Considering that this thirty-page periodical is undoubtedly the premier precursor to “Marvel Comics” 2017 limited series event “Secret Empire”, “in which Captain America has been transformed into a sleeper agent loyal to Hydra and has been covertly setting the stage to establish Hydra as the main world-power”, the vast majority of its 37,366-strong audience must surely have felt ‘betrayed’ by its contents’ creative shoddiness. It’s certainly hard to imagine a worse gestalt of a comic than Nick Spencer’s collection of choppy, poorly thought-out sub-plots, which amongst its more startling elements includes the ludicrous return of Steve Roger’s murdered mother after twenty years, and its ‘mishmash’ of arguably lower tier artistic talents such as Kevin Libranda, Yildiray Cinar and Jon Malin…
Foremost of the problems to Issue Sixteen of “Captain America: Steve Rogers” is that this title has primarily focused upon the Sentinel of Liberty’s distasteful transformation by Kobik since its first sensationally contentious issue, and yet suddenly, without any warning whatsoever, the two-time Cincinnati City Council candidate astoundingly has the Cosmic Cube “shattered” ‘off-screen’ and this publication’s readers must scratch around for scraps as to what happened from Baron Zemo’s contemplative musings on the matter; Forgive my impatience, Fixer… Perhaps it is because I watched your miscalculations send the fragments we’d worked so hard to retrieve miles away, lost to us across the Arctic!”
To make matters worse, “Secret Empire: Opening Salvo” also suddenly depicts Doctor Erik Selvig as a disobedient servant, whose heart-strings have apparently been pulled on by the “adorable little rug rat” Kobik, and resultantly sends his fragmentised “little girl… far from here” whilst he commits suicide within his laboratory. Just why the Danish scientist has become so infatuated with the square-shaped matrix’s human form is admittedly somewhat understandable, considering that he is “one of the leading experts in Cosmic Cubes” and had “became its caretaker.” But such a deeply emotional tie to the ‘child’ has never debatably been alluded to within Spencer’s narrative before, and definitely not with such strength as to suggest the former S.H.I.E.L.D. consultant would be willing to die rather than destroy her sentience.
Sadly, none of these irregularities are helped by this comic’s constant carousel of illustrators, especially Jon Malin’s Thunderbolt-themed contributions, in which he coarsely pencils the demise of Bucky Barnes whilst strapped to a “perfect replica” of the missile which killed Zemo’s father during the Second World War. Fortunately, there is a modicum of entertainment to be gleaned from Kevin Libranda’s impressive, subtly-coloured treatment of Steve Rogers’ return to London in 1945. However these sequences never last longer than three pages and completely disappear from view half-way through the book.