says that Steve was a lie used to make everyone forget. To break them. Captain Nazi says that he is trying to fix everything. Steve says that all Captain Nazi has done is bring chaos and destruction. That Captain Nazi is not making a better world. He is ending the world. Captain Nazi says that Steve is not worthy of protecting the people or the country. Captain Nazi says that Steve could not even protect his own mother. (Oh, damn! Ya’ burnt, son!)
Steve replies, “That shield doesn’t belong to you.” Captain Nazi closes his helmet’s faceplate and says, “Try and take it from me, then.” Captain Nazi and Steve Rogers then start battling each other.
The narrator starts up again. (Of course. Why let a cool action scene speak for itself when you can ruin it with cheesy narration.) The narrator says that this was more than a battle between two men. it was a war for the heart and soul of the people. It would decide what kind of future we would live in. That the two men were perfectly matched. Two warriors with the same moves and the same unbreakable will. It felt like it might never end. (Kind of like how it has felt that Secret Empire might never end. I totally get the feeling.)
The narrator says that the world watched. We see people watching the fight on a laptop. (Wait, what?! DC is supposed to be a bombed out mess. We have seen nothing but super heroes battling each other. How is this being televised live while the fight is going on? Did Hydra quickly sell pay-per-view access to this fight? Is there a Hydra Network app like the WWE Network that constantly broadcasts? Seriously? Who is filming and broadcasting this fight across the ENTIRE WORLD?!)
During the battle, Steve gains control of the shield from Captain Nazi. Steve blocks Captain Nazi’s repulser rays with the shield. The narrator says that their champion did not fall. That Steve was at war with a man who was his worst nightmare. A twisted reflection of Steve.
We see a bar full of people watching the fight on the television. (Ah, this bar must have advertised for the pay-per-view fight between Captain Nazi and Captain America.)
The narrator says that Captain America inspired everyone. That he reminded the people that there is only one thing to do when confronted with this type of evil. You stand and fight.
Captain Nazi and Captain America stand there trading blows with each other. The narrator keeps repeating “Stand and fight” over and over. (Not annoying at all, Mr. Narrator. Thanks.)
Captain America and Captain Nazi are both on their knees after fighting to a standstill. The narrator says You stand and fight until you cannot stand at all. (Yes. That would indeed be the mechanics of fighting.) The narrator says that this is how you are tested. (Well, no. Sometimes you are tested mentally. Other times you are tested spiritually. Sometimes you might be tested ethically. There are tons of ways to get tested.)
Captain America and Captain Nazi both spy Thor’s hammer lying on the going near them. We flashback to when Captain Nazi picked up Thor’s hammer. But, that was when the inscription said that he who is worthy may possess the power of Hydra. The narrator says that Hydra came to power on the backs of lies. (Well, to be fair, that could apply to every single politician in the history of the United States of America.)
The narrator says that Hydra said they were weak and small and fearful. That Hydra reveled in their strength and their power over them. But it was like he promised…it was time to see the truth.
We see Captain Nazi getting to the hammer first. Captain Nazi struggles to lift the hammer off the ground. The narrator says that Hydra had never been worthy.
We then see that the hammer now has the classic inscription on it that whoever is worthy shall possess the power of Thor. Captain America grabs the hammer and says “Here…Let me try.”
Captain America lifts Thor’s hammer of the ground and smashes Captain Nazi with the hammer. Captain America stands over Captain Nazi and says, “Never again.”
Captain America looks at AI Tony, Thor and Hawkeye and immediately says that he is sorry. That it was not him. AI Tony says that they know Captain Nazi was not Steve. (AI Tony is vindicated!)
Captain America then hands his shield back to Sam and says, “I told him this does not belong to him. It doesn’t belong to me, neither.” (No!! Spencer just said that Kobik restored the old order!! Damn.)
Captain America then says, “And neither does this.” Captain America throws the hammer toward Lady Thor who catches it. (What the actual fuck?! No. This is ridiculous. In the last issue, Spencer had Dr. Strange rushing sickly and dying Jane off to a hospital so she would not die. How in the world is she suddenly back in the battlefield and in Lady Thor form? C’mon. There is sloppy writing and then there is this bullshit. Is everyone at Marvel drunk these days?)
The narrator says that the war had been won and hope carried the day. (Actually, it was Steve Rogers kicking ass that saved the day.) That what once seemed impossible was now the moment they lived in.
