For those who may have been worried that Secret Empire would fizzle like Civil War 2, they can fear no longer. Secret Empire #0 is the comic book equivalent of participating in a fight club. Sure, you’ll get punched repeatedly and your brain will be fuzzy afterwards, but it’s also a huge surge of adrenaline and you’ll be begging for another hit once you’re done.
It’s finally happened. Steve Rogers, better known as Captain America, has secretly been a double agent for the evil organisation Hydra. Having already been placed in position as the head of SHIELD, Rogers has moved heroes and villains into strategic positions with the tactical awareness of a grandmaster. He’s manipulated events, politics and people with ruthless intent.
And now is the time to strike.
On the streets of New York, the Defenders struggle to hold back wave after wave of escaped criminals. In the vacuum of space surrounding Earth, Captain Marvel and the Guardians of the Galaxy face overwhelming odds as the entire Chitauri army attacks. Meanwhile, SHIELD itself faces off against Hydra forces who have taken over a European country and are now turning their attention to America. Will the war end even before it’s begun?
It’s true that sometimes the one thing we like seeing more than a hero is seeing that hero fall. In this case, there’s something disgustingly satisfying about seeing Marvel’s heroes being decimated, while their very best – Captain America himself – betrays them all so effectively. It’s jaw-dropping stuff, and amazingly you’ll find yourself admiring how brilliantly it all happens.
The writing in Secret Empire #0 is simple but elegant, making this a far more thoughtful exercise than you might think. Yes, there’s all the action you’d expect, but it works best as a thriller where the stakes keep on rising on every page. Events are foreshadowed – even blatantly telegraphed – but there’s also a huge element of surprise at what you’re witnessing and it’s impossible to predict where the story is going next.
Matching the writing, the art equally conveys a genuine sense of dread. Much like any good on-screen thriller, when the heroes are overwhelmed they’re really overwhelmed. When Captain America stares impassively as he gives orders, you can feel the hidden menace radiating from him, both drawing readers in while simultaneously repulsing them. It’s impressive work.
With all the talk of this being the start of a whole new Marvel Universe coming (or a return to the old one), it’s easy to see why. Secret Empire #0 is a great issue, and exactly what was needed from the House of Ideas. Now the real question is whether there will even be a Marvel Universe after this. Only one thing’s for sure:
It’s going to be a hell of a ride finding out.