Or – “Goddess, Thief, Centurion, Spy, Walking Tank, Mutant And Loon: Attorneys At Law.”

The Avengers have been through hell and back since the events of Avengers: Disassembled several years ago…  The core membership changed, split, changed, dissolved, reassembled and split again, and the only real constant has been change itself.  Now that Norm-O has been outed as the head of superhuman affairs in the Marvel U, Steve Rogers has taken over and vowed to relaunch the team in the light of the Heroic Age.  But as much as he’s a star-spangled super-soldier, Rogers also has extensive experience with SHIELD, and understands the need for steath, the need for non-costumed sanctions, the need for dark-ally shenanigans.  To that end, we give you…  The Secret Avengers.

Secret Avengers #1
WRITER: Ed Brubaker
ARTIST: Mike Deodato
COLORS: Rain Beredo
LETTERS: Dave Lanphear
PUBLISHEDBY: Marvel Comics

Previously, on Secret Avengers:  Tony Stark may be an untrustworthy, undependable sack at times, but he has proven himself on occasion to be a futurist in the truest sense of the word.  I like to think that it was the murder of his oldest associate that threw him into the spiral that led to the end of SHIELD and the $#!+storm that was the Dark Reign.  Now that Steve Rogers has returned from beyond the pale (courtesy of a magical time-travel gun, for those who don’t recall) he has revived ANOTHER of Iron Man’s ideas…  Of course, when Iron Man did it he called it “Force Works,” and it was basically X-Force with A’s on their jackets, but whatever.  Now that he’s the public face of heroism (and I suspect, now that he’s no longer the active Captain America) Steve has assembled a team of Avengers designed to handle the things that superheroes can’t, to inject themselves into situations BEFORE they’ve devolved into costumed chicanery and slugfests. 

To quote the man himself, “Our world is out of control…”  Steve Rogers narrates his explanation of how odd and how vicious the human race in the 21st century can be, as we witness a Roxxon functionary returning to his hotel room, drunk, with a skank on each arm.  Once locked in the comfort of his suite, it is clear that one of his paramours isn’t interested in Mr. Roxxon-schmuck at all, and she quickly punches him across the room into a wall.  “Do NOT paw at me,” intones the Valkyrie as she and Black Widow prepare to deal with Roxxon’s security forces.  (The Roxxon corporation, for those not in the know, is an evil concern, known for genetic manipulation, endangering human life, extreme perfidy and general unpleasantness.  I’m pretty sure Dilbert works there…)  The shield maiden and the SHIELD agent make quick work of two dozen rent-a-cops, allowing the all-new Fighting American Captain Steve Rogers to bust in and take their target.  Rogers praises them for getting in and getting out without casualties, but the Valkyrie isn’t thrilled with the denoument of the mission.  As the Avengers race away in their VTOL transporty ship, they are observed by mysterous armored types with dragons on their chests…  Ominous.

Mike Deodato’s art is mighty pleasant throughout this issue, by the way, especially his rendition of the next member to show his fuzzy, blue face:  The Beast.  Still in his feline form (or at least still sporting a feline nose) Dr. McCoy and Captain Rogers analyze the MacGuffin, revealed to be (maybe) a Serpent Crown.  Cap has a romantic reunion with his coordiating liaison/girlfriend Sharon Carter, and we get to see two more Secret Avengers in action:  Moon Knight, and the new Ant-Man (updated to a more classic look.  We get to see how Rogers brought both men into the fold (Moony’s initiation is interesting, Ant-Man’s a little cliche) infiltrating a Roxxon location to install a data skimmer.  The intel indicates that Roxxon is up to something sneaky on Mars (!!) and Steve casually mentions that he’ll have it looked into.  (The reactions of the Avengers as they realize he has someone who can just fly to Mars is pretty awesome…)  Smash cut two days forward, as Rogers gathers his forces and tells them they’re headed for the Red Planet, as he lost contact with his Mars agent that morning.  A flashback shows us Nova-Prime Richard Ryder (YAY!) investigating Mars and finding exotic weapons and a hidden catacombs where he finds another Serpent Crown…  Nova drops his helmet, ignoring the protestations of the Worldmind, and reaches for the crown.  With her team off on a big space adventure, Sharon Carter is caught unawares as her ship is invaded by snake-armored guys led by…  Nick Fury???