Kobik says that she knows what she did wrong and knows what to do to make it better. The narrator says that Kobik restored the history that had been corrupted and taken from them. But, she left the scars and reminders. A reminder of their promise never again. (Wait, so Kobik didn’t bring Rick Jones or Black Widow back to life. Wow, that is pretty bitchy.)
The narrator says that those who stood for what was to come, the future, she gave them a gift of a journey of discovery through the Vanishing Point. (Ah, the gift of crappy cash grab gimmick comics! Thanks, Kobik!) We see the unpopular and poorly selling All New All Different MarvelNOW Point One heroes disappearing. (Dammit, Spencer said Kobik restored the old order. This is most definitely not the old order.)
We then see all of the All New All Different MarvelNOW Point One heroes returning. The narrator says that when they returned they were restored and reborn. (But, sadly, still unpopular and still poorly selling. No soup for you All New All Different MarvelNOW Point One heroes!)
The narrator says that in this moment they were everything they had lost. They were, once again, the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. (Damn. With a few exceptions that is one serious collection of D-listers. Spencer certainly is drinking Marvel’s Kool-aide.)
We then get an Epilogue. (Oh, for the love of all that is holy. Just end this wretched big event already!) The narrator says that in the weeks after they tried to return to normal. (For fuck’s sake. The damn narrator is back, too.) That they mourned their losses like Black Widow but that life goes on.
We see some Inhuman being released from a prison camp. He readily signs some paperwork that says he will not hold the United States Government responsible for him being in an internment camp.
The guy is reunited with his son. They then go home. Their home is an absolute mess. The dude puts his son to sleep. The dude decides to clean up and repair his house in the morning. The dude then goes to sleep. (Yes, you can tell that I give zero fucks about this guy and this epilogue and am done recapping this awful issue.)
The dude wakes up in the morning to the sound of people working. He goes outside and sees that the neighbors are all busy working to repair the dude’s house.
We see two kids playing with a Captain Falcon action figure. (Aww, poor kids. Their parents weren’t nice enough to buy them a real Captain America action figure.) The narrator says that in the end they fought back. In the end they overcame. That they lost so much. But, they never lost hope. (Ugh. The simplistic and overplayed hope theme right up until the very damn end.) End of issue.
The Good: Well, Secret Empire #10 was something, huh? My most favorite thing about Secret Empire #10 is that this failed big event is finally over. Beyond that fact there were several neat aspects to this issue.
First, I like that Bucky and Ant-Man were the characters tapped to play the heroic roles of rescuing Steve Rogers. Ant-Man is a down his luck style hero that needed to be rehabbed a bit after turning traitor on the AI Tony’s team in Secret Empire #6. And, of course, Bucky was the only logical choice as the character to rescue Steve and pull him into the current reality. No character has a longer and closer bond to Steve Rogers than Bucky. And Bucky also has the closest relationship to Kobik out of any of the other Marvel characters. The choice of Bucky was actually a rare instance of internal logic in this story.
The reader also gets treated to a nice action scene between Captain America and Captain Nazi. Putting aside the ham-fisted narration, this fight scene actually had some nice psychology. The struggle between two sides of the same coin was well told in the brutal battle to a standstill between these two men. This fight managed to get across the fact that this was more than a battle of mere men. That this was a conflict between two ideals.
This fight also emphasized what makes Steve Rogers so great. Steve Rogers is more than just a man. Steve Rogers is the living embodiment of the spirit of America. Like the American people, Steve Rogers never gives up, has tremendous grit and draws strength from his moral beliefs. This is one reason why only Steve Rogers can be considered THE Captain America. No other character has that type of gravitas at all.
Another positive aspect of Secret Empire #10 is that we finally get rid of the idiotic Captain Nazi gimmick. This issue brings back the real Steve Rogers. And in just half of an issue, Steve Rogers is able to put on a clinic on what it means to be a true hero. Steve Rogers is able to get the reader far more pumped up and excited in just a half of an issue than what the rest of the All New All Different MarvelNOW Point One characters could do over the course of this entire ten issue big event. That is a testament to why Marvel’s classic characters are so popular and are absolutely irreplaceable.
Secret Empire #10 showcases artwork by committee. Often this leads to a schizophrenic looking issue that can be a bit of a mess. However, that is not the case with Secret Empire #10. The myriad of artists called to duty in order to crank this big event out in quick fashion actually all do a nice job. This is a clean and attractive looking mainstream super hero book. The facial expressions are well done and help inject some emotion into the story. The action scene between Captain America and Captain Nazi was also powerfully drawn. This fight nearly leaps off the page at the reader.
