This week Secret Empire comes to a close, and the Justice League of America’s search for Ray Palmer continues!
Secret Empire #10 (of 10) (Marvel Comics)
SPOILERS (But it’s not like Marvel didn’t already do that for you)
My lack of interest in Secret Empire has been going on since before the series was initially announced, so now that we’re at the end (well, almost the end, there’s still an “Omega” issue coming to wrap everything up), I should be pretty pumped to see it end and move on. But even without the usual mainstream media spoilers, Nick Spencer’s big Marvel event feels like it’s just checking off the boxes of what you need to do in a major comic book event, and doesn’t really set up anything new or exciting for the post-Hydra Cap Marvel universe.
Unless you’ve been without internet access for the past few days, you probably have an idea of the events that occur in this final chapter of Secret Empire. Yes, the real Captain America returns, and makes quick work of his Hydra loving stand in. Nick Spencer’s script is filled to the brim with the usual kinds of uplifting “we are all heroes” dialogue that you get every few years from superhero comics, and while that’s fine and all, it’s the resolution of Secret Empire that really hurts it. You see, after swearing that the end of Secret Empire won’t be a “cosmic cube reset”, it ends up being one anyways.
Granted, that cosmic cube reset is in the form of Kobik, the little girl who is a sentient cosmic cube (it’s just as weird as it sounds), but still, that sounds an awful lot like a cosmic cube reset in my book. NO amount of eloquent speeches about facing fascism, thrilling battles, revelations about earlier things in the series, and a fight between Captain America and the Hydra armor Captain America can take away from the fact that Marvel ended up doing what they said they wouldn’t do when Secret Empire was announced. Hell, by the end Kobik revives every character that “died” over the course of the series, and that lack of stakes is what hurts not only this event, but Marvel’s recent approach to comics and events as a whole. It makes Secret Empire seem like a parody of Marvel event comics, complete with ONE PANEL to tie this into the current Generations one shots.
At least Secret Empire #10 looks great. Of course, with Steve McNiven on the art, that’s expected. McNiven has been known to cut a few corners here and there with some of his recent output, but here he delivers the big action set pieces that are required for this finale. The only aspect of his art that didn’t work were the nods to previous (and better) Marvel events like Civil War and Infinity Gauntlet. It’s less of a cool moment and more of something that just takes you out of the story.
Secret Empire was the victim of poor timing, for sure, but Marvel’s refusal to offer any statement or course correction (other than saying Cap would “be back by the event’s end” when issue one released) spoke volumes to how little they seem to care about their current readers. Perhaps with time Secret Empire will be able to shed the current political climate and people will discover that it’s actually pretty good. But right now I have no desire to ever think about this event again, and I hope that this is the end of events from the former House of Ideas.
Justice League of America #13 (DC Comics)
Justice League of America started as one of the more entertaining DC Rebirth titles, but recent storylines have fallen way short of the potential of the series. I mean, this book has Batman and Lobo on the same team, and yet the Steve Orlando series has just kind of existed alongside the other DC books, a trend that I was hoping was going to change with the recent storyline, which finds Batman’s team of heroes finally searching for the original Atom, Ray Palmer. Unfortunately, not enough happens in this issue to make that the case.
Steve Orlando’s script is still full of great character moments between the teammates, but at the end of the day the plot does nothing to move this series where it needs to be. This has been one of the biggest problems with Justice League of America, and at thirteen issues you’d think that the pacing problems would’ve been figured out by now. The fact that they still exist is starting to get a little worrisome.
Ivan Reis makes his return to Justice League of America with this issue, and while it’s great to have him back, he too suffers from this boring script. Reis is an artist who thrives on dynamic poses and great action, so when you give him panels of characters just conversing, you don’t get what you deserve from him. At the very least, Ivan Reis is able to give these quiet moments the treatment they deserve, especially a great moment where Batman is confronted by some grieving alien parents.
Justice League of America is a book that I still continue to read mainly because of the character dynamics. But I won’t lie; it’s been getting a little old reading this series and having little to nothing of substance happen. While there’s still a chance that this storyline could turn things around for the title, for now the fact that a book featuring Batman, Killer Frost, Lobo, and more on a team does little more than merit a “it’s pretty good” reaction out of me isn’t a good thing.