SECRET EMPIRE #9
Writer: Nick Spencer
Pencilers: Leinil Francis Yu with Joe Bennet
Inkers: Gerry Alanguilan with Leinil Francis Yu & Joe Pimentil
Colorists: Sunny Gho with Dono Sanchez-Almara
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
Release Date: 8/23/17
The tide begins to turn in the war against Hydra, with the opposing forces revealing a few tricks left up their sleeves. Will their efforts be enough?
Plot: Now that the divided forces have reunited, things don’t look good for Hydra. A few unexpected allies show up to the battle, including a fan-favorite thought to be dead. Steve Rogers refuses to yield and seems to face certain destruction until a new use for the Cosmic Cube is revealed.
Story: A lot happens in terms of plot in Secret Empire #9, and Nick Spencer does not skimp on making sure all the heroes get their moments. As all the tie-ins start to converge into one giant event, seeing all the characters together in one issue brings a lot of excitement. Wrapping all these plots into one is no easy feat, and Spencer manages it without too many points of confusion or loose ends. After what has felt like an eternity of Hydra rule, the good guys are finally winning.
The bad news is that with the emphasis on cramming everyone in, not much room is left for character development or emotional nuances. Some scenes, like the return of Bucky Barnes, lacked the emotional punch he could have given it (though I was happy to see him back). The only moment that really resonated with me emotionally was the scene with Kubik and Steve Rogers, and the anguish you felt from this version of Steve.
This book did seem to have a lighter tone than previous issues, mirrored in-story by Captain Marvel telling Sam Wilson this is starting to feel fun. She’s right, it is finally starting to feel fun! There are even some laugh-out-loud moments such as Taskmaster and Black Ant deciding whether to switch sides.
Art: The art team for this book did a fantastic job, even if it does feel like a grab bag (much like the plot). I love the bolder colors that are different than the muted palettes we’ve seen in earlier issues and they work really well with all the busy fight scenes going on. This issue certainly delivers when it comes to action, with pages and pages of battles. That said, if you don’t pay attention it’s easy to miss the details of all the panels and the many characters included.
The more powerful scenes with characters defying Hydra (Emma Frost, Odinson Thor) have some intense character close-ups that are beautifully drawn. There are even instances in the book where this more subtle style would have worked over the heavy handed lines and intense colors of the action scenes, for example, in the Bucky reveal.
The drawings of Kubik’s mind continue to have a dream-like quality that makes a lot of sense now that we know, well, it is more or less a dream.
Verdict: Strong art and fun action scenes make this issue worth picking up. However, the plot twists at the end of Secret Empire #9 make me wonder if this book will ever really provide a satisfying conclusion. While I enjoyed the brighter, punchier art in this issue, and the funny moments in the dialogue the pacing of the story left a lot to be desired. This issue lacked the emotional context previous issues provided, and I really hope Spencer doesn’t leave that out in the next and final issue. Big fight sequences are fun, but an event this big deserves bigger consequences.