Secret Empire #5 Review

comic books:
Tom Bacon

Reviewed by:
On June 28, 2017
Last modified:June 28, 2017


Secret Empire #5 is a strong issue, with a lot of unexpected plot twists that make it a delight to read.

Secret Empire #5 Review

By now, we’re settling into a little bit of a routine with Nick Spencer’s Secret Empire. Every issue will tell the main story (albeit with a few diversions along the way). We’ll also have either an opening or closing scene that features this mysterious alternate Captain America. Structurally, that’s just the way Spencer seems to be structuring his comics, and Secret Empire #5 is no different.

The issue opens with a scene that revisits the Black Widow subplot. Working with a team of “children,” Black Widow is putting together a plan to take down Steve Rogers. This issue, we see her plans take a dramatic step forward. The scene is thrilling, with perfect characterization, and it’s more than a little reminiscent of Natasha’s “interrogation” in The Avengers.

From there, we move to the campaign to collect the Cosmic Cube fragments. I’ll say this for Nick Spencer; he believes in throwing us curveballs. It turns out Tony Stark has taken the Avengers on a wild goose chase; he’s been working from Rick Jones’s intel, rather than ‘detecting’ fragments as he claimed. And that means his intel is already out of date, much to his team’s frustration.

Even as he launches some intriguing plot twists, Spencer raises some pretty interesting new questions. When the Resistance visit Wakanda, for example, it leads to a heated conversation between Black Panther and Tony Stark. Suddenly, we’re faced with an issue we’d not even though of before; who should have control of a Cosmic Cube? As the Black Panther reflects, he doesn’t trust Tony Stark with it. But given Wakanda has such strong supremacist attitudes, I don’t think T’Challa should be trusted with it, either. This power is far too great, and should never have been unleashed to begin with.

Last issue saw Spencer reveal why some of the Avengers have actually joined up with Hydra, and he continues that character beat here. In a moment that’s truly haunting, we see Vision attempt to overcome the virus he’s been infected with – and fail. Meanwhile, we’re finally given a glimpse into Thor Odinson’s anguish as he struggles to work out what he should do. Thor’s role in Secret Empire is just another cause of controversy, and I suspect fans will disagree over how well that scene plays out. Some will feel it does disservice to the character, while others will at least understand; he’s been expertly played.

There’s a subtle political caution in Thor’s words. He’s always kept away from human politics, and as a result he can be manipulated with ease. His political naïveté has been turned against him. I can’t help seeing it as another echo of Nick Spencer’s own political views; that political involvement should be encouraged, because otherwise we leave ourselves open to manipulation.

Andrea Sorrentino’s art is beautiful, although at times he tends to get a little too fancy with his layouts. There’s one large panel where that really backfires, especially in the digital comic. For all that’s a problem, though, this time round Sorrentino’s characters feel a little more on-model and he seems to have taken on board criticism that this was feeling like an ‘Elseworlds’ plot due to his artistic style.

Overall, this is definitely a strong issue, with a lot of fun twists and turns (I’ve deliberately avoided spoiling two big ones). As controversial as Secret Empire has been, it’s also been really well-written and continues to be an enjoyable read.

Secret Empire #5 Review

Secret Empire #5 is a strong issue, with a lot of unexpected plot twists that make it a delight to read.

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