Thursday, May 27, 2010

Secret Avengers #1 Review *Spoilers*

Steve Rogers, Nova, Black Widow, Moon Knight, Valkyrie, Beast, Ant-Man, War Machine and Sharon Carter.  Is that not an amazing line up of characters or what?  If that isn't enough reason to take a chance on Secret Avengers #1, then the creative team of Ed Brubaker and Mike Deodato surely are.  With how good this first issue turned out, I've taken the liberty of doing an image and spoiler filled review to spotlight this debut issue.  Hit the jump for the full review.



SECRET AVENGERS #1
Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Mike Deodato Jr.

First things first, this issue was amazing.  It's been a long time since I've been this hooked with the debut offering of a series.  I was a bit tentative coming in with Ed Brubaker's track record on super hero team books, but he knocked it out of the park with this one.  It's like he's taken his espionage/noir styled early Captain America run and chanelled it with this team book, creating something unlike your typical Avengers or other super hero team books.

What's great about this setup is the diverse cast of characaters.  We've got Steve Rogers leading the charge of this black ops SHIELD funded Avengers team.  At first, you might wonder how a team consisting of such conspicuous members, such as the cosmic powered Nova or a big cat-like Beat or even a Norse goddess in Valkyrie, but somehow Brubaker makes it work.  

We've got Valkyrie and Black Widow undercover as escorts for a Roxxon employee, Ant-Man and Moon Knight breaking into and hacking Roxxon files at a different facility and Beast, War Machine and Sharon Carter coordinating things on the sidelines.  Even Nova comes into the picture organically with Rogers requesting his help with an off-world mission on Mars, where Roxxon supposedly found the artifact Valkyrie and Black Widow recovered from their mission.  In short, it's a lot of fun to read about each character and the eclectic mix works extremely well together.


For the record, she stores the sword in the heavenly realm with her flying horse...

Speaking of team building, that's another excellent point about this issue - it's not just a series of random recruitment pages for each member of the team.  We are introduced to each member on the fly as they accomplish their objectives and learn of the mission as we go along.  It's like watching the opening of a James Bond movie.  You know the characters already and don't need introductions, so Brubaker just throws us into the thick of things.  It's like the team has been together for an extended period of time already.  This isn't like the tenth time in a row reforming a new Justice League or Avengers team when a new creator comes on board like we've seen in recent years and we won't have to sit through six issues of the team coming together and Brubaker gradually introducing us to each character as we go along.  

Now, some might read the issue and say, "Kirk, you're wrong, we had recruitment pages for Ant-Man and Moon Knight!".   To this I say, you're right, but these were a handful of panels and actual backstory for two of the more dubious members of the team (Moon Knight is trying to make it as a super hero lately, but is typically anti-hero/insane while O'Grady is, well, irredeemable) that helps show how Steve Rogers recruited each and why they are a part of the team.  These scenes felt organic and like they added to the story more so than the typical issue long recruitment drive/introductions of other team books.  These two characters are also less well known than the others, so it makes sense to at least give them a little more spotlight in this way.  


Bat-, er, Moon Knight in action

The actual plot of this series, or at least this arc, is also quite interesting.  It centers around the Roxxon corporation and a mysterious artifact they uncovered on Mars that was rumoured to be the Serpent Crown, a powerful artifact that chanels the powers of the serpent god, Set.  Steve Rogers has gotten wind of this and takes a proactive approach with the Secret Avengers by having them investigate and extract the artifact if it is indeed what it is rumoured to be before it falls into the wrong hands.  This leads to the escort service and Roxxon facility missions that kicked off the issue.  Once they discovered it was found on Mars, that caused Rogers to bring in Nova to investigate.  The problem with this is they lose contact with Nova, who, while under fire from missing Roxxon employees, stumbles across the real Serpent Crown, which takes possession of him and forces him to remove his helmet and place the crown on his head.  The team then heads to Mars to find out what's gone wrong.

