It seems like every other comic that Marvel comes out with these days is either based on Avengers or X-Men. I suppose that’s no surprise considering that X-Men are their traditionally successful franchise and Avengers and it’s related titles are where their movie successes have been. However, this leads to a ton of different teams and different takes on the characters and I’m not all that happy about worrying what’s going on in each of the different books.
I’ll be honest, I am not the biggest fan of Hawkeye or Black Widow, they have their place, particularly in a team of more powerful heroes, but on their own, I’m not all that thrilled. Secret Avengers focuses on these two characters, so please take what I say with that in mind.
The idea behind Secret Avengers is that S.H.I.E.L.D., at least an underpowered and underfunded version, has it’s operatives mind-wiped after every mission so they can maintain plausible deniability. It also makes it difficult for the heroes to remember just how badly they’re treated by S.H.I.E.L.D. Yes, they really are badly treated, virtual cattle and expendable trash, there’s supposed to be some mystery why they agree to be mind-wiped but I haven’t found it to be terribly compelling. However, S.H.I.E.L.D. directors Hill and Johnson send them on missions, mess with them a lot and then either erase their memories or give them different memories at the end. Sorry, this book makes S.H.I.E.L.D. look really, really bad. They’re less global protectors and more global terrorists in my estimation.
Clearly, this version of Secret Avengers dovetails somewhat in the Avengers movie, we start off with the story of Budapest that’s mentioned in the movie and the events come before everyone has met up with the regular film-version Avengers, to the point that they meet Agent Coulson for the first time in the first issue. I’ll be honest, that kind of bothered me because even though it isn’t a big deal, part of me was screaming “you already know him!” Coulson is clearly supposed to be Clark Gregg, Fury is obviously Samuel L. Jackson and Maria Hill looks just like Cobie Smulders. It’s almost like having the Movie-Tie-In-Avengers title.
If you read the not-too-long-ago-concluded Secret Avengers title, this just doesn’t reach the levels that Rick Remender provided. That’s not to say that it’s not bad, Nick Spencer writes a good tale and the art by Luke Ross is good, although clearly not his best work. Still, it leaves me wanting the old series back. Hawkeye and Black Widow always strike me as third tier heroes and even the inclusion of Hawkeye’s ex, Mockingbird and even the Hulk don’t really make it all that much better. I want a solid team and while I think they’ll eventually put one together, this first handful of issues don’t provide it. The reason I stopped this review at issue #9 is because issue #10 gets into the whole Infinity arc and that’s not something I really want to handle in one go.
I’d like to like this book a lot more, even though I don’t care for the main heroes. It’s not bad, the quality is really variable. Sometimes it’s great, sometimes, I scratch my head and wonder if anything worthwhile happened in that particular issue. I’m not sure, at least as far into it as I am with this review, that it’s really going anywhere special. At the very end of issue #9, you get a great reveal, but that issue in particular seems confused, with copious pacing problems that were only made worthwhile by the last page.
If you’re into Avengers, especially if you’re into the non-powered Avengers, Secret Avengers isn’t a bad book and it has the potential to be really good, so long as they can find their direction. It’s not my favorite Marvel book, or even my favorite Avengers book, but it’s certainly got enough to keep me reading, at least for the moment.