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Champions and the Secret Empire Tie-Ins

We’re pretty familiar with the routine at this point. Marvel’s big summer event simmers with lead-in stories and “road to” developments before kicking off with a Free Comic Book Day prologue. Then we hit the main event, and queue up the requisite mini-series, including the anthology book with short stories from a variety of up-and-coming creators. And, of course, the tie-ins. Everyone has a tie-in. Occasionally these crossovers enhance the main storyline, and in some cases they’re downright essential. It’s increasingly problematic, in fact, that more and more of these comic book events are inscrutable in their own right and require following a good portion of the ancillary material. Sometimes the connection is tangential, but the plot trigger results in a decent one-shot or two-part tie-in. More often than not, however, it just seems like Marvel’s cheap way of selling more copies of their books.

And every once in a while Marvel gives us a stellar event book, and they tie it in with a great monthly series (that we should all be reading anyway). I’m hoping that Champions #10, out this week, didn’t need the Secret Empire banner to help boost its sales, but whatever the case, Mark Waid & Humberto Ramos took advantage of the opportunity to spin a worthy companion tale.

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Secret Empire

Marvel has never shied away from political commentary in its comics, or in its other media offerings, it seems. Did everyone catch Hydra second-in-command Fitz on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. last week, telling a conference room of fascist operatives to get out there and “make our society great again”? And even if Ms. Marvel couldn’t get Clinton elected, and the company has problems keeping closed-minded agendas out of the very comics that speak to acceptance, the effort has always been there, and, in recent years, creators have been encouraged to address social concerns more than ever before. Regardless, Marvel probably didn’t anticipate the controversy or severe reader backlash after Nick Spencer dropped that bomb in the pages of Steve Rogers: Captain America #1 last year.

Out of context it does sound pretty crazy. Captain America, bastion of freedom and liberty, literally covered in the g-d American flag, reveals that he’s actually been a Hydra sleeper agent all these many years, working to subvert the U.S. from the inside. This is the same Hydra that, depending on your comic book history source, had direct affiliation with the Nazis. So yeah, that seemed bad. But obviously the guy is telling a story, and Nick Spencer, as demonstrated by his work in the Sam Wilson series, is as socially conscious and politically savvy as they come. Let the book run its course, people!

The course has included Red Skull machinations, a sentient cosmic cube named Kobik, and one terribly ominous Ulysses prophecy. It’s been a wild ride thus far. And in this week’s kickoff to Marvel’s major summer event, Secret Empire #0, by Spencer, Rod Reis, and Daniel Acuña, things get even wilder.

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