The Bad: Secret Empire #10 was a mess of an ending to a failure of a big event. In no way was Secret Empire a success. It was a failure in terms of sales numbers as it was the lowest selling big event Marvel has published. It was a failure in terms of delivering a well crafted, technically polished, detailed and fascinating story. It was a failure in terms of trying to get over the All New All Different MarvelNOW Point One characters. It was a failure in trying to reestablish the classic Marvel characters. It was a failure in an attempt to win back long-time readers or newer readers who just want entertainment in their super hero comics and not political indoctrination. It was a failure in terms of providing a satisfying and intelligent ending to Spencer’s crapfest of a story involving turning Steve Rogers into a Nazi.
Let’s breakdown each of these failures that were evident in Secret Empire #10.
The first failure of Secret Empire, the sales numbers, has been evident in the sales charts for the previous issues. We do not know what type of sales numbers Secret Empire #10 will post. But, there is no way it sells enough to change the fact that Secret Empire is selling fewer units per issue than any big event Marvel has published since House of M.
The second failure is that, from a technical standpoint, Secret Empire is a poorly written story. Secret Empire #10 is no exception to this fact. From a technical standpoint, Secret Empire #10 is a mess. The story itself is as shallow as possible. There is absolutely nothing beyond the surface of this story. Spencer delivers a story that lacks multiple complex plot lines that intricately link together and challenge the reader’s mind and demand multiple readings of each issue. Instead, Spencer delivers the bare minimum number of plot lines. And the very few plot lines that we get are all delivered in the most cursory and bare bones fashion. Honestly, the story comes across as juvenile given its shallowness.
Secret Empire’s story is amateurish. This is not the quality of work that I would expect from a big event comic from Marvel or DC. Secret Empire has been juvenile and simple-minded in its themes. There has been nothing creative or engaging about Secret Empire. There has been nothing novel or unique. Instead, it feels like Spencer did the bare-bones minimal work to create a standard issue big event story based off of a generic checklist given to him by a Marvel editor. There has been zero artistry in Secret Empire’s story. After reading Secret Empire I am convinced that nearly anyone can write for Marvel at this point.
It is clear that Spencer has no passion or love for the 616 Universe or for the super hero genre. Spencer is someone who worked in politics when he could not make it as a writer. Spencer’s first desire was to be a screenplay writer. Spencer is not someone who genuinely loves the 616 Universe and the super hero genre. And it is painfully obvious in his writing. The result is that Secret Empire lacks any passion. Secret Empire lacks any soul. This is a clear reflection of the lack of passion and soul in the heart of the writer when writing the story.
Secret Empire #10 continues the trend of poor character work and weak dialogue. None of the characters have any type of discernible personality. All of the characters are simple cardboard cutouts. The dialogue is bland. There are no unique and well-defined external voices. There is no chemistry. It is just a collection of two-dimensional characters mechanically reciting their lines in perfunctory fashion.
In addition to the poor dialogue and character work we also get that awful narration. Spencer slathers Secret Empire #10 in a thick layer of schmaltzy narration. I have no idea why Spencer is so in love with this literary device that he just keeps going back to it over and over in each issue. This cheesy and overly dramatic narration just makes the story worse. There are moments that could actually be cool, like Captain America’s fight with Captain Nazi, but they are ruined by the terrible narration. It is clear that Spencer is in love with his own narration and just cannot get enough of it.
The narration, other than it being just terribly written, also creates a barrier between the reader and the story. The narrator keeps inserting himself in between the action on the pages of each issue and the reader. Rather than letting the reader experience the story themselves Spencer has the narrator act as a middle-man between the story and the reader.
There is another problem with using a narrator through the entire story. Doing so delivers the story in a more passive fashion. The reader gets the feeling that we are being told the events of Secret Empire by the narrator in flashback format rather than in real time.
Yet another problem with the narrator is that Spencer does not assign the narrator a role in the story. We do not know the identity of the narrator. Is it one of the characters? If so, which one? Is the narrator a neutral omniscient character? Is the narrator Nick Spencer himself? If a story is going to be delivered by a narrator then it is incumbent upon the writer to let the reader know who the narrator is and if they are omniscient or not and if they are reliable or not. These are just some basic rules of writing.
