Monday, September 27, 2010

Secret Avengers #5 In-Depth Review

Ed Brubaker’s first arc on his big ticket, espionage Avengers title might not have been all it’s wrapped up to be but hopefully this single issue will bring people back into the fold. It’s ‘The Secret Life of Max Fury’ and it’s better than you were thinking or might have heard. Hit the jump to see why this is another great done-in-one issue by Brubaker and why Secret Avengers is gearing up to a bunch of fun that you don’t want to miss. Warning: there will be spoilers ahead.

Secret Avengers #5

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by David Aja, Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano
Colours by Jose Villarrubia

I’ll admit, I wasn’t exactly won over by the debut four issue arc Brubaker offered us on this title. I didn’t think it was bad, and it wasn’t, but while the first issue was extremely dominant the proceeding three issues just seemed a little average with some aspects actually not that good. It wasn’t what we hoped and so we, as a collective, generally complained pretty loudly. That feeling of being let down can probably disappear now with this issue and its hints for the future.

As set up in the first arc, we saw Nick Fury in a strange outfit and claiming to work for the Shadow Council. He stole something from these Secret Avengers and then he disappeared. It was pretty Fury like behavior and you couldn’t be certain if this Fury was the real deal or just another LMD. In this issue, Brubaker turns all the cards over.

We follow Fury five years ago as S.H.I.E.L.D. agents track him through Paris. When he’s finally captured, by the real Fury, we get the truth, or at least the truth presented to us. The Fury we had followed, and the one who has appeared in Secret Avengers thus far, is actually an LMD (Life Model Decoy – a fake version). Cue the groans if you want but I think Brubaker works hard to earn this one. It seems this LMD was created by Fury’s villain brother, Zodiac, over a decade prior and was given the true consciousness of Fury. He’s not just a robot, he’s a synthetic man, like the Vision or the original Torch and so this does make him one step closer to being a real man.

I can see that many people will take this as just a giant cop out but I don’t mind it. Brubaker effectively brought Bucky back. Brubaker gave the X-Men a secret, dirty history. I’d just about trust Brubaker to resurrect Uncle Ben at this stage and so by slotting in some secret history about a Fury LMD who has been around for a decade but hushed up the entire time it kind of feels right. This thing could operate under the radar. It’s one of those tropes Brubaker likes to peddle in but here he uses the science, and continuity, to his advantage. He earns this ace up the sleeve and it works completely.

This LMD believes he is Fury, he has all the memories, he’s convinced. Then the good guys win and he discovers he’s not the real Fury, he’s a copy, he kind of loses its mind. It’s a pretty good explanation because if you were certain you were real and then found out you weren’t it would be kind of shocking. The memories and consciousness were obviously placed in to the LMD very well and so the news that he’s just a copy, and probably an unwanted one, is going to be bad news for sure.

S.H.I.E.L.D. has spent the better part of a decade studying this free thinking LMD and he keeps regressing to believe he’s the real deal. He also keeps escaping to do what Fury does best; bust up terrorist cells. He goes after HYDRA and A.I.M. any time he gets the chance and he does it well because he is, for want of any further investigation, Nick Fury.

There’s a great moment of growth for the character where he comes face to face with the real Nick Fury once more and Fury just wants this copy to realize what it is but instead the LMD replies “I’m not you…I’m me./Whoever that is.” You can see that this synthetic man believes he still has a place in the world and he’s right. He shouldn’t be locked up or studied. He should be allowed to work and do good, because that’s all he’s trying to do. It’s not his fault he was created but he certainly doesn’t feel it’s fair to have to die.

Luckily for this new Fury, there is another man out there who agrees with him. Just before the execution is to take place (because you know Fury is hard and smart enough to know he has to incinerate a copy of himself who knows everything he knows), a secretive Shadow Council operative sneaks aboard and has a basic LMD subbed in. He takes the new Fury with him because he understands this isn’t some robot. This is life, and a very helpful resource, and he should be given the chance to do some good. He should even get his own name because he’s a different person now. With enough divergent life experience under his belt, this new Fury can become someone else. He can fill a separate void in the universe. So he gets a name, Max.

