Secret Avengers finds something new by infusing a sense of ownership and personality.
I had a defining moment with this book. You see, I decided to just jump in having read little of what came before(Read as: I picked up issue 12 as well, because it was part one) and had no idea what I was in store for. The last time I thought about the Secret Avengers was during Rick Remender's run, and I only caught that in the closing few issues before jumping off weekly comics altogether. The concept for the team is a fun one; spy stories, but in the whacky and wonderful Marvel Universe. The team's first inception with Brubaker was, in my opinion, a bit of a false premise in that they weren't doing particularly covert things(The book was still pretty good though by the way), and Remender's was on a scale that seemed a little too large and open, and involving characters too well-known to execute on the premise (Again, a good book though).
Volume Two, for me, represents the second try at it. Here's the thing, though. First read: completely missed what it was doing. I flicked through the two parts relatively quickly and had no idea what was going on. It seemed kind of messy and weird, but I was expecting more of the same of what I had already read. This Volume is not the same one that I had previously experienced; it is the book I wanted when I first heard the title Secret Avengers.
The premise is, essentially; members of Shield and some relatively shady, sometimes-good-sometimes-bad-characters, are sent on missions, after which their minds are wiped(If I get any details wrong it is because I only just jumped on so sorry). But what sets this book apart from a simple spy-tale is its willingness to dive into Marvel's eccentricities. It is exactly the strange and enjoyable tale of behind the scenes events and covert missions that a marvel spy story should be.
In this issue, a lot is going on. At first I found it to be overwhelming, especially considering a lot of plot-threads were a little lost on me, but gradually began to enjoy the manic and varied scenes. In one part, Maria Hill is interrogating M.O.D.O.K, in an expertly drawn scene lending a certain belief in the actions and emotions of the characters, thanks to the very alive-feeling and active scenes. In another part, Taskmaster takes an apprentice under his wing as he seeks to escape an A.I.M facility, a completely differently and uniquely laid out set of scenes. And another, has Hawkeye captured after a robot Shang-Chi, controlled by a couple of A.I.M agents, beats him up in yet another varied scene portrayed and laid out in an imaginative and exciting fashion.
I have rarely felt such a strong sense of character and tone in a book. It takes on a life of its own; it's a unique look on what is happening. There is a humour to the book that transcends the immediate dialogue, that just relishes in the intensity; growing and the ever-increasing plots intertwining and extending beyond a traditional book. Thanks to the superb colouring and panel layouts, the story-threads all feel different and interesting all on their own, but what makes this book exceptional is how they all come together to create a growing sense of danger and fun.
Now, back to that moment I mentioned earlier; it was during my re-read for the review. I started reading, worried I would have little to say other than 'shit's weird', and I realised how wrong I was. There is actually a lot to talk about with this book, but I want others to discover it for themselves. The things I was interpreting as disparate were, in fact, exactly what makes this book great. Rarely do I stop and linger in individual scenes because they look so distinct and engaging, but with Secret Avengers #13 I was constantly admiring the sheer personality of it all. You really feel like you are given a line into the minds of the creators and the characters they are representing. This is not the best Spy-story ever told and it's not the best Marvel-story ever told, but the weird amalgamation of the two somehow finds something new by infusing a sense of ownership and personality, that reveals as much about its creators as it does its characters.