Secret Empire #7
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artists: Andrea Sorrentino, Rod Reis, Joshua Cassara, Rachelle Rosenberg
Cover Artist: Mark Brooks
Things have reached a desperate low for the freedom loving denizens of the Marvel Universe as Hydra Supreme Commander Steve “Trump” Rogers plans a press conference from the steps of his White House. Couldn’t he just tweet it?
What you need to know:
This is bleaker than bleak. If last issue was really, really bleak, this issue is just absolutely and utterly bleaaaaaaaaaaak. The resistance has been all but defeated and those that are not in Hydra custody are driven deep into hiding. The Cosmic Cube fragments that they have collected are now in the hands of Captain Hydra. All seems lost.
The Black Widow plans a final mission to assassinate Steve Rogers with the assistance of Miles Morales, the Champions, the treacherous Viper and an infirm elderly man that they have rescued along the way who apparently can help them win the war.
What you’ll find out:
Captain Marvel remains trapped outside of Earth’s atmosphere fending off wave after wave of alien invaders. Her tattered team’s attempts to repair the Alpha Flight space station are seemingly futile. Yet, Captain Marvel refuses to give up. Even against the abysmal odds, she strives to inspire her horribly outmatched and exhausted troops. She reaches out to the comatose Quasar, who she sees as their last hope. Captain Marvel acknowledges her role in Steve Rogers and Hydra’s rise to political power due to the events of Civil War 2. She acknowledges her role in her own exile from Earth by being manipulated into building the very force shield preventing their re-entry to Earth. She begs Quasar to wake up. Honestly, this is one of the finest moments I’ve seen from Carol Danvers in a long time.
We then join Amnesiac Steve, trapped in the fantasy which has taken a very dark turn as Red Skull tortures him. Red Skull promises that this is his final gift to Steve. That in killing Steve, he releases him so that he can at long last find peace. The mystery woman (Sharon Carter?) that died early on in the series appears once again, inspiring Amnesiac Steve to find the strength to fight back against Red Skull, which he does. Red Skull basically runs away, calling Dream Steve a fool.
Back in “reality”, Captain America mourns the loss of his creepy mother figure, Madame Hydra, who gave her life to save him at the end of last issue. He is interrupted by a Hydra goose-stepper who informs him that it is time to address the American people at a press conference.
Black Widow and Miles Morales, meantime, are moving to end the life of Steve Rogers. Morales accepts his fate as a killer, as the visions of standing over a dead Steve Rogers on the steps of the White House during Civil War 2 have continued to haunt him. Black Widow has a rare crisis of conscience; locking Miles in a Hulk Strength Armored truck. Black Widow basically doesn’t want this innocent child to struggle with the morality of murder. She then gives an assignment to the other Champions in order to keep them distracted during the assassination, which the Champions have been verbally opposed to.
Black Widow finally reveals the identity of the old infirm man that can “end the war” and SPOILER ALERT: it’s lame. Mosaic? I would rather it have been any number of “dead” or missing characters. I didn’t even know Mosaic was missing? Wasn’t he just in IvX? He’s a second tier Inhumans character with a very short history within the Marvel Universe. Why should the readers care about Mosaic? I’m interested to hear your opinions on this. To me, it fell flatter than a pancake being run over by an asphalt paver. Actually, at least that would be interesting.
The Punisher has been hired by Captain America to track and neutralize the threat of Black Widow. The Punisher’s motives for working with Nazi Trump Captain America actually make some semblance of sense: Captain Trump promised the Punisher an army to effectively crush crime in America, albeit through violence and intimidation, as well as to use the Cosmic Cube to bring back his dead family. This could have been an epic fight scene had the art not been so difficult to follow. Natasha defeats Punisher (awesomely, btw) and turns her attention back to assassinating the evil fascist, her best friend Steve. She looks through her rifle scope and sees… MILES??? But, isn’t he supposed to be locked in the truck???
Miles has figured out a way to escape the armored truck and rushes to confront Steve Rogers and his own destiny. As Miles and Cap square off, Black Widow races to protect Miles. She arrives just in time to get a jaw shattering blow to the face. Then, in what is arguably the most unbelievable, garbage moment in recent comic book history, Miles Morales continues to beat the ever living snot out of a helpless Steve Rogers who has apparently forgotten how to fight and suddenly possesses the reflexes and strength of a drunken kitten. Miles just tosses him around, shattering his vibranium shield. He basically makes Cap his prison bitch. Captain America. Manhandled. By Miles Morales. Let that sink in. Even if Miles was really angry by Black Widow getting cold cocked, this was a one sided fight.
After being talked down by his young, idealistic buddies in the Champions, Miles decides not to kill Captain America. He and the Champions are then taken into custody by Hydra.
We travel back to the Resistance, defeated and licking their wounds from last issue. Hawkeye screams out for “NAAAATTT!!” which… is Black Widow dead? I’m very confused. It’s unclear due to the art and the script conflicting, which happens a lot in Secret Empire, but, I thought she was just knocked out with a broken jaw? This reaction is very severe for someone who’s only been beaten up and captured, no?
The world is now completely devoid of hope until Sam Wilson appears as Captain America, once more raising his iconic shield to inspire the Resistance!!! (This moment would have totally worked for me had Sam Wilson never been Captain America before. I would have gone nuts! But, since he’s been Captain America for a while before abandoning the title right before Secret Empire began? It just feels like a costume change.)
The art is all over the place in this issue. It’s illustration’s equivalent to jazz music. Admittedly, I am not a big fan of jazz music. I also hate having politics jammed down my throat, so I want to hate this story so much, but it’s so damned compelling that I can’t help but overlook the preachy political agenda and the at times hard to follow artwork.
But, despite all the compelling, there are a lot of hiccups with this issue: I’m confused about Black Widow’s status, is she a political prisoner along with the Champions? Is she dead? And the “payoff” from the old man on the respirator?
Overall, the story is still pretty good, despite any short comings.