Friday, 5 October 2018

The Pitch: Daybreaker- Refugee (Riskmen Universe)

Last time I wrote here, I introduced you guys to Ghostman. Now, it's time for another character. This one, I call Daybreaker. This is part of the Riskmen Universe.


If you look at Daybreker's design, there's no denying that I'm heavily influenced by Superman Action Comics and Peter J Tomasi's Superman. I'm also drawing heavily on Geoff  John's Green Lantern. There's not a lot of influence from Marvel, I was somewhat influenced, though, by what I read in Jonathon Hickman's Avengers run.
comics, so there's no point in even pretending that I never thought of them. Particularly, I'm influenced by Grant Morrison's run on

Gameplay-wise, I'm borrowing a lot from older side-scrolling beat-em-ups. River City Ransom, Double Dragon, SNES titles like Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time all influenced the level structure. I learned a lot about how I want to pace each level in the game from the classic Sonic games and even the more recent Sonic Mania. As I'm working with a top-down perspective, I can't deny the influence of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.

Does it sound like I'm dipping my finger in enough proverbial pies yet? Yes? Too Many? Also Yes?

Whoo boy...


So let's get into what the game's about...

All Marcus ever knew was life on earth. He's only ever known his job as a firefighter and his home life looking after his genius daughter, Erin. One day, however, a strange creature attacks Marcus while he is putting out a fire in an old block of flats. In the middle of that attack, Marcus' body lights up and he rams the creature, killing it. Not long after, Erin reveals who Marcus really is.

Marcus's real name is Marvus Al-Turr, a member of the Daybreakers. The Daybreakers were a corps dedicated to monitoring the activities of universal rulers. When the galactic Prince Zazrael turned his attention to eliminating the Daybreakers, Marvus took Erin, who in reality is a living supercomputer named Enfinity, and retreated to earth. When Marvus attempted to leave Enfinity on earth and go back to fight Zazreal, Enfinity reprogrammed his mind to make him think he was an earth native.

Now, though, Zazrael has learned where Marvus, has been hiding with Enfinity. He's sent his best men to retrieve Enfinity and learn the secrets of what Daybreakers remain. Marcus needs to regain his memories and skills to defeat Zazrael's minions and protect the planet he now calls home.

Yeah, it sounds more complicated than hopefully it is.


Daybreaker- Refugee will follow a linear structure- one level after the other with maybe some branches allowing for "sidequest-style" missions. Gameplay will be mostly similar to a common beat-'em-up. You'll have a button to do a basic, physical attack, a button to use one of your combat powers and a button to switch between flight and ground-based combat.

Daybreaker uses solar energy to perform some of his more devastating moves. Right off the bat,
you'll get the ability to light your body up with energy and ram an enemy, but you'll also get the ability to create a light construct clone, plant a "solar bomb" and, yes, launch energy blasts Goku-style. The ability to do this will depend on whether or not your character is in full daylight (they won't always be), as sunlight will fill Daybreaker's "Special meter", which allows him to perform these attacks. As Daybreaker unlocks more of his past memories, he will gain the ability to use these abilities.

Emphasis will be on trying to move and fight quickly, getting through a level quickly and with less damage will award you will be awarded with more EXP to spend on upgrades for your abilities. These will come in handy most during boss fights, which will be mostly against Zazrael's different generals. These bosses will be multi-stage affairs and will take a fair bit of time to really take down.

I'm considering a new-game plus mode. Perhaps where each level takes place at night, so you need to be careful about how you use your solar power, or where your health is slowly chipping away, forcing you to get through levels quickly.

That's currently all for now, next up is Blue Fury and the Temple of Ishdun.

Saturday, 22 September 2018

The Pitch: The Great Ghostman (Riskmen Universe)

Okay, so last week I introduced the Riskmen universe. I gave an overview of the entire city of Newchurch and a basic rundown of the characters. You can check on that here. Today, I give you the pitch for the first game in the universe; the one that's currently in production: The Great Ghostman. As with every game pitch, the plan is to make this using the RPG Maker 2003 engine (though I'm considering other things).


So first, time to talk about the main influences in this game.

