The big two comic book companies love their events and the most recent from Marvel, Secret Empire, just came to an end. The 10-issue storyline followed Captain America’s allegiance to HYDRA, his reign as supreme global ruler, the “heroes” who sided with him and those who opposed his rule and fought back. In the end, as with all events, there was a resolution but not without some changes to the Marvel universe.
First, let me just say that, overall, Secret Empire is an enjoyable, well-planned story and there are nine issues of relatively decent plot, with good writing and some great art. But it’s that tenth issue that is the problem. There was a lot of buildup and conflict to get readers to a resolution that fell flat.
So why did the end of Secret Empire not work? It was a cop out. There were a few directions that things could have gone to give a satisfying end to the story of not only these 10 issues, but the crossovers and the lead-in to it involving Captain America becoming a HYDRA agent to begin with. But the writers decided that a literal clean slate/reset/reboot/turn-it-off-and-on-again was the best way to go. It was like a dream sequence or, for those who remember the show Dallas, Bobby in the shower scene.
But the thing is, not everything was set back to the way it had been. There are now two Steve Rogers in the current Marvel time stream and one is still the HYDRA agent. So it’s likely they’ll just keep that on the backburner for a bit until they feel like reintroducing that storyline. And along with that goes the fact that multiple heroes are dead. They did this crazy thing with bringing Bruce Banner back from the dead, but now he’s gone again. Plus, they killed off Quasar and Black Widow… yes, Black Widow! (Too many strong female characters in the mix at the moment, I suppose.)
One thing Marvel seems to have done right with the way the time stream issue was handled in Secret Empire, is explain how the Generations titles are able to happen. If you haven’t heard of them or picked up one of the available issues yet, these are one-shot comics with different versions of the same hero coming together at an important point in one hero’s life. The “wibbly wobbly” (to quote a certain Time Lord) nature of part of the Secret Empire plot brings these heroes together in a way that makes sense, in the Marvel universe anyway.
So is Secret Empire worth reading, even given the shallow conclusion? For Marvel fans, yes, if only to find out what happens to certain heroes and see how Generations comes about. For Captain America fans, yes, because of the multiple Steve Rogers issues and the fact that you’ve stuck with it through the HYDRA Cap escapades. But for casual fans, I think it can be skipped. Though it was a big event, the repercussions won’t affect much of the larger Marvel universe, so just stick to the titles you’re already enjoying.