Another continual problem with the writing in Secret Empire has been the constant lack of internal logic to the story. This is no different with Secret Empire #10. There are several moments where Secret Empire #10 lacks internal logic.
Spencer establishes that Kobik has the infinite power of a god. Spencer has Kobik acting as a deus ex machina in restoring the world back to as it was before Captain Nazi used his power to reshape the entire world in his image. So, Spencer makes it clear that Kobik can do absolutely anything that she wants to do. And Spencer makes it absolutely clear that Kobik is at fault for creating Captain Nazi. That Kobik is at fault for creating the Hydra Empire. Basically, Kobik is completely responsible for the entire mess.
So, given that Kobik has infinite god powers and admits to being responsible for everything then why doesn’t Spencer have Kobik rebuild Las Vegas and bring Rick Jones and Black Widow back to life. Wouldn’t that make sense? It would be logical for Kobik to make up for her sins by undoing as much damage as possible.
Now, Spencer could have avoided this by not assigning all the blame to Kobik and placed it on the heroes themselves or on Captain Nazi alone in a way to not have Kobik feel that she has to make amends and restore everything back to normal.
But, instead, Spencer clearly had Kobik assume all responsibility. Spencer clearly had Kobik cast in a heroic light. Spencer clearly had Kobik want to help the heroes make things right. So, it lacks any and all logic that she would not repair the damage and return Rick Jones and Black Widow back into existence. Spencer unintentionally makes Kobik look either stupid or just a mean bitch.
Then we have Spencer having the “entire world” watching the battle between Captain America and Captain Nazi as if it were a WWE Pay-Per-View event. We see people watching it on laptops. We see people in a bar watching it on a TV. This makes no sense. Spencer showed DC in ruins. Spencer shows the assembled heroes and Hydra forces as the only people in the area. To have this fight being broadcast live across the country would require a TV network to be on location.
Does Spencer lay this foundation by having a TV network on sight back in Secret Empire #8 before this conflict erupts? No. It would not be hard at all to have a panel or two showing news teams broadcasting the conflict. It is small easy detail that lays the foundation for this moment in Secret Empire #10. Instead, Spencer cannot take the little bit of time and attention to add these small details. The result is that when the reader sees the Captain America versus Captain Nazi PPV brawl being broadcast over the entire world it takes the reader out of the story because it makes no sense.
Another moment where there is a lack of internal logic is after Captain America defeats Captain Nazi. Captain America lets go of Thor’s hammer and it flies into Lady Thor’s hand. This directly conflicts with what happened in the last issue. In Secret Empire #9, Spencer Lady Thor turn back into sickly Jane Foster and had Dr. Strange rush her to a hospital so she would not die. So, how could she be standing here in her Lady Thor form at the end of this fight? It makes no sense. Does Spencer not even remember what he wrote in the prior issue? Again, small details like this only serve to pull the reader out of the story.
Another failure of the story is Spencer’s inability to deliver the return of Steve Rogers in an intelligent and satisfying manner. Spencer does not even try to explain who or what Captain Nazi is and who are what the newly returned Steve Rogers is.
In previous issues, Spencer established that the Steve Rogers in the Pleasant Valley scenes was just one of Kobik’s memories. That would indicate that Captain Nazi was indeed the real Steve Rogers but warped by Kobik’s powers. Spencer then has Kobik give her memory of Steve Rogers physical form so that he can battle Captain Nazi.
The newly recreated Steve Rogers then defeats Captain Nazi. According to what little information Spencer gives us it appears that Kobik does not retcon away Steve’s history that Spencer mucked with. The real Steve Rogers is still the defeated Captain Nazi. The triumphant Captain America in this issue is just a memory of Steve Rogers given form by Kobik. This Steve Rogers is just a golem or a dopleganger.
So, Spencer leaves the reader utterly confused about who is the real Steve Rogers. The reader is confused as to what Steve’s current continuity is at this point. The reader is confused as to whether Kobik retconned away all of Spencer’s mucking with Steve’s past. It is all handled so clumsily that the reader is left with more questions than answers.
On top of that, Spencer does not even let the newly return Steve Rogers stand proud as the greatest Marvel super hero. Instead, Spencer has Steve apologetic to his teammates for what Captain Nazi, clearly a different person, did to them. Spencer has Steve Rogers admit that his Captain America shield does not belong to him as he hands it back to Sam. Steve Rogers admits he is not worthy and hands Thor’s hammer to Lady Thor. So, Spencer has Steve return and defeat Captain Nazi and then apologize to his friends for things he clearly did not do and then admit how he is not worthy of being Captain America. It is all so anti-climactic.