Let's start with story: I was heavily influenced by Christopher Yost's Scarlet Spider, featuring KaineNightwing trade ever written and Scott Snyder's Batman, which encouraged me to add a slight horror element to the plot. For gameplay, my main influences are Double Dragon and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. I'd be lying if I said that the Arkham games had NO influence on me (I'm making a superhero game- it's going to have an influence), but the only one I've played is Arkham Origins- Blackgate, so take that as it is. There are a range of RPG Maker 2003 games that have taught me a lot about using the system.
Parker. In fact, I came up with the character not long after reading the first trade in that run. Other books that have influenced me are pretty much every


When Luke Scarce was young, his mother died of cancer. His father, after years of trying to cure her, took his life. Without the guidance of mother or father, Luke lived only for himself. Training himself as a magician, his fame eventually earned him enough money to buy the old Grey's End Theatre in Newchurch City, Australia.

That's when things fell apart.

On Luke's first show, a gunman working for the crimelord Graeme Green opened fire on Luke and twenty other guests. Where his guests died, however, Luke lived, walking the line between life and death. Now, he takes the fight to Green's gang on behalf of the departed as Ghostman.


The Great Ghostman takes place in Grey's End; a derelict suburb in western part of Newchurch city.
The Green Gang practically own the area. Wherever you go, you find their graffiti. Schools set up there are abandoned and in disrepair. Building projects started, but never finished. There's more rubbish on the street than there is concrete. The people there, though, are a strong bunch. They look out for each other as much as they can, balancing their business and family demands with the fights for their own lives under the Green Gang. All they need is for someone like Luke to show them what is possible.


The Great Ghostman is an action-adventure game in a similar vein to the early Zelda titles. You wander Grey's End undertaking missions on behalf of the ghosts that populate the area. Some of those missions operate very much the same way as "dungeons" that Zelda players know quite well.

Combat will operate mostly in a similar way to the Double Dragon games. When in a combat situation, waves of enemies will approach, which you'll defeat with a range of attacks. Some of these enemies will be armed, however, and when you defeat them, you may be able to pick up their weapons and use them yourself.

Ghostman's abilities are based around two powers: his ability to walk through walls and his command of telekinesis. his phase shifting ability acts as a sort of dodge button when in combat, allowing him to walk through enemies before they can land an attack. Telekinesis can be used to pull enemies and certain object towards Ghostman or push them away.

For traversal, your most important ability is ghostsight. This allows Ghostman to see and speak to ghosts all over Grey's End. It also allows Ghostman to find phasing points, which allow him to walk through walls.

In a game where you have ghost powers, its natural that some stealth becomes an important part. Ghostman has some pretty low defence stats, so stealth will usually be your first port of call. You can use telekinesis to bring down enemies and take them out before they see you.

Structure-wise, the game will feature 5 main levels and about 15 side quests. These side quests give you the opportunity to increase your stats.

So far, that's all I have to say about the game. Next I'll be talking about Daybreaker: Rebel, where the universe goes into space.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

The Pitch: The Riskmen Universe

If you've been looking long enough at my blog, you will see that I'm a bit of a superhero fan. I was a 90s kid and grew up in the golden age of superhero Saturday cartoons. Batman: The Animated Series, X-Men, Power Rangers, Ninja Turtles and a range of also-rans made up a large part of my mourning routine.

Something I did that a lot more of, though, was make up my own superhero characters. My reasons were pretty personal. I was born with sight and hearing problems- some of which weren't fixed until I was twelve. What this meant was that I couldn't entirely trust the world around me. My imagination was a world I could trust. As such, considering the shows I was watching and the stories I was consuming, it was only natural that I invent my own super-teams with their own abilities and aesthetics.

I'm 31 now, but seeing what I can pull out of my imagination is still my main pastime. It's the reason I work with game-creation tools as a hobby. With that in mind, let's introduce my concept for a superhero game universe.

Rules for the universe:

Firstly, I'm not making this universe too big. Five heroes get their own games, one is reserved for the teamup. Six games in all, with the possibility for sequels later on.

Secondly, each game will be structured differently. Not every game will be an open-world, Zelda-like adventure, nor do I think it needs to be. Some will be linear, some won't.

Third, and this is a personal gripe. I'm not make my female characters "adorkable". Leave that rubbish to the CW. If my male characters are allowed to have personalities not lifted from Frozen, so are the women.

Fourth, each game will be set in or around one city. Let's set the scene in the next sub-heading.


For location I'm taking what I think are the best parts of Marvel and DC.

