Secret Empire #3 (Marvel)

CREDIT: Marvel

Rating: 3/5 – I’m Lost Within Secret Empire’s Secrets.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

Secret Empire is losing me fast. With each issue, I’m feeling more and more confused with just how certain aspects of this story story work, and just how Marvel has altered their own history. In the Secret Empire storyline, Captain America has always been a Hydra Agent because a sentient cosmic cube (Kobik) recently altered history at the end of the Pleasant Hill storyline, while also de-aging Steve Rogers, who had been made old in a previous storyline where the super-soldier serum was expunged from his system.

Hydra is claiming that the US actually lost World War II, but the Allies used a cosmic cube to alter the course of history.  This seems to be Hydra’s way of justifying bringing things back to the way they were “meant to be”, but seems to just be a story on their part, Cap was a “sleeper” agent in the altered reality until recently activated.   None of these conflicting story elements help reader comprehension.  Messing with time and altering reality can lead to confusion in the best of circumstances, but all of that is just one confusing piece in a series that just keeps getting more confusing. As revealed in issue two, there’s another Steve Rogers running around (in a forest?), but we’re still not sure if that’s a real character, or a figment of his imagination struggling against the cosmic cube altered reality.  More of this alternate Steve is explored here in issue three and while it adds to the mystery, to me he feels less like a character and more like a plot device that’s going to help provide the “out” for this story.   It’s not a good thing when these kinds of plot devices are telegraphed so early in the story, but maybe it’s just some other tangential story device, which isn’t much better as the end result is still a confusing story.

Andrea Sorrentino’s art which I usually enjoy, lacks clarity and adds to the confusion. There were certain parts of the story where I wasn’t sure what was happening from one panel to the next since the art can get really dark at times with a very muddy color palette. I’m not sure if Sorrentino is the best choice of artists for this book with it’s large cast of characters and changing locales. His art is somewhat abstract and when combined with the lack of bold colors and fine facial details, it’s very challenging to tell who is who when not everyone is even in their normal costumes.  As art for art’s sake it is nice to look at, but it fails for me in clearly telling the story.

If you’re a new Marvel reader, I can’t imagine how it must feel to read this event. It can be entertaining at times like a certain scene with Star Lord in this issue, but there’s just so much to wrap your head around that to me, feels like one big mess that got too complicated for it’s own good.  There are lots of characters and it’s hard to tell them apart, I even forgot at first that the Tony Stark in this issue was the AI Tony Stark, signified by the red text in his word balloons, how would a new reader pick up on this?  The bottom line is that this does not feel new reader friendly and it’s hard for even this veteran Marvel reader to wrap my head around the story.

Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
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