After my thunderous review of Captain America #25 (his name was Barf), one might not expect me to return to Secret Empire. Even if I did, they might expect me to put this on blast once again.
I did say that I was finished with this series, and I didn't pick up #6 or #7. However, some of the details of this issue did pique interest. Firstly, the cover and interior promise of spotlighting my preferred Captain America, Sam Wilson. Plus, the turning of the tide in this dreary story might lighten things up. There was another thing, which you may already know about, that made it so my fanboyish nature created a necessity to grab this comic book.
So, Sam is back in uniform and has picked up the shield once more. Through some elaborate means, he has gotten a message through to Alpha Flight in orbit and the Defenders in New York. He tells them to give one last effort to break through the Shield and the Darkforce Dome respectively. He then flies out between the two with the newly acquired Cosmic Cube shard in the hopes that it will allow their plans to succeed.
Through certain means, it does, and the fight against the Secret Empire is renewed once more.
Meanwhile, the other Steve Rogers finds some familiar faces.
It actually surprised me how quickly it took to summarize the plot of this issue, and this highlights the problem with both this specific comic and the series as a whole. It is so weighed down with unnecessary padding that it threatens to drown Secret Empire at every turn.
While #8 does have some satisfying moments of the Underground, the Defenders, Alpha Flight, the Ultimates, and the Guardians of the Galaxy finally rallying together to bring down Hydra, the good points are scattered throughout the miasma of faffing about to reach the page limit.
It's so frustrating, because I still think that Nick Spencer is a great writer, and Daniel Acuna is a solid enough artist to make this comic look good.
To further illustrate my point, I'm going to go over some more specific plot details that desperately needed ejecting but pushed this comic to its five-dollar-qualifying limit. So, spoilers, I guess.
The plans that Doctor Strange and Captain Marvel put together to break through their respective barriers and the planning thereof take up a good bit of the issue. Strange barters his Sanctum Santorum to some creatures to attain a spell that could break through the Dome, and Rocket Raccoon finds a bomb that could potentially break the barrier that unnecessarily references the Ultimate Nullifier. Meanwhile, Sam is shot out of the sky by a Hydra jet. He falls into the ocean, and neither Strange nor Carol's plans work. Then Sam flies out of the water, Quasar wakes up, and Maria Hill finds Blackout. Quasar blasts through the Shield, and Hill shoots Blackout in the head, which breaks the Darkforce Dome.
Neither of these details required much explanation, while the prior plans took way more page-space and were completely pointless. Also, there's the new gaping hole in Captain America's chest, which apparently is no big deal.
But I'd be lying if I said the rallying moments and the speech Sam gives is pretty cool, even if the one he gave in Captain America #25 was a lot better — despite how bad that train wreck was.
The action was pretty sparse and unfocused, so that does hurt the pacing a fair bit.
Daniel Acuna's artwork is pretty solid throughout, and he has a lot of material to work with given the wide variety of settings. The scene wherein Quasar blasts the hell out of the Shield looks pretty cool. His color work in this comic is fantastic. The contrast is done well, and the bright parts pop of the page very well.
It's bookended by Rod Reis's parts in the ethereal scenes with other Steve Rogers. Those have been some of the best-looking parts of the series. Joe Bennett gets a little part of the comic, and it does annoy me that they had to split up this comic with multiple different artists a-la Dark Days and Captain America #25. Bennett's work looks markedly different from Daniel Acuna, so it's pretty incongruous.
This comic is…functional. It has more high points than low points, but it's badly hindered by the mounds of padding. It's one of the best issues of the series, even if that's not necessarily saying a whole lot. I can tentatively recommend it.