From Marvel, I'm taking the notion that all heroes live in the same city. It makes the teamup that much more believable, and allows for some more street-level action throughout each game. Each game will take part in a different section of the city. From DC, I'm using the idea of the fictional city. This should allow for enough freedom for me to design the whole city to accommodate gameplay, rather than trying to warp the gameplay to suit whatever city I base this in. Aside from that, this city is going to be based in Australia. This is for no other reason than I'm Australian and I prefer to write what I know. 

So let me introduce you to Newchurch City:

Newchurch is located in between the cities of Townsville (yes, it's a real place) and Cairns the north-eastern part of the Australian state of Queensland. In this part of the country, it's hot, humid and crocodiles are a constant reality. Demographics-wise, the region is home to a significant immigrant population from various parts of Asia as well as a large indigenous population of Australian Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.

The Characters:

Alright, let's get to the important part. Who are our heroes, what are their origins what can they do and which ones get their own games?


Years ago, the Daybreaker's were peacekeepers throughout the universe, keeping an eye on corrupt rules. When prince Davarous declared war on the Daybreakers, all but three were destroyed. One, Marvus Randor, escaped to earth, took on the name Marcus Ray, and now uses his powers to protect his newfound family on earth. As a Daybreaker, Marvus utilises solar energy into blunt-force attacks. His attack of choice tends to be to cover himself in solar energy and ram opponents. He also possesses enhanced strength and the power of flight. Look out for him in Daybreaker: Refugee.


A world-renowned magician, Luke Scarce dies when his Newchurch show ends with a gunman shooting him and fifteen others. Where the others died, however, Luke found himself stuck walking the line between life and death. Half-man, half ghost, Ghostman now works on behalf of the dead to protect the living. Being part ghost, Ghostman is able to walk through walls. He fights mainly with the power of telekinesis and has the ability to see and speak to departed spirits. His game, The Great Ghostman is currently being developed.
Blue Fury

Indian-Australian Ashna Harolds has worked for Newchurch University for years. When she gets the opportunity to visit a small island off the coast of India to visit the temple of a long-dead cult, she discovers the Bow of Balance. Upon picking up the bow, the spirit of the Fury takes over and Ashna finds herself fighting to restore the balance between order and chaos. In her Blue Fury form, Ashna can enchant the arrows of a limitless quiver. She also has a healing factor, which makes her the perfect divine weapon. You'll learn more about her in Blue Fury and the Temple of Balance.
The Outrider

A modern day Bushranger, Elsie Hammer's father fought police corruption and bike gangs as the Outrider. When he died in the line of duty, however, it became Elsie's turn to take her father's arsenal and motorcycle to become the new Outrider. She's an accomplished stunt rider, and carries an array of weaponry to finish her father's work and beat the corrupt rural police west of Newchurch. She rides into battle in Legacy of the Outrider.
Silver Shark

Aaron Miller's life is hard- an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander boy straight out of high school, he jumps to take the job of a courier. While transporting a strange device between Matthews Island and Newchurch Docklands, a storm knocks him into the water causing the device to explode. When Aaron washes up on the shore, he finds his DNA combined with that of a shark, Aaron now has a shark's agility, speed and magnetic sense (it's a thing; check it out). He'll stuggle between his indigenous and superhero identities in Silver Shark. 
Dr. Patchwork

All Dr. Patchwork has ever known is life in the sewers. A creature created by man Patchwork only knows as the Witchdoctor, Patchwork escaped the villain's torment and reach the city above. A man made of parts of other men, Patchwork is regarded as a monster by the people of Newchurch. The fact that he is super strong and endurable doesn't help matters. He'll bring the team together in Riskmen Vol. 1: Riskmen Rising.

And for the moment, that's all there is to it. Look out for next week, when I introduce the first game in the universe, The Great Ghostman.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Inhumans Vs X-Men (ANAD Marvel)

C'mon X-Men, why can't you die off
like a good little non-MCU property?
Writers: Charles Soule and Jeff Lemire

Artist: Javier Garron

Collects: Inhumans Vs X-Men #0-6

Background Information:

Y’know, I get the feeling that years ago, someone told Tom Brevoort that if you kick the X-Men down the stairs, they make funny noises. Since the beginning of Marvel NOW! in 2013, the X-Men have been getting the absolute snot kicked out of them by the Avengers, other humans, other mutants, and the hand of fate. And by the time Inhumans Vs X-Men came around, everyone at Marvel editorial staff were yelling “WHAT THE HELL! Why isn’t anyone laughing yet?”

