It’s been four issues since this series launched, generally one more than I give a book to win me over. From a rocky first issue with an amazing ending, we’ve seen this book take on a life and tone all it’s own and I can officially count myself on as a convert. I’ll say it again: I loved Rick Remender’s run on Secret Avengers, but it could’ve been under any Avengers title’s banner, there was no compelling reason that it had to be this one. Nick Spencer’s masterful blending of superpowers and backroom political wheeling and dealing could ONLY flourish under a title that was designed to emphasize covert ops.
After A.I.M. got sovereign nation recognition for its creatively named A.I.M. Island, they launched a fleet of Iron Patriot drones, which became self-aware and are now taking out rogue factions across the globe that America always wanted to get to, but never could because of a high potential for unacceptable casualties. The sentient suits of armor do not flinch at such considerations, nor do they at considerations like “diplomacy” or “your actions will trigger a nuclear war,” so it falls to Maria Hill and acting S.H.I.E.L.D. director Daisy Johnson to bring out the biggest of big guns.
This series, in terms of both tone and art, is very strongly evoking the old Steranko run on Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., but with a much more dour and politically realistic tone. There’s some very interesting politicking going on in this issue as they can’t just flat-out say “We lost control of these Iron Patriot drones, and not only that, they’re doing the bidding of a nation that has questionable, at best, intentions,” so they have to fall on the much smaller sword of “these strikes were intentional, casualties are acceptable.” It’s oddly refreshing to see a book deal with the fact that war often gets very, very messy, even when being fought from the sky. I love seeing some cross-over with Indestructible Hulk, not necessarily in direct story terms, but in the relationship he’s formed with SHIELD and how he’s being used both in his berserk and brainy modes.
Luke Ross and Matthew Wilson are no slouches in the art department and I feel like their work just gets stronger and stronger as the title goes. There’s very little real action in this issue, and that’s not a complaint, but what there is gets perfectly rendered as bursts of horrible violence that break up the otherwise mellow wheelings and dealings of the involved parties. They also have the unenviable task of differentiating a LOT of characters who have a LOT of potential to look very similar, but they pass that with flying colors as well. I also love seeing Mockingbird back and really making her mark on a book.
There’s very little not to like about Secret Avengers. Occasionally facial features will look a bit over-exaggerated for how down to earth the rest of the art is, I’m not thrilled with a character imported from the movies having a potentially intimate relationship with a pre-established comic character who has a long and storied history in the books. These are very, very minor gripes that shouldn’t stop you from picking up this book.
I remember a complaint, even by some comics fans that should know better, the complaints that Hawkeye and Black Widow have no place on The Avengers when the movie was coming out. This book proves why those complaints were poorly thought out and even evidence of antiquated thinking: people like Hawkeye, Black Widow and Mockingbird go places and do missions that the likes of Captain America or Thor shouldn’t or couldn’t. The Avengers need to be ready for ANY threat, not just the big, obvious ones, and this book, really specifically this issue, shows the worth in having a few members on your team who know more about problem solving than “punch/blast/think at it until it goes away.” If you’re even slightly interested in one of the most psychologically realistic books on the shelf, you owe it to yourself to give this one a try.