After all the initial twists and turns, Captain America: Steve Rogers slows down the pace drastically this week. Of course, this is because Secret Empire is right around the corner, but it’s hurting this title in the interim. You know how there are periods in The Walking Dead TV show where the survivors walk around aimlessly, discussing their backstory, and nothing exciting happens for two to three episodes? That’s what this book feels like right now. We know something big is coming, but we need to stay awake somehow until then.
In this issue, Baron Zemo receives the starring role, as we find out more about his history and future plans. Without spoiling too much, there might be more to the hug that broke the Internet, and I smell a betrayal in the pipeline. Zemo is a complex villain, but family is paramount to him. While Steve Rogers wasn’t the one who tied his father to a rocket, Zemo knows the part he played in it and might not trust Steve as much as we think he does.
Speaking of Steve, Nick Spencer keeps him out of the spotlight in current events, only using him as a narrator at certain points and in the flashbacks. I actually like this approach. It’s no secret that Steve will be the central focus of Secret Empire, so it’s good to see the supporting characters get some story time. Much like how Taskmaster and Black Ant stole the show in the previous issue, Zemo takes his opportunity and shines.
Something else that Spencer does really well is lay the foundation for a future encounter between Zemo and Bucky Barnes, which might prove to be a big turning point in Secret Empire. Undoubtedly, it’ll raise the question of if will Steve betray his BFF for Zemo or not. Spencer’s shown he has the guts to pull off the controversial, so I wouldn’t bet against him to do it. Nonetheless, the will he or won’t he angle should be fun to see play out.
The tag team duo of Ro Stein and Ted Brandt take over the artistic duties for this issue. Once again, the change in artist is fluid and there isn’t a noticeable shift in style, which should delight fans. What does stand out in particular is their 16-panel treatment of Zemo’s recruitment run. There’s no dialogue present, yet the pictures truly do speak a thousand words – ranging from humor to seriousness. While it might not look like a lot is happening, there’s so much to take in. Kudos to Stein and Brandt for condensing a large chunk of narrative into four pages brilliantly and effectively.
Despite the good, Captain America: Steve Rogers #13 still drifts into dull territory more often than not. It feels like Marvel’s trying to force an excitement over Secret Empire that isn’t quite at tipping point yet. At the moment, my interest in the event is exactly where it should be, and shoving it down my throat won’t change anything. Besides, Spencer holds the reins as the main architect of this whole shindig, doing a great job so far, so there’s really no need to force it.
While it does have its high points, Captain America: Steve Rogers #13 is guilty of forcing Secret Empire down our throats.