It’s almost as if the X-Men were owned by a movie studio that had no connection to Marvel and Marvel are bitter that the children they sold into slavery aren’t coming home to dinner!

Oh, wait. They were. And Marvel are.


Seriously, how does this NOT look like a villain to you?
Or at least, they have been up until last week when Disney bought Fox and all of the X-Men and Fantastic Four characters that came with it. I can’t wait for people to find out that the Fantastic Four are a team that comic fans like only on principle and that the X-Men were already done nearly perfectly in X-Men (2000), X-2, First Class, Days of Future Past, The Wolverine, Logan, Deadpool and Deadpool 2. That’s right, folks, Fox made more movies that X-3, Origins and Apocalypse!

But I digress. My point is, the acquisition of Fox by Disney is something I’m sceptical of. But there is one silver lining: now that Disney can exploit the X-Men like Chinese children in a shoe factory, we might be rid of events like Inhumans Vs X-Men; a book designed to kick the X-Men down as far as they can go so that Marvel can promote an MCU property.

A lot of the plot of this book began in Death of X and you know what? I quite liked Death of X. It was a solid mystery book with a final twist that was well set-up. In that one, the world became convinced that the X-Men are baddies because they destroyed a cloud of poison that affects only them and gives Inhumans their unremarkable powers. Yep, the Mutants became the bad guys because they’d rather not be poisoned. 

I can answer that question, Ms Marvel, but you won't like
And on that note, in Inhumans Vs X-Men, the X-people have decided that in order to have enough time to deal a second poison cloud, the Inhumans have to be put out of commission for a while. So they lock the Inhumans in hell. And I’m pretty sure that this is what Marvel thought was all that was necessary to convince us that the X-Men were the baddies here. “Hell?” they seem to say “You know who lives in Hell? Satan does and do you know what Satan is? A BADDIE!” to which the rest of the world, who have just watched Lucifer says “Are you sure? He seems rather charming and that’s without the ‘trying-not-to-die’ angle.” And Marvel then sticks their fingers in their ears singing “LALALALALA”.

Oh, wow it's... you know what? I don't
Now I’m someone who believes that event book should contain all essential elements to the story in the event itself instead of in numerous tie-ins. I believe this because I have limited funds like the rest of humanity and my brain is still functioning. Marvel however, seem to think that most of its audience have made it big on bitcoin. As a result, some key parts of the story- parts that are essential to understanding what the hell is going on- are relegated to tie-ins. As a result, the majority of this book left me wondering things along the lines are “How did they know this?” “Where did these characters come from?” “How many more pages before I take a bath with a toaster oven?”

The art here is just good. It shows everything happening, it’s just a pity that the things happening just aren’t very interesting. It represents a missed opportunity for artists because the potential for awesome panels in a book where the Inhumans and X-Men really go all out in combat, but most of the book is either the Inhumans trying to get out of hell, or the X-Men trying to figure out how not to die. I know people blame Civil War for being action-light, but it’s a roller-coaster compared to this one.

Overall, this book is exactly what it sounded like when the event was announced; a marketing ploy to direct us from one product to another. It’s a shameless MCU advertisement designed to make us like the Inhumans more than the X-Men. The problem? At the end of the day, you’re likely to hate the Inhumans more that you ever did. It’s like every time Miley Cyrus is allowed in a recording studio. It gets one out of five toaster-oven baths.

Monday, 23 July 2018

Superman Volume 1: Son of Superman (Rebirth) Review

Supes, you gotta turn of the flash
on your camera, dude.
Writer: Peter J Tomasi
Artist: Jimmy Palmiotti
Collects: Superman: Rebirth #1, Superman #1-6

Background Information

Superman's past few years in the New 52 was... rocky. I maintain that Grant Morrison's Action Comics was a great Superman story, but it's hard to pretend that it caught on with general readers. The following issues were an absolute train wreck. Lois and Clark were broken up, Clark was de-aged so that he looked ultimately naïve and the stories themselves were great in concept, but poor in execution. The way they fixed this was very long winded, but long story short, DC brought back the old Superman with the old Lois Lane and got rid of the New 52 versions of each. I do something similar with my children all the time!


By this stage, I think we can safely say that DC Rebirth is good. It's sold well enough and rarely do we hear a word against it. Most of that, I'm convinced, is due to books like Son of Superman.

