SECRET EMPIRE feels like it wants to reach the climax of the event, but still has a few extra steps to go. With extra story layers and twists unfolding, this latest issue walks between two lines. On one hand, it’s the symbolic fulfillment of a moment that has been hyped for over a year. On the other hand, the storyline feels rather padded, setting up more pieces for the inevitable Supreme Leader vs. Marvel heroes final fight. Nevertheless, SECRET EMPIRE #7 remains strong in its narrative callbacks to CIVIL WAR II and how those events have shaped the Marvel heroes today.

SECRET EMPIRE #7
Image from SECRET EMPIRE #7, Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Following SECRET EMPIRE #6, Steve Roger’s attack on the Resistance base in Nevada has left the remaining Avengers presumed dead. With no options left, Natasha Romanoff leads the Red Room heroes on their primary mission: to kill Captain America. Thus the story moves closer to fulfilling CIVIL WAR II’s long-hyped vision: Miles Morales standing over Rogers’ dead body on Capitol Hill. Here, the consequences of Ulysses’ vision take effect, as Natasha traps Miles in order to fulfill the vision herself. Her reason for doing so: to prevent Spider-Man from becoming a killer like herself.

 The Power of Choice

A running theme Nick Spencer includes in this issue is choice and how our choices lead to consequences. Miles Morales, conflicted as he might be, has accepted his role in the storyline. He doesn’t want to be a killer, but given the current state of his world, very few options are left. Yet this choice works both ways, as Miles can easily take a life as much as he can save one. It is the loss he confronts here that forces Spider-Man to choose: embrace the prophecy or refrain from crossing that line.

READ: Find out what happened to the Resistance in SECRET EMPIRE #6!

Similarly, Black Widow’s journey is that of a killer who doesn’t wish to see others travel down her path. Natasha’s childhood was defined by the Red Room, turning her into an assassin and mentally stripping her of agency. Therefore, Natasha sees herself as a killer and Roger’s death as inevitable, thus deeming that she should pull the trigger. This outlook is highlighted in a battle between her and the Punisher, two killers who see themselves on opposite sides of the fight. Where Castle’s motivation lies in the hope that Hydra will revive all that they lost, Widow rejects this idealistic outlook. While she cannot change her actions, she can prevent others from being like her.

The Consequences of our Actions

Alongside the main storyline, other scenes predominantly feature characters forced to grapple with the choices that they have made. The prologue features a scene in which Carol Danvers apologizes for her CIVIL WAR II actions and the damage that they have caused. She recognizes how her weaknesses contributed to not only Rogers’ ascension, but also her loss of favor with the public. By contrast, however, Rogers’ Hydra self is so dedicated to his mission that choice feels like a foreign concept. Every action done to “build a better world” has only resulted in more death and persecution, something Rogers cannot fully grasp. In his mind, Hydra’s mission of global order must be total, even if it means war against his former friends.

SECRET EMPIRE #7
Image from SECRET EMPIRE #7, Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

The artwork for this issue, unfortunately, is something of a mixed bag, primarily due to how much its quality shifts. Andrea Sorrentino’s designs vary between “detailed enough” and “slightly muddled,” most notably when the size of characters come into focus. This doesn’t make the images unrecognizable per say, but it definitely stands out compared to the moments of quality. Some of these “quality” moments include a shot of Widow and Punisher’s confrontation split amongst many smaller panels, as well as Spider-Man’s close-up beat down of Captain America. Overall, the artwork still works for what it is, but I’ve seen a lot better in previous SECRET EMPIRE issues.

READ: Learn what Miles Morales and his team were doing prior to joining the Red Room in CHAMPIONS #10

SECRET EMPIRE #7: Final Thoughts

SECRET EMPIRE #7 succeeds at building upon its storyline for the final act, yet this chapter feels like a transition period. On its own, this story succeeds in its writing and thematic content, despite some rather mixed art design. In the context of SECRET EMPIRE, it shifts focus away from the primary Resistance storyline in order to finalize a long-hyped storyline. But if the issue’s closing pages prove anything, it’s that hope has risen anew amongst the Avengers.

 

SECRET EMPIRE #7 by Nick Spencer and Andrea Sorrentino
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
While its placement in the storyline feels slightly padded, SECRET EMPIRE #7's narrative works in analyzing whether Spider-Man will choose or reject his vision destiny.
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