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