What would have been more enjoyable and logical would have been to leave Kobik out of this moment. Instead, Bucky should have gained control of the Cosmic Cube. This would have built perfectly off of Brubaker’s run on Captain America where the Cosmic Cube played an important role in turning the Winter Soldier back into Bucky in Captain America #14 back in 2006. It was also in Captain America #14 that Bucky then crushes the Cosmic Cube to pieces. It is from Brubaker’s story over 10 years ago that formed the foundation for a main plot line in Secret Empire. It is stunning that Spencer would not pick up on this obvious direction for the ending of Secret Empire.
Bucky should have been the one to use the Cosmic Cube to make Captain Nazi remember who he truly was. Bucky should have used the Cosmic Cube to retcon away Spencer’s Captain Nazi story from Steve Rogers’ continuity. This approach would have easily wiped away Spencer’s mistake ridden Captain Nazi story. And it would have clearly let the reader know who is the real Steve Rogers and that the events of the past year and a half have been completely wiped out of continuity. It would also have provided a wonderful book end to the story that Brubaker started over 10 years ago.
Now, let’s expand upon the failure of Secret Empire to get over the All New All Different MarvelNOW Point One characters and the related failure of not reestablishing the classic Marvel characters. It is painfully obvious that Nick Spencer is doing his best Vince McMahon impersonation as he desperately tried everything possible to get the All New All Different MarvelNOW Point One characters over with the reader.
The only problem is that the readers view the All New All Different MarvelNOW Point One characters much like how WWE viewers view Roman Reigns. It is forcing a square peg in a round hole. And the more Marvel tries to jam these characters down the readers’ throat the more the readers reject these characters.
Comics and pro wrestling share so many similarities in terms of presentation, story telling and characters. And that is also why there is a large overlap between comic book readers and fans of pro wrestling. The outright rejection of Roman Reigns as WWE’s top babyface and Vince McMahon’s bizarre almost senile obsession with pushing Roman despite his customers telling him that they don’t like him is similar to what is going on with Marvel.
The vast majority of readers have rejected Marvel’s All New All Different MarvelNOW Point One characters. That is plainly evident in the wretched sales numbers that those characters get each and every month. Yet, Marvel is still obsessed with shoving these characters down readers’ throats to the point that Marvel seems afflicted by some bizarre mental disorder.
The more Roman is shoved on viewers the more adamant the viewers are about rejecting him. The more these All New All Different MarvelNOW Point One characters are shoved on readers the more adamant readers are about rejecting them.
WWE fans view Roman Reigns as the corporate champion that is boing shoved on them. The WWE fans feel that they should be the ones to choose who the WWE pushes as a top babyface. The WWE fans feel an ownership in the product. And they should. Without them the WWE makes no money.
The same is with comic readers. Marvel fans feel that the All New All Different MarvelNOW Point One characters are being shoved on them instead of the classic Marvel characters that Marvel fans desire. Marvel fans feel an ownership in the 616 Universe. Marvel fans feel a connection and bond with the classic Marvel characters. Marvel fans feel that they should be the ones to choose who Marvel pushes as their top characters. And Marvel fans are right in this feeling. After all, without Marvel fans then Marvel makes no money.
Spencer goes out of his way to have Steve Rogers basically flagellate himself as being unworthy and then clearly deem Sam Wilson as THE Captain America. In pro wrestling this would be referred to as giving a character “the rub.” Often a popular older wrestler will directly endorse a younger newer wrestler as “the next big thing.” The thinking is that the long-time popular wrestler gives the rub to the newer wrestler and legitimizes the newer wrestler in the eyes of the fans. That the endorsement of the older popular wrestler is giving the fans the clue to begin to cheer for the new wrestler and to view the new wrestler as the main star going forward.
The problem is that change is unavoidable in pro wrestling. Wrestlers age and the promotion needs to create newer stars in order to keep the business going. So it is vital that older popular wrestlers give the rub to newer wrestler so that the business can keep growing.
Marvel applying this approach to their comic book characters is a massive mistake. While comic books and pro wrestling do have some similarities there are also some massive differences. The main difference is that comic book characters are intellectual property that are more like intellectual property from movie franchises, animated films and TV shows, comic strips and novels.
