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Secret Empire #2

by Kalem Lalonde on May 17, 2017

Writer: Nick Spencer
Artists: Andrea Sorrentino & Rod Reis

After tearing the world down in Secret Empire #0 and introduces us to Hydra-Cap’s fascist America in Secret Empire #1, Nick Spencer continues to ratchet up the tension between characters in Secret Empire #2. While this chapter may not deliver any bombastic plot developments, it paints a dark picture of the division war creates among heroes and continues this story’s tradition of throwing curveballs at the reader to keep it as unpredictable as possible.
The true strengths of Secret Empire so far, and the heart of Spencer’s Captain America run, have been rooted in his uniquely brilliant version of Steve Rogers. The difference between this Steve and the real Steve do not lie within their nature. Even though he is an evil fascist, Steve is still an excessive thinker and a powerful leader.

Captain America has always remained special because of his allegiance to his morals. When his country starts betraying those morals, he stands up and fights. That Steve is still the Steve with have in Secret Empire. The difference with Hydra-Cap is his belief system has been flipped on its head. Every scene in Secret Empire #2 with Cap in it shines as bright as the previous installments of the book but the scarcity of these scenes ultimately hold it back.

Secret Empire #2 juggles many different narratives. First off, we have the moral dilemma within the Avengers on whether killing Steve is the proper path forward. Black Widow is given standout scenes as she uses past Steve’s nobility to argue in favor of taking him out while the other Avengers stick by Steve’s “no killing” rule. Nick Spencer is very successful in pulling the reader towards both sides. Does the new world mean we must into stare in the abyss of darkness to survive? Should we let our friend die without trying to bring him back? By asking these questions, Nick Spencer creates a compelling narrative for the Avengers that can complement the incredible scenes with Steve Rogers.

In the middle of this issue, Kingpin makes an appearance to be a hardcore manipulative gangster and kill people. Regular Kingpin stuff. While being a fairly well written scene, I didn’t feel like there was a clear reason why it was included. Spencer did appropriate world building last issue and used most of this issue to bring characters together and split others apart. It’s oddball scene that doesn’t fit the way every scene in previous issues did.

Andrea Sorrentino is the third artist to come on this series and his hyper-stylized art is about as pretty as you would hope it would be. This is Sorrentino’s first big event and he proves he is ready to take on the challenge by nailing the scope of the series. There is one page where Rick Jones explains the Hydra-Cap phenomenon to the Avengers and what would normally be a boring, but necessary, page in this series became a beautiful piece of art. Another scene of Cap sitting on his thrown is turned into a magnificent double-page that oozes the scope of event storytelling. Rod Reis joins Sorrentino for the final pages which flow smoothly from Sorrentino’s final page because Spencer’s script allowed it to feel like an epilogue. There’s a massive bombshell dropped in Reis’ pages and he does an excellent job of insuring the shock Nick Spencer was aiming for.

Not every issue of Secret Empire will be as epic as #0 and #1 and that’s okay. Secret Empire #2 slows the war down to focus on the dividing lines in the resistance and to start paving the way for Steve’s return. What Nick Spencer brilliantly does is make you question whether Steve will actually survive long enough to turn back into his true self. That sort of unpredictability in Secret Empire is why it has overcome the boring event trend. The stakes are high, the characters are compelling, and I truly have no clue what is going to happen in issue #3.
 

Our Score:

8/10

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