So the old Superman is in the main universe again with a wife and now a ten year old son. A "Son of Superman", if you will. This son, Jonathan Kent, is developing big boy powers of his own, so the old Clark Kent now has to teach his son not to kill people by accident. You know how it is; your child hits puberty and suddenly there's a lot of awkward conversations about girls.

I hope every Spider-Man writer sees this.
I get the feeling that the Rebirth initiative as a whole was designed to troll All-New-All-Different-All-Weather-All-The-Time Marvel. This is probably most relevant in Rebirth's Superman. Peter J Tomasi's Superman seems to point at Dan Slott's Spider-Man and say "See? Having a superhero married with a kid is a GOOD thing because it allows characters to grow and mature  and maybe one day you can get a movie where Peter isn't defined by high school!"

He then turns  Tom King's Batman and says "Hey, kid's develop best with two parents at home, too!"

To which, Tom King responds "Okay" (with his fingers crossed behind his back).

This book really sells itself on the positive family dynamic. There's a weird habit that a lot of shows have of portraying married characters as being on the brink of divorce. Son of Superman bucks that trend by giving us a Lois and Clark that are happily married. The drama, instead, comes from the Superhero action which is accentuated by Clark's efforts as a father. It helps that Jon's character is probably just as well-written as everyone else's. Many comic writers try to portray children as snottier adults, but Tomasi's gives us a son of Superman who is more wide-eyed and in awe of those around him. As a result, we actually like this character as opposed to, say, Damien Wayne, which needed a pretty long adjustment period and even then people cheered when he died because they thought Tim was going to be Robin again.

The actual events of the story, the "what exactly happens here?" are a bit of a letdown, though. Superman takes Jonathan back to the fortress of solitude, where a Kryptonian robot that's hell-bent on ethnic cleansing gets activated and decides that  Jonathan must be killed for not being a purebred. Was this thing programmed in Auschwitz? I thought Krypton was meant to be more progressive than this! The whole thing completely fails to be engaging. The whole is fixed by... wait for it...

...getting Batman involved.

The bad guy is the one with the S on his chest.
Hang on, DC, are you trying to tell me that a man capable of moving the earth out of its orbit needs the help of a grown man who depends on his butler? Why is Batman even here? I know he's had the more popular movies but it's not like you need to introduce him to anyone! You could live your entire life in a cave and I bet you know who drives the Batmobile! Why not include Blue Beetle? Booster Gold? John Constantine? You could build your universe this way, but no; you need to lend credibility to the claim that Batman is all DC has!

This is an unashamedly pretty book, as well. Every character is designed to be highly expressive, which adds to their relatability. The way Johnathon is drawn hits home how (literally) wide-eyed and optimistic the lad is. Superman looks his age without looking past his prime. The book is big, colourful and bombastic in the way it communicates its action, like a gang war during Mardi Gras.

There are some who are going to claim that Son of Superman is a return to hope and optimism that "SOUPAMAHN WAS ALWAYZ MENT 2 B!" I don't know if I would say that, but it's certainly Superman starting on an era that he was always meant to reach eventually. Time will tell if Bendis has an inch of respect for what happened in this run... Dammit.

Four out of five Mardi Gras gangsters.

Monday, 11 June 2018

The Pitch: MMPR

So, previously I pitched a game based on Daredevil. Now, I've got another idea, so here we go.

As always, I work with RPG Maker 2003. I have been working with this program for a while, so most of my ideas begin with "How would this work on RPG Maker?" I'm hoping I can make an interesting game with solid core concepts regardless of the limitations of engine I'm using.

History of Power Rangers in video games.

Someone greenlighted this.
Okay, so like Daredevil, Power Rangers hasn't  exactly had a glowing history in the gaming medium. The most notable games in the franchise have been the Power Ranger games on the Super Nintendo/Sega Genises, and even those games were stock-standard beat-em-ups with no story and character models that were all recoloured versions of the red ranger- even the female ones!

In recent years, Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Mega Battle was released and it was absolutely panned for  uninspired gameplay, and a bad Megazord sections. Fans of the series exist, but they're yet to get a game that is even decent, never mind good.

The Challenge

Power Rangers as a TV show is a franchise unlike any other. Every season since 1999 has seen a new iteration of the concept, only to be dumped after two seasons at most. As such, it's gone in and out not just with fans, but with production companies as well. It's ping-ponged between Saban and Disney, and is now in the hands of Hasbro. This means that, even though Mighty Morphin' is considered the quintessential series, it's been difficult to really pin down what a true Power Rangers experience needs. In many ways, Power Rangers is whatever it's showrunners need it to be. Translating all of that into one game will be difficult to say the least.