This is a strong launch issue, certainly stronger than Avengers #1 last week, but there are some issues that I have with this assemblage that the book doesn’t really address.  Moon Knight’s mental issues, Nova’s cosmic status, the Valkyrie’s identity problems over the years, The Beast’s moral problems with the X-Men leading him HERE…  This issue basically throws us striaght into the action without so much as a “by your leave,” which is somewhat off-putting.  Still, Brubaker’s character work and dialogue get us through it, and even the characters who get little to no screen time (War Machine for one, Sharon for another) having a voice that is distinctly theirs.  Even as I wonder, I enjoy the lineup here, and Moon Knight acting as the team’s Wolverine/crazy man is at least a change of pace.  Marvel has got itself a good start here, leaving me wanting more and certainly up for purchasing the next issue to find out.  Even Steve’s costume isn’t enough to pull me out of things as much as the promotional shots made me worry that it would.  Mike Deodato has finally balanced out some of the stunt-casting and female anatomy problems that made early issues of Thunderbolts so distressing, and Brubaker does what Brubaker does best: credible spycraft without mocking the costumes or the tricks of the trade.  Secret Avengers #1 has potential, and has in my eyes the strongest overall cast of the relaunched books, earning a satisfying 4 out of 5 stars overall.  Interestingly, for the first time in months, we’re dealing with old-school Avengers business, something I’m happy with.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  Is anybody else glad to see a top-tier Avengers books not written by Bendis?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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9 Comments

  1. Gibralter
    May 28, 2010 at 10:28 pm — Reply

    QD: Yes, I like Bendis but he is like garlic, you don’t want a milkshake of the stuff.

  2. Astrodinosaurus
    May 28, 2010 at 10:45 pm — Reply

    Yes regarding Bendis… Now on to something different.

    Matthew your review is pretty much thought for thought my impression with the book.
    That is scary…Awesome in a way that I can trust your recommendations. But still scary. I want to say a lot about this book, but you got pretty much all of it…

    So on another note..I think Steve Rogers official title is now Director of SHIELD.
    Though If I’m not mistaken his teammates refer to him as Commander(as a title).
    So Director of SHIELD…but..Commander of the SA? We could just stick to Steve or the “Super Soldier” when all else fails. Unless you made up something clever like Bucky-Cap… Cause Blonde Fury might work when cap starts wearing an eye-patch.

    Heh Blonde Fury…Ex-wife joke coming atcha.

  3. May 29, 2010 at 12:36 am — Reply

    How about calling him Commander USA? (Showin’ groovy movies on a weekend day!)

    • Astrodinosaurus
      May 29, 2010 at 12:43 am — Reply

      Nice use of a U.

  4. May 29, 2010 at 10:31 am — Reply

    Agree with the review. This has been my favorite Avengers book of the relaunch. I do worry about Nova (would’ve preferred him staying “cosmic” due to his powerset) if used too heavily. Don’t want him being de-powered or conveniently incapacitated ala Sentry (Promised I wouldn’t say that name. Sorry.) for sake of storylines.
    Will be staying with this book.

    • seneca
      May 29, 2010 at 10:46 am — Reply

      What Nova does is give the Avengers an ‘in’ to those galactic storylines, it should work well.

  5. Jim
    May 29, 2010 at 9:12 pm — Reply

    I was excited about this title and it was a good start. The most interesting part of the issue to me was when Steve told Moon Knight that it would be an “on-call” situation which makes me think it’s not going to be a team in the traditional sense – perhaps the lineup will be a bit more fluid. Of course, that might just be misdirection.

  6. Michael M
    May 30, 2010 at 8:50 pm — Reply

    This is the book I have been waiting for. It is the best of all worlds and I am hoping may be the title that picks up some of Gillen’s S.W.O.R.D. dangling threads.
    Having all the best aspects of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the no limits approach of Brubaker I am pretty high on this title.
    Having a roster that is not static gives me hope of seeing some insane appearances. Maybe after Aaron’s WeaponX arc we may even see a 616 Deathlok?????????

    Above all else this book has one thing the others do not IMO, potential to justify the price.

  7. Brother129
    May 31, 2010 at 11:37 am — Reply

    I knew when the Avengers titles relaunched that this one would probably be my favorite. The composition of this team actually makes legitimate sense as opposed to putting the most popular characters on one team. Now I’m ready to see if Avengers Academy and New New Avengers can deliver the goods. But yes, I am happy that 50% of the Avengers titles are being written by someone else other than Brian Michael Bendis.

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