I do wonder why I do this to myself. I know what I'm getting into. I'm only back on board because this is the only comic Bucky Barnes is appearing in right now. Hell, he's on this cover.
Spoiler: he's only in the Secret Empire for two pages.
So the Underground have launched their assault on the Hydra Secret Empire. The Underground, the Defenders from New York, and the forces previously stuck outside the Shield have all converged on Washington D.C to at last take the fight to Hydra. Even Emma Frost from New Tian summons Magneto to use his considerable power against the fascist regime.
In their panic, Baron Zemo and Arnim Zola put Steve Rogers in modified Iron Man armor that can be powered by the Cosmic Cube fragments that they still have.
Meanwhile, we see what is going on with the other Steve Rogers which has found Kobik. The answer is more contrived than any theory on the subject could have possibly been.
It's amazing how non-engaging a fight of all my favorite Marvel heroes against their most hated villains can be. Very little about this works. It doesn't help that the Leinil Francis Yu artwork reminds me of the boring non-finale of Inhumans vs. X-Men. Yu's art is always welcome; it's just a shame that he couldn't be bringing a better story to life.
It's funny how, the longer one reads the series, they can find more things to dislike about its composition. For me, it was the narration. It's never been great, but it really hit new lows here. The breaking point was: "We fought for the future. And the future fought for us." This was over a panel showing the Champions, of course.
That does bring me to the one actually entertaining part of this. While the heroes of Earth are laying siege to Washington, Taskmaster and Black Ant begin discussing the odds that Hydra could actually win this. They conclude it's better to side with the winners, so they release the Champions and remind them of all the times they were nice to them during their incarceration, including getting them Shake Shack. They ask that they get the Avengers go easy on them for this, and, naturally, Spider-Man (Miles) still webs them up anyway.
This is one story where the superhero tradition of nonlethal pacification is kind of maddening. Sharon Carter uses a nonlethal poison on Doctor Faustus. Bucky KO's some Hydra guards. Black Panther stops before braining Baron Zemo.
I'm sorry, but no. No, no, no. These guys are running a fascist Nazi regime in the United States. This has become an actual war for the U.S. They have killed thousands and tortured and incarcerated more than that. Plus, Sharon, T'Challa, and Bucky haven't strayed away from lethal methods in the past when the situation calls for it.
I did have high hopes for this at one point. I wasn't the biggest fan of the Hydra-Cap story arc in Steve Rogers: Captain America, but, when Secret Empire was announced, I thought it could be interesting. Sure, I was still tired of the yearly summer event from Marvel. Still, the premise had potential. Plus, the promise of fascist Nazi-worshippers getting their asses kicked is always enticing.
Avoid this like the plague. Leinil Francis Yu, Rod Reis, and Joe Bennett provide good artwork, and the color work of Sunny Gho and Dono Sanchez-Almara complements them well. However, it doesn't make the proceedings entertaining in any way.
Hopefully, Bucky Barnes will be in a better comic after this story is over.
Put Winter Soldier in something like, I don't know…another Thunderbolts title by the great Jim Zub!