Caution: This review contains spoilers.
I'm just going to say it: that was an amazing prologue. Cap may have had his backstory rewritten, but he's still an excellent planner. Over the course of forty-one pages, give or a take a few, he enacts a diabolical plan that takes most of his enemies off the metaphorical Marvel chessboard, especially Captain Marvel and the rest of the cosmically-powered crew. By doing that, Hydra will have a relatively easier time taking over, chillingly.
Along with the explosive revelations and massive moments, the story still had some time for brief moments of humor. One of Nick Spencer's greatest strengths is his humor, as best exemplified in his runs with Scott Lang in the Astonishing Ant-Man and in the critically-acclaimed Superior Foes Of Spider-Man series. Ironically, the latter also came about during a time where an established hero began behaving controversially, although due to very different circumstances. Among others, Rogue, Luke Cage, and the Guardians of the Galaxy all get chances to make various quips.
|Uh, you can disregard the last two panels. Hyperion getting knocked out isn't very funny, unless you don't like him. In that case, it's hilarious.|
On the negative side, the opening prologue is rather confusing. I did some research and found out that it's a reference to a S.H.I.E.L.D. comic that I've never read, helmed by Jonathan Hickman. Even after that, the events still mystified me. As best as I can surmise, it seems to imply that the entire world was warped by Hydra even before Kobik's initial actions. I don't quite understand how that works, but we will most likely get more information when the event actually begins.
The event itself has been causing a stir across the Internet ever since it was first announced, or, if you want to be more specific, ever since the release of Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 nearly a year ago. The main issue is that Steve Rogers, a character created by two Jewish writers, is now affiliated with Hydra, a group that has often been associated with Nazis. In regards to the controversial Captain America change, I really don't have as much of an issue with it as some other people, even though I'm Jewish. Because of Kobik's powers, he's essentially a Captain America from an alternate-universe. I've expressed my enjoyment of "What If..."-type stories before and this just feels like an alternate universe character appearing in the 616 world.
To me, the event seems like it's meant to parallel with the current political climate. Obviously, our political world has been undergoing a severe amount of stress and anxiety ever since November. We thought Hillary Clinton would become the president, and instead we have a racist, misogynist bully currently tweeting in the Oval Office. The shock of such a political upset briefly rattled us, but resistance efforts are in motion, particularly in the form of rallies and combating 'fake news.' Similarly, the Marvel universe is also shaking from a momentous revelation.
From their perspective, Captain America, one of the greatest icons of justice, the ultimate hero for championing equal rights, has been revealed to be an agent of Hydra, potentially of the sleeper variety. As future solicitations reveal, an underground resistance movement will quickly be assembled, consisting of Sam Wilson, the Champions, and various other heroes. Perhaps it could have been pulled off in a less-offensive sense, but as an allegory for our current political climate, it's not bad.
Additionally, Quasar, a great new legacy character for Marvel, seems to die. I hope that she's not actually dead, because I really liked her. For now, I'm going to assume that she's still alive because Nick Spencer has a lot of long-term planning in his writing. This could come back later. Additionally, it's a comic book, characters will eventually return in some iteration after a certain amount of time. Still, aside from those two complaints, I thought Secret Empire #0 was great. I'll be covering it for Critical Writ in monthly recaps, due to the scheduling of the series.
Secret Empire #0 is written by Nick Spencer, drawn by Daniel Acuña, Rod Reis, and Andrea Sorrentino, and lettered by VC's Travis Lanham. You can find it at your local comic book shop.
(Editor's Note: since the time of Zachary's writing of this review, Marvel has responded to the fan rage with an attempt at damage control, and a request for fans to stick with the story to the end, with assurances that Cap will be the hero we know once more. Spoiler alert, I guess? Let us know your thoughts on Secret Empire and Marvel's PR response in the comments!)
Zachary Krishef is an evil genius. Do not question his knowledge of Saturday Night Live trivia or Harry Potter books.