This is it. This is the big one. In the wise words of Red Foxx: "I'm coming, Elizabeth."
Or at least, I would be if this were nearly as bad as I feared it would be.
With Secret Empire #10, for the first time, Secret Empire actually surprised me. Considering this is the ending, that is damning with fine praise. Even then, praise is a strong word. Frankly, the ending is just not as bad as it could have been. That doesn't make it great, or even good; just a spritz of water in a drought.
Don't get me wrong: it's still far too little far too late, but the time it took to read its 30-or-so pages wasn't as miserable as I've become accustomed to with Secret Empire.
So, the Underground, the Avengers, the Ultimates, the X-Men, the Champions, and everyone else puttering around Earth in Marvel Comics right now have taken down Hydra, that just leaves Hydra Iron Cap, who has the majority of a Cosmic Cube in his chest plate.
It turns out that's still enough to start futzing with reality in a major way, and it looks like he may turn the tide yet. That just leaves it to the plans of Sam Wilson (the real Captain America), Ant-Man, and the Winter Soldier to save the day.
Can we just agree to forget the Cosmic Cube exists for a bit after this story? Let's drop the Infinity Gauntlet too for a bit. You see, they're good tools for the villain, because their god-devices that make Thanos, the Red Skull, Doctor Doom, and anyone else who gets their paws on them extra scary. However, when the heroes use them, it just feels cheap.
That's why Kobik wasn't the worst character idea in the world, because it made the Cube limited and something that needed to be negotiated with instead of just, "Grab this and save the day."
The predominance of Bucky in Secret Empire #10 was a nice change of pace, and it gave some importance to Zub's Thunderbolts from a few months back. I'm always up for more Winter Soldier in my comic books, and it's kind of sweet how his softer side is what brought back real Steve Rogers and won Kobik back to his side.
We've just touched on some spoilers, but we're going to move deeper in from here.
So yeah, that memory of Steve Rogers was brought back by Kobik into the real world. That leaves a lot of questions on the table. If this Steve is just a memory of Kobik's, is it really the real Steve Rogers. All memory is skewed, and, I don't care that she's effectively a goddess, she is still a child. Also, that still kind of makes Hydra Cap the real Steve Rogers, and that's an uncomfortable thought for a lot reasons.
Also, this still got Cosmic Cube'd away despite the pleadings of otherwise by the Marvel team and Nick Spencer himself.
Seeing a classically costumed Captain America beating the tar out of Hydra Iron Super Cap was pretty damn gratifying after all this time. Steve McNiven brings it to life in a quite legendary fashion.
There's a weird panel that draws on the imagery of Cap and Iron Man fighting from Civil War, which I'm pretty sure McNiven himself originally drew. It makes a harsh parallel between Hydra Nazi Iron Super Cap and Tony Stark, which I feel is unfair. Stark was pretty bad in Civil War, but he wasn't a full-on Nazi or trying to overthrow the U.S. government like Hydra Nazi Iron Super Street Fighter Cap.
The number of artists assigned to this book makes me feel a little queasy. It shows how disposable Marvel clearly thinks they are, and that's just damn messed up. What's worse is the fact that they got a lot of really talented artists: McNiven, Rod Reis, David Marquez, Paco Medina, Jesus Arburtov, Juan Vlasco, and Ron Lim. They deserve more than to be scattered like buckshot all over a comic in the hopes that the extra names will mean that people will like it more.
The McAllisters were the ultimate padding, weren't they? Also, was the older one Barf? And showing him absolving the government for their involvement with the Inhuman concentration camps was a pretty horrific scene. It's like saying, "Yeah, the Nuremberg Trials were kind of a waste of time." Screw that, the U.S. government went along with this; hold everyone accountable. They're literal Nazi sympathizers.
Hydra Nazi Iron Super Street Fighter Tekken Cap might actually make for a decent villain later on if anyone is inclined. He might just seem like a second Crazy 1950s Cap-type villain, but I wouldn't mind seeing him get punched by Steve Rogers, Sam Wilson, Bucky Barnes, and everyone else with a fist and a grudge from now until the end of time. Hell, he could become the next Red Skull and we could enter some really crazy self-examination territory.
Having Hawkeye say, "Avengers Assemble!" was pretty nice.
I know I've still managed to spend most of this review beating the tar out of Secret Empire #10, despite saying that I didn't think it was that bad, It's not, but it still suffers from being a Secret Empire ending. It has some of the same hang-ups, the narration is still trite, and it has little to no self-awareness. But, it does have plenty of satisfying moments to make it bearable.
The biggest crime of Secret Empire was the timing — well, that and the means through which it was delivered. This is a terrible, dark time for the United States. We need to be able to power through it. We need stories about the best part of ourselves, not the worst. That's what heroes are for: they show us what we could be. I don't want to be this. I don't want to be Secret Empire, Hydra Nazi Ultimate Iron Super Street Fighter Tekken Cap, or Clint Barton squatting in a cave hoping for a better tomorrow while the world burns around me. I want to be more than these things. Marvel should want that, too.