The man from the Shadow Council who saves Max is John Steele. You can be forgiven if you have no idea who that is but if you read Brubaker’s eight issue history of the Marvel Universe, The Marvels Project, then you’d recognize the name as someone who used to be very important. He was a soldier, and he was very good at his job. His inclusion here means a lot for the Shadow Council because it gives them the possibility of being a good group. Perhaps a harsh and clandestine group but a force for righting the world nonetheless.

This reveal, of both the Shadow Council and Max Fury, opens up the Secret Avengers title for a very interesting future. It seems that Brubaker is going to be building a very cool story here and this issue is the first major building block of it all. This title is going to create something very big and I am certainly glad I’m in on the ground floor. The first arc might have made me worried but I’ll attribute it to big game nerves and allow this issue to win me back completely.

It’s nice to see Brubaker offer another great single issue story. It reminds me of the effective recap, world building Brubaker is capable of while still giving an interesting story. He did this in Daredevil #510 when he focused on the Kingpin. That issue gave us the missing time of the Kingpin and quickly caught us up and established why he would want to come back to Hell’s Kitchen and get involved in the Hand. It was a brilliant piece of storytelling, and even had Aja on art duties, and having an issue like this every once in a while can work wonders for the reading audience.

This issue of Secret Avengers is the perfect jumping on point for any interested readers of this series. It’s not only a magnificent done-in-one tale but you also don’t really need any knowledge of what came before to get this issue. It can be taken on its own merits, though you’ll probably want to keep reading more after finding out what you do here.

The art partnership of Aja and Lark is seamless. It’s hard to see where one stops and the other starts. The pages are dynamic and the flow of action works smoothly. For a single issue, this is a pretty thing to own and reread. While Mike Deodato has been fun on the title, this issue shows me that either of these two men would be perfectly suitable replacements. Possibly even preferable ones. Deodato’s work always feels too dark for my liking whereas someone like Aja (easily one of my favourite artists and someone I desperately want to see on an ongoing series) really knows how to break a page into little pieces to control the way the action goes down.

It's also interesting to note that there are eight members, that we know of, on the Secret Avengers roster. Only two of those agents make an appearance in this comic, and it's just in the framing device. The other guys and girls are absent but this comic doesn't suffer for that at all. It's a respite issue and much like I had no trouble reading an entire issue of Daredevil devoted to the Kingpin I also have no worries reading all about Fury here instead of the usual team.

Verdict – Must Read. This is definitely a candidate for one of my favourite issues of the year so far. The secret history of Max Fury sets up plenty of secrecy and awesome for future issues. It also includes plenty of nice moments of Max taking down A.I.M. goons or just stealing mopeds and attempting daring escapes through European cities. There’s a pace and flow on these pages and by the end you want to read it all again. This issue has restocked my faith that Brubaker knows exactly what he’s doing and where he’s going. And I want to be a part of both trails as they are uncovered.

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Anonymous said...

wow thats some recap
thanks for the john steele info i had no clue who he was
so john steele is from WW2 so that would make him him what like 85 years old? looks in good shape
comic writers are going to have to let the greatest generation go sooner or later

Klep said...

I completely agree with everything you said here.

Ivan said...

Max Fury needs a goatee. Now.

twobitspecialist said...

By gum, Lindsay, you've done it again! Now I have to go back and get this issue.

IronFist Fan said...

Nice review..i enjoyed the issue mainly because of the secrets uncovered and also Brubaker & Aja's reunion.Lark & Aja did a great job and like you said i could not tell when they switched but i enjoyed both

twobitspecialist said...

I'm trying to find the trivia bit but I'm sure I read somewhere that, in the Marvel Universe, WWII apparently took place in the 60s (in order to have some of Cap and Logan's backstory still make sense).

Kirk Warren said...

@Anonymous 1 - He underwent some super soldier-like treatment. He may not age or have retarded aging like Black Widow. Or he could be an LMD too. Who knows.

Ivan said...

@ twobit - According to Tom Brevoort's Formspring account, what they do is keep streching the period of time Cap spent in suspended animation in order for stuff to fit in. He said that at any given time, Cap was thawed out 10 years ago.

And Wolverine just keeps getting older, I guess. :P

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