26th Jun2017

‘Secret Empire #4′ Review

by Dan Clark

Written by Nick Spencer | Art by Leinil Francis Yu, Rod Reis | Published by Marvel Comics

secret-empire-4-cover

Nick Spencer continues Marvel’s big summer event with Secret Empire #4. This issue is short on shocking reveals but allows for some key character moments this series has sorely been lacking. We learn some of the mysterious motivations behind those who have chosen to be on Cap’s side, while the quest to obtain the Cosmic Cube fragments ends in a stalemate.

Picking up where we left off with issue three we see the Punisher has in fact expressed loyalties to Hydra, well more so to Captain America Steve Rogers. It is a move reminiscent of how Punisher was portrayed in Marvel’s biggest event ever in Civil War. Frank Castle’s apparent insane mind respects Steve Rogers above all others. It is a characterization that has precedent but still feels like a misrepresentation of The Punisher. Most others have put the pieces together to figure out this is not the same Steve Rogers and there is no reason to think Frank Castle would not do the same thing. Perhaps this is a storyline that will be further explored in other issues or tie-ins but as the bridging gap between issues this moment comes off as a cheap ploy.

The meat of this issue involves Steve Rogers and his Hydra Avengers and A.I. Tony Stark’s led insurgency facing off in territory ruled by Ultron, who currently believes he is actually Hank Pym. Wow there is a lot to unpack in that sentence as is the case with the current state of Marvel comics. Although their skirmish with one another lacks any major standout moment the interaction between Utron and these two groups was a major highlight.Whenever Nick Spencer gets the opportunity to write an Ant-Man character good things happen. In this issue, he got to write three of them.

It is a weird world when Ultron is a voice a reason but that occurs as he provides a commentary about the world. His words are very similar that what many fans have been saying, which is not the first time that has happened in a Nick Spencer book. Heroes fighting heroes has become the norm so all a villain like Ultron has to do is sit back and wait.

Similar to The Punisher it is also revealed why certain people like Scarlet Witch, Vision, and Thor Odinson have decided to side with Hydra Cap. For those hoping for a deeply seeded explanation be warned you are not getting it. All the explanation is given in quick throwaway lines. Personally, I have no issue with that as I do not want to spend the majority of an issue discovering the backstory of a demon possessing the mind of Scarlet Witch. Progression has been a problem enough without that type of added backstory.

It was a welcome change of pace to see one story line take up the majority of this issue. There is a check-in with Black Widow and her Champions along with whatever world the other Steve Rogers is in. This was easily the most self contained issue of Secret Empire thus far as both of those check-ins were brief and to the point.Here the story was all about Steve and Tony and their attempt to outsmart their old foe Ultron. That moment could have even been stronger if the Tony involved was not A.I. version of the character. What you are left with are two robots pretending to be people as they argue with a man whose mind has been warped by a magical cube. The beauty of comics I guess.

By the end, we are still left with a story that has refused to go anywhere. Even the characters in this story appear frustrated with how static the progression of this chase has become. All this work has go into making this story happen and now its not much more than a vision quest to find missing pieces of whatever the random object is now. Spencer is missing the better story that is starring him right in his face. You have an evil Steve Rogers fully controlling the majority of the United States and we have barely seen that story. Hopefully something changes because so far this has been a long way to go no where.

** ½  2.5/5

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