While changing characters is vital in a wrestling promotion it most definitely is not when dealing with intellectual property of movie franchises, comic books, novels and animated films and TV shows. In fact change is despised when dealing with intellectual property because it leads to a loss in money.
Intellectual property like James Bond, Mad Max, Charlie Brown and Harry Potter are all characters that live on forever. With movie characters like James Bond the actors are swapped out but the characters stay the same. Intellectual property from animated movies and films go on forever. These are characters like Mickey Mouse, Buzz Lightyear and Winnie the Pooh.
Comic book characters are like these movie characters, animated characters and other literary characters. Comic book characters are intellectual property that lives on forever. That is why characters like Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent have not aged in over 75 years. That is why Tony Stark and Steve Rogers are still the same age now as they were in the 1960’s.
There is a reason why people want to see Mickey Mouse and not the All New All Different Markie Mouse. There is a reason why people want to see Winnie the Pooh and not the All New All Different Walter the Pooh. There is a reason why people want to see James Bond not The All New All Different Janice Bond. And this applies to Marvel’s classic characters and the All New All Different characters that Marvel is shoving down readers’ throats.
The fact remains that popular intellectual property is coveted by entertainment corporations and are worth massive money. That popular intellectual property trascend time and take their place in culture as iconic characters. Classic super heroes like Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent, Tony Stark, Steve Rogers and Bruce Banner all become icons. These classic super heroes become a part of our modern mythology. And when it comes to mythology people want the icons.
Also, people form strong bonds and connections with iconic classic characters. This bond powers feverish fandom that makes companies like Marvel incredible money. It cultivates devotion and loyalty among fans of those classic characters.
Fans have no problem with new characters being created and introduced but not when it comes at the expense of the classic characters. The fact is that readers want Tony Stark as Iron Man. Steve Rogers as Captain America. Bruce Banner as the Hulk. Clint Barton as Hawkeye. Logan as Wolverine. Thor as Thor. And the list goes on and on. The proof is in the sales numbers. They do not lie.
Unfortunately, Marvel takes the pro wrestling approach in Secret Empire #10 and has Steve Rogers give the rub to Sam Wilson in the end of this issue. Steve gives his shield back to Sam and says that it is Sam’s shield. This is Spencer having Steve Rogers tell the reader that Sam Wilson is THE Captain America. Then Spencer doubles down on this at the end of Secret Empire #10 by having two kids talking about their Captain America action figure. Spencer then shows that it is a Sam Wilson figure.
One problem with this approach is that by shoving it hard on the reader over and over it just makes the reader push back equally hard against Marvel. Another problem with this approach is that Spencer does absolutely nothing at all to show the reader why we should view Captain Falcon as THE Captain America.
Look at what happened in Secret Empire. Spencer first introduced Sam as disillusioned and having completely quit being a super hero and given up on fighting Hydra. On the other hand, in Secret Empire #10, Spencer goes out of his way to show that Steve Rogers never gives up. That he stands and fights until he cannot stand anymore. Hmmm, so who do I want to read about as Captain America? The guy who gives up and runs away when things get tough? Or the guy who stands there like a man and keeps fighting until he literally cannot stand up anymore? No much of a tough choice there.
Once Spencer does have Sam return to being a super hero and donning the Captain Falcon uniform once again what does Spencer have Sam do? Completely fail in his mission to use the Cosmic Cube fragment to take down the planetary shield and to destroy the Darkforce bubble. Instead, all Sam does is get shot, almost die and use the Cosmic Cube to heal himself. It is Mariah Hill who takes down the Darforce bubble and the Guardians of the Galaxy and Quasar who take down the planetary shield.
And in Secret Empire #10 what does Spencer have Sam do? Stand there while Steve Rogers shows the assembled Marvel heroes how it is done. Yet, after Captain Nazi is defeated Spencer somehow believes that the reader should view Sam Wilson as THE Captain America? Why? We are given no reasons at all in all of Secret Empire to view Sam in that manner. This is just Spencer telling us rather than taking the time and effort to show us. We are just supposed to view Sam as THE Captain America because it is what fits with Spencer’s narrative.
This problem of showing and not telling also applies to all of the other All New All Different MarvelNOW Point One characters. Spencer tells the reader constantly why we should view these characters as big deals. Why we should view them as the viable and worthy replacements to all of the classic characters that we know and love. But, what Spencer does not do is show us why we should view this characters as big deals.
