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Secret Avengers #22 – Review

Remender and Gabriel Hardman begin a new era of Secret Avengers, and this is definitely not the same book that Ed Brubaker began. While that isn’t necessarily bad, it does leave me unsure of what I think of the new Secret Avengers.

This is very reminiscent of Remender’s launch of Uncanny X-Force, which is really no surprise. This is him taking over the covert team of the other major team franchise at Marvel, and he is essentially doing the same thing he did with X-Force. The more covert ops elements of storytelling are played down in favor of becoming embroiled in a big new plot idea of Remender’s. For X-Force, it was Apocalypse and Archangel’s descent. Here, we have the Descendants, apparently a race of synthetic life spawned from a collection of the Marvel Universe’s most notable artificial beings. Also, the team gets a new headquarters. But unlike X-Force, it is not a blatant rip-off of the Batcave.

It’s a satellite.

What? Justice who?

Credit where credit is due, though. The concept of the Descendants is an intriguing one, and this issue gets it going pretty well. Some of the power usage from the Adaptoids is a little cheap, but they are Adaptoids. Cheapness is almost their primary function. It will be interesting to see how Remender continues to this. If he can pull it off, I think  this could make for an even better story than the Dark Angel Saga. There are some challenges ahead, though. The group of artificial beings behind all this is a surprising mix at first glance, but it is going to take some good explaining to make them all believable conspirators. I look forward to seeing this all develop.

A chunk of this issue is devoted to adding Captain Britain to the cast, and I have to say that Remender writes a very good Brian Braddock. Admitting that means something coming from me since Captain Britain is a character I have never particularly liked. Remender's portrayal of the character’s kind of pompous, which is a flaw that goes a long way toward making him interesting. I greatly prefer a more flawed Captain Britain to the painfully shiny one formerly featured in Captain Britain and MI:13. Thankfully, Remender is taking no cues from that portrayal. He does, however, acknowledge the book’s events. MI:13 is cited as a reason for Captain Britain being recruited into the Secret Avengers. Unfortunately, that’s really not good enough.

Captain BritainCaptain Britain really doesn’t fit the team. Nothing about the character comes close to saying “covert," and he would probably be the last member of MI:13 you would ever want for your secret team. Remender doesn’t make a genuine attempt to justify Captain Britain’s presence either. Hawkeye gives a quick reason for it that rings hollow, and the whole thing comes off as a writer shoehorning a character he likes into the book. It could be worse. Like I said, Remember writes him well. But it’s also nice when team members actually make some sense.

Hawkeye and Beast can be added to the list of characters Remender excels with. Beast in particular comes very close to stealing the show. As for Hawkeye, he’s a good choice to take over as leader of the team. If Steve Rogers had to go, there are very few other characters who could have believably filled this role. Hawkeye is a natural fit, though I would have liked this move even better if Mockingbird was included in the mix to harass him about how to do covert operations properly. We can’t have everything.

It’s hard to say how well Remender does with the rest of the cast. We don’t get much from them this issue. I am disappointed that Moon Knight and War Machine seem to have been dropped, though. Their absences and the inclusions Captain Britain and apparently Giant Man cause the book to feel more like just another Avengers team and less like a covert Avengers strike team.

That right there hits on the main reason I’m left uncertain about this issue. I like this as an Avengers book, but I’m not sure I like it as a Secret Avengers book. I would enjoy this a whole lot more if it was simply Avengers. It has a good cast. The Descendants plot is potentially great. But I have some trouble seeing why this is the Secret Avengers. This issue feels lacking in the espionage department, which has kind of been the defining strength of the series from the beginning. There’s some talk about sneaking into a foreign country to investigate an event, but superheroes in general have never been all that respectful of borders anyway. It makes for kind of a hollow sentiment and a weak attempt to give this conflict somewhat of a covert nature.

Hardman’s art makes for an excellent fit for the book. While it could probably be more polished, he’s got a great talent for characters. The way he poses them, the way he gives them facial expressions, the way he shows their movements. It’s all very skilled. But his Beast could use some work. He neglects Beast’s feline features for the most part. And if he’s going to be the new regular artist for this book, the first thing he needs to do is fix the god awful costume Ant-Man has been burdened with. Seriously. That thing is a crime against costume design.

Remender writes a damn good Avengers book here, and that’s where this gets a little complicated. This reads more like a vaguely defined Avengers spin-off title like New Avengers or Mighty Avengers than the more clearly defined title that Secret Avengers is meant to be. The team’s secret nature in this issue comes off as arbitrary and false. It’s entirely possible that Remender will emphasize the team’s covert purposes in later issues, but for right now, I’m not feeling this as the Secret Avengers. I feel as though I have traded in my cool espionage team of superheroes for just another good Avengers book. While that isn’t a terrible trade, it’s not a trade that I was wanting to make.


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