You know how it is- you show up to a party and everyone's wearing the
same outfit.
Another problem for me is that because of the program I'm using, Zord combat is going to be challenging. Sprites in RPG Maker can only get so big, so communicating the sheer size of the Zords is not going to be easy at all. I've thought of some possible solutions, but so far, none come close to doing what I  need them to do.

Fortunately, I have an idea. One that should be able to fix most of my problems. It all begins with story.


It occurs to me that the rangers look like they're just about to
form a dance troupe.
It's been hundreds of years since anyone even uttered the word Power Rangers. When the Rotlings came to earth, the planets last team of rangers were unprepared. They fell quickly, and the Morphin' Grid- the source of their power, was broken.

In a future where apocalypse is reality, humanity struggles to survive. Forced to hide from the Rotlings, our species works tirelessly to secure, food, water and energy wherever it can be found.

This isn't enough for Eustace, though. An artist in a world of warriors, Eustace reads stories of a time when humanity didn't just survive, they thrived. They progressed. They lived. Desperate for anything that remains of a better time, he ventures into the forbidden city of Angel Grove. While there, he stumbles upon a cave, awakening an ancient being calling himself Zordon. Zordon offers him a solution to mankind's predicament: restore the Morphin' Grid, become the White Ranger and gather other rangers to help him save humanity from the Rotlings forever.


I first got the idea for this game while, oddly enough, playing a Pokémon fangame and watching the original Japanese version of Power Rangers, Super Sentai. MMPR, as I'm calling this project is a mixture of gameplay styles from the original Resident Evil games and Dynasty Warriors.

When you're unmorphed, you're vulnerable and unable to inflict
major damage.
You assemble a team of three or four rangers and spend time playing in both civilian and ranger form. In human form, your goal is to avoid being killed by the monsters that plague your world. Your fighting skills are enough to keep monsters away from you, but you cannot deal damage. In this form, however, your power bar gradually increases. When full, you can morph into your ranger form. In this form, you use simple combo attacks to deal damage to and kill enemies. Your time in this form, however, is limited as your power bar will start to decrease. You will turn back to human form when your power is spent. This should turn the game into a careful strategy of morphing at just the right time.

Now would be just the right time.
Missions will be based around going to different cities throughout the Power Rangers franchise and restoring the Morphin Grid. As you do so, you will unlock new suits for the seven (yes, seven) rangers. Each one will be based on one of the teams in the show's history (with some changes to colours to fit the colours of the characters) and will bring new movesets and stats to the characters.
You have NO idea how long it took to make this screenshot.
Bosses will also be based on popular monsters from a range of seasons (the psycho rangers from In Space are totally making an appearance), and will be the basis of each area's structure.

Now, I will admit. Currently, I have no plans to use the Zords. My in-story excuse is that the rangers simply do not have the Morphin' Grid power to make the Zords work, but they may yet appear as special attacks that can clear a large area.

As with all pitches, I'm not certain this game will ever come to fruition, but I've had the idea in my head for too long, now. At the end of the day, never say never, but I'm glad to get this idea out there.

Now over to you- is this an idea worth pursuing or should I never touch this franchise again with a ten-foot pole? What suits do you think should make it into the game? Let me know, I'm interested in feedback.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Secret Empire (Marvel) Review

Honestly, though? Most of theses
characters aren't in this book!
Writer: Nick Spencer

Artists: Andrea Sorrentino, Steve McNiven, Mark Brooks and Daniel Acuna

Background Information:

2017 was the year Marvel shot themselves in the foot more than barefooted man in a needle dump. Inhumans Vs X-Men was all about how evil the X-Men were for being gassed by the Inhumans- a claim that sounds a lot like blaming the twin towers for being in Al-Qaeda’s flight path. Various men over 38 complained that Thor was wearing lipstick and Captain America….

Oh, Captain America.


Captain America post Secret Wars was turned by Spencer into an agent of HYDRA. This pleased absolutely nobody. So-called “SJWs” hated the change because a character with a Jewish creator was now a Nazi and the “anti-SJW” community hated it because OF COURSE the straight, white, cis character was a Nazi because that’s what pop-culture does these days! That dedication to upsetting just about everyone continues in Secret Empire, which seems dedicated to driving away the last dregs of the Marvel fandom that still exists.
Remember how Marvel is supposed
to be the colourful one?

