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Secret Avengers #21 – Review

Warren Ellis completes his short run on Secret Avengers, which amounts to being little more than a series of filler issues. However, that doesn’t mean these haven’t been some clever and entertaining filler issues. Ellis’ final issue, in which he reunites with his Nextwave cohort Stuart Immonen, is no exception.

This last adventure sees Commander Rogers leading the Secret Avengers on a covert assault of O*N*E’s Houston office to weed out a Shadow Council spy. In doing so, they are confronted with a critical emergency involving an experiment gone wrong with alien hybrids kept in the basement. It’s typical Ellis material. He gives just enough grounded science fiction to make the outlandish more believable, which leads to a dramatic crisis that feels more real. When he gives an explanation for the breeding experiment, it makes sense. It just makes sense in a twisted and insane way.

Secret Avengers #21One of the great things about Secret Avengers has been Commander Rogers, so it is such a shame that this will probably be the last we see of him leading the team as the reins get handed off to Hawkeye next. It’s really interesting to read about Steve Rogers as someone other than Captain America. I would go so far as to say he has been more interesting as Commander Rogers. Reading about him in essentially Nick Fury’s role has really been a great change of pace for the character, and Marvel has made a mistake in letting the Captain America movie cut it short. This concept really did not get the mileage and depth it deserved.

Despite being Ellis’ final issue, there’s nothing particularly climatic about it. This speaks to the overall problem with his run. It has lacked momentum. Each of the individual issues, including this one, have been fun and interesting. It’s just that none of them have really gone anywhere. The situation with the Shadow Council and the characters is the same as when Ellis started. There have been no developments, and this final issue isn’t the result anything the previous issues have built up to. It’s simply another isolated adventure.

With some exceptions, the cast here reads as a bit interchangeable. Ellis clearly enjoys writing Beast and also seems to get some pleasure out of Moon Knight. But it reads like Ellis uses the rest of the cast for that simple reason. They’re the rest of the cast he has inherited. Obviously, not every cast member can have moments in every issue of a team book, but it’s a shame that the likes of Valkyrie, War Machine and Sharon Carter are just there to be foot soldiers. And while Ellis does give a lot of attention to Commander Rogers, it’s a shaky portrayal when you have Steve condoning the use of torture.

That is a cool moment of dialogue, though.

Immonen’s art style seems to slip back into Nextwave-mode for this issue, which comes off as a little strange because Ellis really isn’t writing the story with Nextwave’s brand of quirky, over-the-top humor. This isn’t too prevalent in this issue, but there are certainly moments when I am reminded a little too much of Nextwave during this much more serious story. It’s a minor thing, and the art overall does work. I particularly liked his depiction of the alien hybrid.

Warren Ellis’ Secret Avengers run ends very much like it began -- with a oneshot adventure of the team taking on one of the Shadow Council’s projects. It’s a real pity that we couldn’t get a stronger, longer story from Ellis, but these done in one stories honestly have been entertaining in their own rights. It leaves me wish more titles would try them and pull them off with this quality from time to time. 


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