2010 Holiday Reading List Day Two Secret Avengers

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I followed Ed Brubaker’s Captain America until Steve Rogers returned during Captain America: Reborn. Rogers’ return was not great to put it mildly. It was equal parts story and shipping schedule that hurt it, but I’m over it and I’m ready to enjoy Secret Avengers. Steve Rogers and Sharon Carter are running the show here and this is really Brubaker’s continuation of their story as Bucky Barnes has taken over the pages of Captain America. I did fall behind in reading as this book was shipping, but diving back into them made for some fun reading. Intrigue, an interesting cast and a mandate to protect the world from unknown threats combine to form something special here.

Spoilers may follow.

The line up features one of my all-time favorites in the X-Men’s Beast. This isn’t his first stint as an Avenger and while I was disappointed to see him part with the X-Men’s Science Team, the X-Club, he’s clearly in good hands. Two ’70s Marvel creations that I also enjoy, Moon Knight and Nova, are also surprising additions to Steve Rogers covert team. Although Nova’s involvement looks like it won’t continue past the first arc. The team is rounded out with Black Widow, War Machine, Valkyrie and the Eric O’Grady Ant-Man. Those aren’t characters I’m particularly invested in, and I feel like Ms. Marvel would have been perfect for this book (possibly in place of Valkyrie).

In the first two arcs, this book has been incredibly dynamic with a science fiction story taking the team to Mars in issues #1-4, and a shadowy tale of magic gems and resurrection in issues #6-9. The first arc set the table for the big threat for the series in the form of something called the Shadow Council that includes an immortal (or at least long lived) villain named Aloysius Thorndrake and a “fake” Nick Fury. I was fully prepared to hate this other Fury, but issue #5 changed that. Brubaker works with artists David Aja, Michael Lark, and Stefano Gaudino here rather than regular series artist Mike Deodato, Jr. and theirs is a great style for this type of story. The history of “Max” Fury is well told and completely reversed my opinion of the character. It’s a high point for the series.

Issue #5 also re-introduced Golden Age hero John Steele as a member of the Shadow Council. It’s interesting to note that he also doesn’t appear to have aged a day. Brubaker used him in The Marvels Project and I believe he mentioned in an interview that he wanted to bring a character from that book into modern continuity. I was primed to like this book for the heroes, but the villains are really drawing me in. As I type that, it occurs to me that one of things I enjoy most is that this Shadow Council may not necessarily be bad even if their methods are questionable!

I’ve followed artist Mike Deodato from Thunderbolts to Dark Avengers and now to this title. I’ve been a fan of his work for years, and it has been nice to see him on high profile books that I’m interested for the past few years. I was growing a little tired of his Tommy Lee Jones inspired Norman Osborn on his previous titles, but nothing here has turned me off yet. The space suits he drew for the team in the first arc were something I particularly enjoyed.

The first six issues feature cover art by Marko Djurdjevic. I’ve had a lot of good things to say about his work, and while it continues to be beautiful, some of these covers might suffer from being too similar. None of them are bad, but as I look through this set of books I get a little mixed up about which issue is which, but a lot of that has to do with the colors used. Issues #4 and #5 are the most appealing to me, and they happen to focus on individual characters. It certainly helps distinguish them from the others. I also really appreciate what Mike Deodato is doing for the covers to issues #7 and #8.

This book has all of the espionage flavor Brubaker’s Captain America is known for on a much larger stage. Again, the cast is what’s most appealing here for me, but the story is heading in an interesting direction. There are some licensing issues associated with Shang Chi that I don’t understand that impact the current arc. This includes Marvel not being permitted to name Shang Chi’s father, Fu Manchu, as they no longer have rights to the character (he and much of Shang Chi’s supporting cast were licensed properties created in the Dr. Fu Manchu novels by Sax Rohmer published in the early 20th century). I’m sure this adds something I’m missing, but I can say with certainty that Secret Avengers is the hit of the Avengers relaunch following Siege.

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