You know a book has a problem when the title bears no resemblance to what actually happens in  
the book. See, a secret is a fact or reality that is deliberately hidden from the public, whereas empire suggests a group of nations that is under the control of one larger, more powerful nation. Pay attention to that as we have a look at the plot of a book that is actually called Secret Empire:

The recently Hydrafied Captain America takes over the USA- and JUST the USA- and then makes everyone aware that Hydra is in charge by BLOWING UP WASHINGTON DC! So, Marvel, if this isn’t particularly secret and also not quite an empire, why are you calling it Secret Empire. Is it because you wanted to bank on the word “secret” that you’ve used in Secret War, Secret Warriors and Secret Invasion? Is it because the word “empire” sounds more like the kind of word used to describe the baddies than “kingdom” or “government”?
And how they had consistent art?

I mention this, because Secret Empire is a book that feels as though it’s more about PR than story. The book tries its best to put the focus on the new legacy characters- not because Marvel has any clue what to do with them (the characters do precious little in the story despite being given a huge chunk of page space), but so that Marvel can parade them around like so many Hollywood celebrities with Ugandan orphans. It’s more about how Marvel appears to the general public than where Marvel are going with the two years of monthly storytelling since Secret Wars.

I’ve heard rumblings amongst the community that Secret Wars is meant to be some scathing criticism of the Trump presidency. I for one am quite fond of Trump criticisms, but if Spencer wants this to be a Trump criticism, he’s absolutely failed at it. Before he got into power, Trump could be most charitably described as “not Hillary Clinton”. Captain America was considered to be an American hero by literally everyone. Furthermore, Cap is able-bodied, brave and intelligent! The only similarity between the two is the fact that they’re both terrible choices and there’s no way that’s enough for the metaphor to work!

And how that art was always interesting?
Nick Spencer isn’t by any means a bad writer. When he’s writing upbeat, humorous books such as his work with Ant-Man and The Superior Foes of Spider-Man, it’s pretty clear that he’s in his element. Secret Wars isn’t an upbeat book though, and Spencer seems to have no idea what to do with it. Most issues he starts out writing relatively dark dialogue which at worst is boring, but then something snaps in his head and he realises that if there isn’t a joke, he’ll likely develop a brain tumour. So he puts in the first joke that comes to his head, which is usually gaudy and instead of the issue just being boring, what we get is an issue that is painful.

If you don’t like to know the ending of books, stop reading now. I would call this a spoiler, but I get the feeling Spencer “spoiled” things enough since the beginning of the new Marvel NOW. One of the biggest kick to the teeth is the way that Secret Empire resolves itself. When HydraCap first started, Spencer insisted that this was the 100% real, cross-his-heart-hope-to-die Captain America. By the end of the book, however, we find out that HydraCap in fact isn’t the 100% real, cross-your-heart-hope-to-die Captain America and that the real version was inside the Cosmic Cube all along. Someone needs to tell Spencer that there is a difference between misdirection and flat out lying and that what he did was definitely the latter!

Actual footage of Nick Spencer in private.
I feel bad for criticising the artists here, because Andrea Sorrentino (who is one of my favourite comic artists currently in the industry) does at least a third of the art duties, but it honestly the worst Sorrentino art I’ve seen to date. Now, as I just said, Sorrentino is an excellent artist, but he’s an excellent artist when the writer knows what to do with him. When he’s working with Jeff Lemire, for example, you get a book that highlights just the right part of the action and it lends the book a kinetic, visceral energy the best example of which are in Lemire’s Green Arrow and Old Man Logan. In Secret Empire, there’s so little action in the issues that Sorrentino draws that we never get that feeling of primal brutality that makes him such an interesting artist.

The other problem is that this is an event book. Event books need big, colourful, artists who work with a sense of grand scale and that’s not Sorrentino’s wheelhouse. As such, the better art in this book comes from the other THREE ARTISTS. Each of these artists, though, have very different styles and as a result, nothing in this book feels like it belongs in the same story as anything around it, like a heroin dealer at a christening.

It’s been a long time since I’ve review a book this big and an even longer time since I spent this much time reviewing a book. But honestly, I keep finding things I hated and really nothing I liked outside of the artwork. It gets one out of five PR projects.