Now that Rick Jones’ cellphone has been decrypted, the Underground hears out what he found out about Steve Rogers and the Cosmic Cube that rewrote history. By gathering the pieces of the Cube, which have been scattered all over the planet, our heroes can restore history and return Captain America to the man he once was.
But they’ll have to beat Rogers to it. Sitting atop his throne, Captain America believes he can bring back the dead and set things right — his way of right — by restoring the Cube and using its power to make the world a better place according to Hydra’s precepts. Rogers orders Baron Zemo to scour the Earth and retrieve the fragments, no matter the cost — foreshadowing all sorts of things to come.
With the search begun, both sides now face a clock. Natasha Romanoff has her own ideas on how to stop Rogers, and it means assassinating him. Spider-Man Miles Morales joins her, accepting whatever fate may come. In case you missed it — Back in Civil War II, a vision of Morales standing over a dead Captain America left Miles and the Avengers team shaken and in disbelief. Morales knows he’s no killer, but he’s ready to see what the future holds.
We see what’s happening in New York City, which hasn’t seen true daylight since Hydra took over. Dagger, hovering over the Empire State Building, acts as the city’s sun to keep the attacking demons at bay. In darkness, heroes do their best to keep order, but with society collapsing, some help comes in the form of baddies like Wilson Fisk.
Captain America’s position in the midst of the Secret Empire plot is starting to look untenable, while the conflict between Natasha and Clive Barton is a compelling one, even if it’s sort of nonsense. Barton wants to uphold the highest of Avengers ideals — he tells Natasha during a testy exchange, “We don’t kill.”
But the Avengers have killed — every single one of them has, and Barton is no exception having killed Bruce Banner in Civil War II. While the notion is flimsy, it does add another layer to the conflict between Barton and Romanoff with Clint choosing to follow the path of “fixing” history and his friend without bloodshed.
Romanoff’s reasoning — that Jones’ information is a set-up for a trap — is believable, and her plotline is the one I’m most interested in, though the conflict-amongst-heroes makes Secret Empire another Civil War-clone and we’ve had plenty of those already. But at a critical juncture in the Secret Empire storyline, it’s a welcome plot point that gives the story some wheels.
The thing I liked most this issue is Andrea Sorrentino’s artwork which has definitely improved since I last saw it. There’s a lot of depth to these panels, and the cinematic quality jogs the senses a bit when it comes to imagining what’s happening in the in-betweens. The colors also add to the atmosphere — the sunset sky is aglow as Natasha and Clint talk about their differences.
Facial expressions are on point, and the body language is stellar. There’s a lot of movement, which gives the visual element a lot of energy. The characters aren’t standing around and merely posing — they’re active and engaging each other in reaction to what’s happening.
Were it not for the last few pages, Secret Empire #2 would have been an okay issue. The appearance of another Steve Rogers looking to find his way home adds a twist, and while it might induce a bit of eye-rolling, it could explain away some of the problems people are having with Captain America being a Hydra sleeper agent.
And then again, maybe it won’t.
Either way, it does get me wanting to read the next issue.
Previous Issue: Secret Empire #1