Monday, 31 May 2010

New Beginnings - Secret Avengers #1

After the rather underwhelming Avengers #1 last week (short summary: not only is it a Bendis team book, and thus everything you’d expect of a Bendis team book, it’s practically the same team book he’s been recycling for the past five years, just with lacklustre John Romita Jr art and added Thor), I was placing a lot of hope and expectation on Secret Avengers. Ed Brubaker has been consistently scoring sixes with his run on Captain America for years now, so the prospects were good. This is the man that brought Bucky back from the dead and made it work. Hell, this is the man that made Steve Rogers an interesting character in his own book. As far as I’m concerned, he gets a free pass for years on that count alone.

Thankfully for my reviewer’s integrity, a free pass isn’t required.

The concept is that, Rogers has set–up a team of covert ops Avengers to complement Bendis’ media-friendly public team. Although not quite in the realm of a being a wetworks team like Osborn-era Thunderbolts, the Secret Avengers have been set up as a shadow-ops team to pro-actively prevent super-human problems. Brubaker quickly brings up the now-defunct Project PEGASUS (an experimental think-tank group that deals with super-science artefacts) as an example of items on the team’s agenda, which suggests we’re going to be seeing a lot more than simply knock-down drag out fights. Indeed this issue starts with the team looking for the Serpent Crown, before taking them off a tangent that would seem ludicrous if I spoilt it here, but manages to work perfectly in the context of the issue.

Being an off-the-books operation, the team’s line-up is devoid of real A-List characters other than Rogers, which means that we get an eclectic mix of B and C-list characters instead. As someone whose favourite super-hero is Stingray, this is an absolute treat. Black Widow and Sharon Carter are obvious transfers from the cast of Captain America, what with being spies and all, but we also get a varied mix of super-heroes in here – from techies like Beast and War Machine to morally questionable vigilantes Ant-Man and Moon Knight, from mythological Valkyrie to cosmic hero Nova, practically all bases of the Marvel U are covered here, which is promising for the future of the title.

Art is provided by Mike Deodato Jr, who has a penchant for very shadowy murk that gels nicely with the exclusively nocturnal tone of the story. He manages to get a good handle on all of the characters immediately, especially Moon Knight. He even manages to make Steve Rogers’ new costume look cool somehow, a task which scientists were so close to proving was actually against all known natural laws.

Secret Avengers may not quite feel like a return to the traditional Avengers style of team book that the Heroic Age promised, but when it feels this effortlessly well constructed and solid, that doesn’t seem like much of a problem.

Very highly recommended.

Martin S Smith is an author and blogger. He’s just released his first book, The Redundancy of Flightless Birds, and reviews stuff every week over at The Taste of Rising Bile.

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