Captain America: Secret Empire – Nick Spencer, Donny Cates, Sean Izaakse, Joe Bennet, Joe Pimentel, Anders Guinaldo, Ramon Bachs, Javier Pina, Nolan Woodard, Matt Yackey & Rachelle Rosenberg (Marvel)

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Two Captains. One Cosmic Cube. And a nightmare vision writ large upon the world. Sam Wilson and Steve Rogers, former best friends and at opposite ends of the spectrum in Hydra’s America, one ruling it and the other opposing it, are, in Captain America: Secret Empire, slowly, but inexorably being drawn into each other’s sights.  While Steve grandstands and proclaims a new day for the US under the guidance of Hydra, while deporting, and wiping, huge swathes of its citizens from its borders, bringing Atlantis to its knees and  threatening the United Nations, Sam retreats to the peace of the desert and organises an underground railroad to help those trodden underfoot by Hydra before finally coming to terms with, and accepting, the role he will ultimately be forced to play in this “new” world.  Secret Empire is a story of brothers forced by circumstance to travel down divergent paths which are gradually, bit by bit, drifting ever closer to each other, which will eventually, and inevitably, push them into conflict at a crossroads that will determine their, and the rest of the world’s, future.

Forsaking action, fisticuffs and superhuman brawling for plot, character development and interaction and some seriously heavy duty introspection and contemplation, Secret Empire strips both of its protagonists to the bone and examines the individuals they are now, and the people that they’ve become rather than the men they once were. Using Steve Rogers and his minions to mirror the current White House administration and casting Sam as a vehicle to give the disenfranchised and abandoned a voice, Secret Empire a powerful social critique of the way in which modern society has “evolved” through regression and fear. Beautifully illustrated and detailed by a squad of a-list artistic talent, Spencer and Cates allegory of the times that we find ourselves living in, in which we’ve all been conquered by stealth, division and manipulation, is intelligent, intricately plotted, planned and executed and frighteningly realistic and serves as reminder of just how powerful a literary format comics can be. The Empire has risen, so now it must fall… Tim Cundle

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