The kicker to all this is the ending of the issue, which features the men that were attempting to steal the false Serpent Crown at the start infiltrating the team's base of operations, where only Sharon Carter remains, and claiming the fake crown.  The big revelation as to who the mystery bad guy is?  Nick Fury!?!  He's wearing a strange costume with two random foot soldiers behind him and they are all wearing the same strange uniform while he claims to be retaking the crown for the "Shadow Council", of which the only Shadow Council I know of for Marvel was in Blade a name for one of the vampire groups.  Probably unrelated.  I'm not sure how to feel about this.  


Nova discovers the Serpent Crown of Set

First, it's shocking that it's Nick Fury.  Did not expect that.  However, it's Nick Fury, the same guy already embroiled with similar territory (secret councils, betrayals and various skullduggery over in Secret Warriors), and having him involved with another secret council is stretching it a bit.  I'll wait and see where Brubaker goes with this and how it syncs up with Jonathan Hickman's Secret Warriors work before passing judgement on as I like this cliffhanger, but it's just hard to accept at face value in light of what's going on in Secret Warriors. But make no mistake, I don't think it's detrimental to the issue in the least and not something to be overly concerned with.  Just me thinking out loud and doing the comic book nerd thing fitting pieces together and trying to work it all out.

By this point, you must be wondering if there was anything wrong with the issue.  Me being me, you had to expect some kind of negativity and there is something that bugged me. Two things actually.  One, the Worldmind's dialogue was way off.  It was like your standard, generic computer interface droning off information.  There was little to no personality.  I'm not sure if they just didn't want to get into the details explaining the Worldmind or just glossed over that detail, but it stood out to me as a Nova and Marvel cosmic titles reader. 


Secret Avengers from left to right: War Machine, Black Widow, Moon Knight (back row), Ant-Man, Steve Rogers (front-center), Beast and Valkyrie

The other point of contention was the art.  Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed Mike Deodato's art and it's a perfect fit for this book.  However, I've come to expect certain concessions with his art, from exaggerated 'super hero' musculature and dynamic poses all the time, but a few poses were really awkward looking, such as Valkyrie and Black Widow's "bad girl" poses during their action sequence or the constant 'spread legs' pose of Steve Rogers and other men whereby Deodato would routinely show Rogers or other males standing around chatting while posed with their legs spread wider than their shoulder's width.  You can see an example of this with the first scene with Beast in it where both he and Rogers stand this way while examining the crown.  Another is the team group shot before heading to Mars where War Machine looks like he's about to do the splits, as do several other members, like Valkyrie and Steve Rogers (though his legs cut off at the edge of the page, making it less obvious for him). 

These are minor nitpicks in the grand scheme of things, but it would be disingenuous to ramble on this long about how great the issue was without mentioning the one or two things I disliked.  Most won't even notice these problems, so I wouldn't even really worry about them and only mention them for completeness.  Even the art quibble is stretching it as I loved his Nova action sequence and Deodato did a great job on everything else in the issue, particularly the Moon Knight section (chanelling his Batman art days, perhaps?).  

Verdict - Must Read.  Don't wait for the trade on this series, you'll regret it.  It grabs you immediately and doesn't let go.  Can't recommend this new series enough.  It's a fantastic start and unlike any Avengers title you've ever read. 


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28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Regarding the Fury thing, it could also be a rogue LMD.

Anonymous said...

Fury is always an LMD.

Doom is always a Doombot.

Jeremy said...

^And whenever someone acts out of character or doesn't fit continuity, fall back on the ol' reliable "Clone" option.

Awesome issue, I agree. This is gonna be a really fun book.

The Dude said...

cant wait! :)

Ivan said...

LMD sounds too obvious, we should expect more from Brubaker.

The caption at the last scan needs fixing.

Anonymous said...

im glad that you like it.

but for me it looks really stupid.

nice reviews though, more plz.

Klep said...

This issue basically had everything I wanted out of it. I'm really excited to see where it goes from here. It's probably safe to assume Brubaker knows what he's doing with this 'Nick Fury,' but it would be bad to give it up so early. He'll probably drag it out for at least another issue or two, if not to the end of the arc.

