Coulda sworn that this was the last issue… Forgot about the Marvel Summer Crossover Expansion Effect (pronounced “Muskie.”) Your Major Spoilers review of Secret Empire #9 awaits!
Writer: Nick Spencer
Penciler: Leinil Francis Yu with Joe Bennett
Inker: Gerry Alanguilan with Leinil Francis Yu & Joe Pimentel
Colorist: Sunny Gho with Dono Sanchez-Almara
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $4.99
Previously in Secret Empire: “A sentient Cosmic Cube named Kobik turned Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America, into an agent of Hydra, and he used his mantle as the most trusted hero in the world to claim the United States for his new cause. Using a tiny shard of the same Cosmic Cube, Sam Wilson was able to lead the anti-Hydra resistance through a series of major victories. The Planetary Defense Shield is down, the Darkforce dome around Manhattan is gone, the Inhumans of New Attilan are free and the super heroes of the world are flooding to the Underground’s aid. But even as his enemies close in, Steve Rogers is claiming victories of his own: He captured The Black Panther, taking Wakanda out of the fight and forced Emma Frost, the ruler of New Tian to surrender. Now, he has almost enough shards to reassemble the Cosmic Cube and rewrite the world in Hydra’s image…”
This issue is stuffed to the gills with important events, as the dominoes start to fall for Steve Rogers’ regime. The Resistance, under the leadership of Sam Wilson, Captain America, is finally making headway, and Steve’s Avengers team is coming apart at the seams. Spider-Man and Magneto enter the fray (one from abroad, the other from exile), while Steve’s alliance with Emma Frost comes apart at the seams. When The Odinson changes his mind, the writing is on the wall for Team Hydra. It is satisfying to see Zemo fall at the hands of the Black Panther and the Winter Soldier, to see Doctor Faustus taken out by Sharon Carter, to see The Vision deprogrammed and The Scarlet Witch exorcised of the influence of Chthon, I’ll grant the creators that. But it’s not satisfying enough to make up for month after month of soul-crushing fascism in our comics stories. Even the moments of humor in this issue (such as when Black Ant and Taskmaster free The Champions, only to get their faces webbed to the wall) don’t make up for the brutality and lack of subtlety in the build-up. As the issue comes to an end, Steve Rogers makes his final stand with a nearly complete Cosmic Cube and armor stolen from Tony Stark’s labs…
A STRONG CLIFFHANGER, THOUGH
The final page cliffhanger is well-done in these pages, and I have to admit that the inkers in this issue have managed to minimize the rough edges that tend to bother me about Leinil Yu’s work in previous crossovers. (Secret Invasion was just plain hard to look at.) Several characters get great moments in this story, and everyone looks distinctive and well-rendered. The blocking of the battles tends to fall to the wayside in favor of cool layouts, but that’s actually not that big a problem for me if the finished pages look this good. Spencer’s dialogue is fair enough, but the weakness of the story is once again in the concept. Looking past that, the plotting is pretty standard (the issue opens with several characters talking about how the tide has turned and they’re going to finally win, which guarantees the eleventh hour hitch that ends the book, but that moment is well-presented and well-drawn.
THE BOTTOM LINE: IF YOU’RE IN, THIS IS OKAY
In short, if you’re okay with the premise (which is a double-edged sword, I know; the revulsion that I feel for this story is hard to get past, but I can see feeling like that’s an overreaction), this issue is workmanlike enough to get us to the end of the whole mess. Secret Empire #9 has some of Leinil Yu’s best art in recent memory, a lot of fave-rave characters doing cool stuff and getting much-overdue revenge on some awful characters, but the story ends up being as predictable as the next big dumb Tom Cruise blockbuster, earning 3 out of 5 stars overall. With a new leaf coming for Captain America and Marvel in general, and a new creative team, here’s hoping that all the toys go back in the box unbroken…