The only characters that do anything at all of substance or value in this entire story are AI Tony, Black Widow, Dr. Strange, Hank Pym/Ultron, Bucky and Steve Rogers. The All New All Different MarvelNOW Point One characters did next to nothing.
The Champions did nothing other than sit around and look foolish by arguing against Black Widow’s plan but still following her anyway. Yes. Characters that lack integrity and commitment to their beliefs are exactly the type of characters that readers want to get exited over.
Then you had Miles Morales who did nothing at all other than needlessly getting Black Widow killed by ignoring her orders. Fantastic. Yup. That is a great way to get me interested in a character.
The All New All Different MarvelNOW Point One characters never received any character work. They characters are all flat and one-dimensional. That is largely because they were created for political reasons rather than as organic, creative and unique ideas. The reader either finds the characters bland and naive at best or annoying at worst. Then Spencer does things like have Sam and Carol joke about how much fun it is to kill people during war and to cause collateral damage that may kill innocent bystanders. So, there are moments where Spencer has these characters come across as downright unlikeable.
After having the All new All Different MarvelNOW Point One characters look either foolish, useless or downright unlikeable, Spencer then shoves all of them on the last page before the epilogue and labels them Earth’s mightiest heroes. Yeah, no. This does not get any of these characters over with the reader. This just makes the reader reject the characters even more. Because Spencer is showing and not telling the reader. Spencer is shoving these characters on the reader and telling them that these are Earth’s mightiest heroes. That is after ten issues of failing to show the reader that these characters are indeed Earth’s mightiest heroes.
And talk about an underwhelming collection of low level characters. Let’s look at the most recent sales chart from July of 2017. The best selling of these characters is Mighty Thor. Mighty Thor #21 sold 39,123 units. That is an average sales number. Next is Miles Morales. Spider-Man #18 sold 33,374 units. This is a weak sales number. But, it only gets worse from here. Totally Awesome Hulk #21 sold 22,939 units. Ms. Marvel #20 sold 20,738 units. Mighty Captain Marvel #7 sold 15,672 units. Kate Bishop Hawkeye #8 sold 13,772 units. America #5 sold 11,354 units. Marvel cancelled Nova with issue #7 which sold 13,456. Scarlet Witch got cancelled with issue #15 selling 11,326 units. Unstoppable Wasp #7 sold 7,431 units and Marvel has announced that they are cancelling the title. Talk about some absolute crap sale numbers. And these are the characters that Spencer is hyping at the end of Secret Empire #10. Marvel is either in complete denial or absolutely insane.
The ending focusing on these All New All Different MarvelNOW Point One characters and hyping them up is a complete miss with the reader. These are unpopular characters that Marvel keeps forcing into the spotlight despite readers wanting the classic heroes in the spotlight. Spencer gives the reader no reason to be excited about these characters.
The last failure of Secret Empire #10 is that it appears that Marvel is not going to pull the trigger on a Rebirth style moment. DC waged their war against their fans for five years before finally realizing that they cannot impose their will on their customers. That such an approach causes decreasing sales numbers and a loss of money.
Rebirth has led to a renaissance over at DC and has caused many readers to rush back to DC. This has also lead to DC getting praise from fans in general. DC now enjoys the love and respect from fans. Something that is sorely missing with Marvel.
Secret Empire could have been Marvel’s chance to use the Cosmic Cube to fix the obvious failures of the All New All Different MarvelNOW Point One universe and bring back the 616 Universe and all of its classic characters that reads know and love. Secret Empire could have also been an opportunity that Marvel was going to start publishing super hero comics that focus on action, adventure, fun and escapism and not political indoctrination.
But, sadly, Marvel appears to be doubling down on their war with the fans and appear ready to inflict even more wounds onto themselves in the process. Hopefully, Marvel will not take as long as DC did to realize their mistakes. Because, as of now, if you want a super hero comic starring characters you know and love that deliver stories that emphasize action, adventure and fun and not political preaching then you have to go with DC over Marvel every single time.
Overall: So, in the end, what was the point of Secret Empire? It failed to establish any of the All New All Different MarvelNOW Point One heroes. It failed to bring back the classic heroes. It failed to post big sales numbers. And it failed to offer a creative and exciting story that was worth the price of admission. I suppose it is fitting that this pointless and underwhelming big event conclude with a final issue with a $4.99 cover price. Because, perhaps the only point of Secret Empire was to rob readers of their money.