I also loved the little gag Brubaker slipped in regarding Ant Man's redeemability.

I-VAN the CRIPPLER said...

one minor problem i saw was when NOVA talks abt finally bein in the big leagues....how can the avengers be the big leagues for this guy.....i dont think u can get any bigger than bein NOVA....

McE said...

Could it be Nick Fury's brother Scorpio? I think he offed himself a long time ago, but hey, its comics.

Anonymous said...

@I-VAN:
Well he's from earth and he must hold high regards for Avengers.
He was in New Warriors, they were quite the small team vs Avengers.

The way I see it is that Captain America is such a big icon for super heroes that it feels like being in the big leagues for a lot of them.

Daryll B. said...

I do remember that in the past, the Secret Empire had their own/corrupted some Nick Fury LMDs. In the course of whatever fight it was, some of them went rogue. So it is possible that it's an "evil" Nick Fury...

twobitspecialist said...

I loled at the "Nick Fury is always a LMD, Dr. Doom is always a Doombot" part.

Thanks, Kirk. Now you made me want to buy this issue, and I don't even buy comics!

Daryll B. said...

Good Point Anoy #10.... Like pulling Annilhilus inside out didn't qualify Nova for the "big leagues"....

That's where the whole "a-list", "b-list", "c-list" stuff hampers characterization in stories. It makes it look like Brubaker didn't bother with Nova after his early New Warriors days. That should have been caught by an editor somewhere....

Anonymous said...

The team is interesting I just really dislike Moon Knight.

Anonymous said...

Moon knight you mean the batman-spawn-nemesis character -like?

come on he is so original...

Kirk Warren said...

@Anonymous #15 - Moon Knight predates Spawn and Nemesis by a good 20 years... And he's not entirely like Batman. He's far from derivative. I only made a Batman joke because of Deodato's background and the visual similarities.

Steven said...

@Kirk - If you are talking about DC's Nemesis, then Moon Knight only predates him by about 4 or 5 years. He's been around since '80. And Nemesis would be more a different take on their own Human Target who predates even Moon Knight.

Anonymous said...

No love for the new team of Bedard-Syaf in green lantern corps in a in-depth review like this?

Anonymous said...

Moonknight is a rip-off of Batman and Joker (vigilante with crazyness issues) he is not really that original. Let us see if here (in secret avengers) he can be apealing to the massess

Kirk Warren said...

@Steven - I was under the impression he meant Mark Millar/Steve McNiven's Nemesis, the white Batman/Joker hybrid.

Anonymous said...

yes I meant that Nemesis but had to eat my own word when I saw the "age" of nemesis and spawn. What a jerk I am... =S

Anonymous said...

Bru's Moon Knight definitely is a ripoff of Batman.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

Alright, finally got the Aus comics in, finally devoured this issue. Hot damn. This is some fine big company comics right here. The team assembled is pretty awesome, no doubt about that, and Brubaker does a very good job of showing us them all together and straight into some espionage hi-jinx.

I thought the page between Rogers and Sharon Carter was actually really cool and should make for a great dynamic between the two within the series.

I'm digging this shadow council idea, the motif on their costume is interesting, the foot soldier look pretty cool with those masks on. As for Nick Fury, I wouldn't be surprised if it was really him and he's just doing something sneaky. He did have two other secret warrior teams out there that we didn't know about. .He's a sneaky man, but it could also be an LMD...have to wait and see, and that I shall do.

I've been a long time fan of Moon Knight, got plenty of old back issues, and while he might not be the most original character he certainly can be interesting, and artwise can look very cool, if not, again, like an ersatz Batman. I'm glad he's here, I'll say that much.

This issue was pretty awesome and I'm in for the long haul, felt like I got plenty of story in just this first issue.

My major gripe - what the hell happened to Eric O'Grady's sideburns, boo, bring them back, Bru!

Ryan K Lindsay said...

Oh, and can I just say, I've only done 2 Hype Machines, this and SHIELD, and they've both proved to be incredibly bloody right. Go me, ha!

PS Not that it was any shock either of those titles was going to be great...

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