Secret Empire #1 Review – A Lengthy But Enjoyable Debut

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Secret Empire #1 sets the stage for the Hydra takeover that has been building these last few months. While the heroes are at their wit’s end, it’s really hope that is facing extinction.
Spoilers ahead for Secret Empire #1, so you’ve been warned.
Secret Empire is not a joyful book by any means. That shouldn’t be surprising, as the premise at the center of it is also quite depressing. Marvel and America’s most iconic hero is now an agent of the enemy, and one of the most interesting parts of Secret Empire #1 is seeing how those he once called friend are reacting to it.
Take A.I. Tony Stark for instance, who’s retreated into a drunken stupor to avoid talking about the current status of the world. It isn’t just empty regret though, as he recalls several campaigns the resistance took on to “save” their friend once the news broke. All of them resulted in heavy losses and failure, and the end of any denial that this all wasn’t true somehow, that everything would just be alright.
Conversations with Rick Jones and Sharon Carter are full of these moments, and despite having a few months to get used to the idea of a villain Cap, they still make you sufficiently uncomfortable. That does seem to be the point though, and that uncomfortable feeling will only grow after what Cap does later in the issue.
Secret Empire #1 is an engaging read despite its wordiness, something that has also affected other books in the Captain America series. Sure there’s a lot of ground to cover, but sometimes it feels overwhelming. This is especially relevant when compared to Secret Empire #0, which broke some of those habits and gained momentum for the series. This is a grand sized debut issue, so hopefully, the rest of the series follows issue zero’s lead and not issue one’s.
The talented Steve McNiven is on pencils for the issue, but to be honest the art is a bit disappointing. It might a purposeful choice, but compared to other McNiven drawn Marvel series this just wasn’t up to those high standards. Everything looks washed out and faded, and McNiven’s facial expressions aren’t as on the money as they have been in the past.
There’s enough in Secret Empire #1 to retain your interest in the series, and some amazing character nuggets are planted throughout. There is, however, a great deal of material that perhaps could have been trimmed or shelved altogether, material that only serves to dilute the main story. If you can overlook some of those issues, there’s a lot to enjoy here, and it’s a story worth telling.
Rating 3 out of 5 Stars.
Secret Empire #1 is written by Nick Spencer with art by Steve McNiven. You can view the official description below.
It’s been building for months, across a bevy of titles! But now, the moment has arrived for Steve Rogers to step into the light and declare his allegiance to Hydra! How can the heroes of the Marvel Universe cope with this shattering betrayal by the most trusted figure among them? And what will this mean for the world? The map of the Marvel Universe changes in ways nobody will expect — TRUST THE SECRET EMPIRE!

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