The strategic mind of Steve Rogers is something often glossed over, given lip service without any real weight behind it aside from the occasional Marvel historian. Now those without recent proof will have to concede that Rogers physical attributes are only part of the reason he's regarded as an icon, and it took him becoming a villain for those other traits to shine through.
Secret Empire #0 more than just sets the stage for perhaps the biggest betrayal in Marvel history, a surprise given issue #0's of the past, which often don't contain much more than some stylish prologue with a last page setting up the true #1. Secret Empire #0 is not like that at all and gets things going in a hurry. If you've been a bit bored with the past and present narrative of Spencer's Captain America: Steve Rogers series, you'll be glad to know your time there wasn't wasted, and Spencer picks up the pace dramatically here.
Within the book's opening pages you'll have a better grasp on how Cap's altered history plays into all this, but a major theme of Secret Empire will be more than just the betrayal of one man, but humanity's habit of making decisions based on fear and doubt. That as much as anything Rogers orchestrated caused this meltdown to happen, and if the Marvel Universe comes out of this it will be beyond interesting to see the changes that are made as a result.
Dealing with the matter at hand, the skillful maneuvering of Rogers, even when things don't go strictly according to plan, can't be overstated. Sure he's the villain in all this, and really does nothing here to make you feel empathy for him, but it's still weirdly delightful to watch his plan come together.
Artist Daniel Acuna delivers on the visuals throughout the book, especially in one particular sequence later in the issue. The dour and anxious tone are perfectly conveyed with bountiful shadows and washes of red, and his Rogers looks as if he's got the weight of the world on his shoulders. It's not born out of guilt though, but of purpose, and Acuna is able to illustrate the difference.
Secret Empire #0 isn't your typical #0 issue and rewards the faithful who have stuck by this character despite what their personal feelings might be towards him at the moment. It's hard to root against an icon, but don't be surprised when you almost enjoy watching him break apart what he's worked so hard to build his entire career. You'll be conflicted, outraged, even sad, but you won't be able to put the book down.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars.
Secret Empire #0 is written by Nick Spencer with art by Daniel Acuna, with a cover provided by Mark Brooks. You can view the official description below, and a preview of the issue is included in the gallery.
The Marvel Universe is under siege from within! Captain America, secretly a true believer in the cause of Hydra, has turned his back on the Super Hero community. Using the trust and respect he has gained over the years he has ascended to a position where he can enacts Hydra's ideals. The death of Jack Flag, the trial of Maria Hill, the second Civil War, the alien Chitauri Queen. All of the dominos of Captain America's plan have been laid out – and it will take only the slightest push to set them into action! Now, the Avengers, the Champions, the Defenders, the Guardians of the Galaxy, the X-Men and more will be tested. As Hydra's grip tightens around the Marvel Universe, the heroes stand at the precipice of an unprecedented challenge. How will they Marvel Universe cope with this shattering betrayal by the most trusted among them?
Secret Empire #0 is in stores this Wednesday.