*Ties into the Secret Empire crossover
Another Secret Empire tie-in, yay! I know that's what you all were waiting for.
I was actually kind of looking forward to Secret Empire: Underground #1. It has a lot of characters I genuinely like in it: Mockingbird, Hercules, Sam Wilson, and Ant-Man. Quicksilver is really cool too, though he's not really one of my favorites. Oh, also Iron Man is in it for a bit.
The plot of this one is that this group of Underground members are searching for a shard of the Cosmic Cube in the Antarctic Savage Lands. They run into Sauron, who has just been deposed by a small group of mutates made up of Whiteout, Vertigo, and Lupa with the help of the shard. Iron Man AI has to stay on the ship, leaving Mockingbird, Quicksilver, Hercules, Ant-Man, and Sam Wilson to go out into the Savage Land wilderness. They have to form a tentative alliance with Sauron to get to the location of his citadel and retrieve the Cosmic Cube shard from the three mutates.
It's a fairly straightforward story, and it's a really entertaining read. This story is far enough removed from the whole "Nazi America" plot that the humor and one-liners don't feel tone-deaf or tasteless.
There are also a lot of nice character moments. Sam Wilson and Quicksilver are understandably on-edge, the former having been betrayed by his best friend and the latter having his sister under the control of Rogers and some form of demon. Sam admits his loss of faith in his comrades to Ant-Man and tells him to not spread around that he has snuck his daughter out of the country.
You get to see Mockingbird in a leader capacity, and, of course, Quicksilver buts heads with her on a regular basis. The lighter tone of the story comes from Sauron's over-the-top villainy, Ant-Man's jokes, and Hercules' excitement with prospect of fighting dinosaurs.
There's a really cool fight scene in the middle where the group has to throw down with a pair of T-Rexes being ridden by barbarians. Each member has to use their specific powers to bring down the beasts, and it makes nice use of their talents. The final fight with the three mutates is really good too, and it's plotted out well.
The biggest flaw with Secret Empire: Underground #1 is that it runs a little long. The pacing gets slowed down frequently to take up as much page-space as possible. It does give room for the humor and dialogue, but this story really could have been shorter (and maybe kicked down a buck in price too).
Eric Koda's artwork is satisfyingly cartoony and well-suited for the elaborate action scenes of the book. Each character is very expressive, and you can see the emotions being communicated very easily. The dinosaurs, Sauron, and Ant-Man in particular look really cool. The coloring of Antonio Fabela brings the look together very well with a nice mixture of bright and dark shades.
Secret Empire: Underground #1 was a very charming adventure comic. The protagonists are likable, the action is cool, and the story manages to conclude itself in this single issue, meaning you don't even really need to read Secret Empire to understand everything that is going on. I can recommend this to anyone who is looking for a fun time with a team of underused Avengers.