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Secret Avengers #1 Review

It’s been awhile (pre-Civil War and everything!), but for a stretch there, Ed Brubaker was writing an ongoing title starring Steve Rogers (it was called Captain America #1-25, natch). And in that series Brubaker would team Steve up with various heroes and would then throw them into dynamic, exciting and intriguing situations.

That comic was really good.

Secret Avengers is basically just like that.

While ostensibly an Avengers title, Secret Avengers reads like a Steve Rogers ongoing title guest-starring the Secret Avengers. And it works really, really well. Part of that comes from Brubaker not given short shrift to any of the team members, allowing them all to have their little character moments where they shine, but at the same time, making sure that we get that they are all here because of how they relate to Steve. This is his book, and his commanding presence is felt throughout the issue.

Heck, even when he isn’t in a scene you can see how just his previous statements are affecting characters, like how a speech Steve gives to Ant-Man make Ant-Man act like less of a jerk and more of a hero. It’s a really great usage of Steve’s charisma (heck, the entire set-up that Bendis or whoever came up with it is a convincing one only BECAUSE of Steve’s charisma – he can make us believe that all the heroes would be cool with Steve basically being in charge of all of them). Brubaker sells it a little better than Bendis did in Avengers #1, though (compare “Oh, Simon, how could you say that?” to “You have a chance to be a man. Step up and take it or be a child forever, Eric” – which one sounds more like Steve Rogers?).

The basic set-up for the book appears to be Steve using the heroes as a sort of clandestine group taking care of all the problems left behind by Norman Osborn’s time in power. As we saw from Brubaker’s early Captain America issues, when old super-villain stuff becomes available (like the Cosmic Cube in Winter Soldier), things can go pear-shaped quite quickly, and Steve wants to stop this stuff before it even starts. The cosmic problem in this story appears to be a variation on the Serpent Crown that Roxxon apparently has become involved with while doing mining on Mars.

So right off the bat, the newly formed Secret Avengers already have to break free from their sort of clandestine operations and go on a trip to Mars. How sweet is that?

Mike Deodato and Rainer Beredo do a strong job on the artwork – it’s fluid and action-packed but it never distracts from Brubaker’s story, either. I bet Deodato will REALLY cut loose next issue when the Avengers go to Mars!

Here’s a six-page preview that Marvel made available on CBR from early in the issue…

Remember when I mentioned that you could see Steve’s presence in other people? Like right above – you could almost feel Valkyrie fearing letting him down, but of course, him being super cool and all, he let her off easy (quick aside – I was so hoping for “One-time Shield maiden of Asgard” to be paired by Natasha’s “One-time SHIELD agent” – ah well!).

Anyhow, this was a strong opening issue to what seems to be an extension of Brubaker’s earlier Steve Rogers stories, which is really good news for everyone involved (I didn’t mention the cliffhanger because, well, it’s meant to be a surprise, I’m sure, and it’s also one of those “why bother reacting to it now when we don’t know anything about what it means?” things).

And yes, the more comics where Steve Rogers kicks people in the head the better, so say we all!

Recommended.

28 Comments

I was pretty stoked to hear that Brubaker would be writing Steve Rogers again, but I can’t say I’m a fan of Deodato’s pitch black, everything-bathed-in-shadow art style.

“We won and we’re getting away with no one knowing who we are.”

Well, except for the big star on Steve’s chest, the blond with twin pony-tails and a sword, and Natasha’s trademark wrist thingies… but other than that, totally unrecognizable.

Doesn’t Steve specifically look inside the box to verify that’s the package their after, then two pages later when Beast says it’s NOT the Serpent Crown, Steve says yeah I already noticed that. Huh?

“And yes, the more comics where Steve Rogers kicks people in the head the better, so say we all!”

Agreed!

Brian Lockhart

May 27, 2010 at 1:47 pm

SPOILERS….

Of the two new Avengers books, I’ve got to say that I enjoyed this issue more than Bendis’ Avengers #1.
I love, love, love most of the characters here, and it really could be any Avengers team during any run. I could easily see this group operating out of the old mansion and being written by Stern or Shooter or Harras. You’ve got Cap calling the shots; you’ve got classic Avengers like Beast and Black Widow; prior, quirkier West Coast Avengers members like War Machine and Moon Knight; a new legacy character Ant-Man; and two long-time Marvel characters who were never Avengers – Nova and Valkyrie.
And right off the bat, we get a story involving THREE classic Marvel plot devices – Roxxon and the Serpent Crown plus what I’m guessing is a Nick Fury LMD.
And while I’m usually wary of the “pro-active” team books, this one makes sense. Of course a lot of crap fell through the cracks while Osborn was in charge, so you might need a pro-active group to deal with it while the other Avengers are off defending time and space from Kang or whatever else is happening.
It doesn’t feel forced. It feels like a natural evolution of the brand in light of everything that’s happened in the Marvel U within the last few years.
So so far I’m loving this.

Doesn’t Steve specifically look inside the box to verify that’s the package their after, then two pages later when Beast says it’s NOT the Serpent Crown, Steve says yeah I already noticed that. Huh?

They were after a powerful device they thought was the Serpent Crown, but even if it was not the Serpent Crown, it was still what they were there for – as he says, “where so many artifacts of experiments can be turned into WMDs” – their mission is to collect all of them, not just specific ones like the Serpent Crown. So when Black Widow (or was it Valkyrie?) asked if what they were looking for was in the box, the answer was an honest yes.

Brian, any chance you can review the newest issue of Fantastic Four while you’re reviewing things? I’d be really curious what you thought.

One thing, and its probably testament to my geekdom ..
During the Civil War we saw Steve Rogers being a little bit mean to Moon Knight and basically telling him that he didn’t consider him a hero .. and now he decides to give him a chance ? There’s probably a thousand arguments about some nuance i missed but that one little thing doesn’t sit right yet.

But then again I expect in the next one it’ll all be explained how heroes and black ops bring out a different Steve

Good review
me

During the Civil War we saw Steve Rogers being a little bit mean to Moon Knight and basically telling him that he didn’t consider him a hero .. and now he decides to give him a chance ?

The Moon Knight Steve had problems with has specifically changed so as to BECOME a hero again. Steve notes that in the issue, that Moon Knight has changed his ways. That’s what the current Moon Knight series is all about, Moon Knight trying to get away from the guy that he was around the time of Civil War.

Why is Steve Rogers wearing a patriotic costume if he’s trying to keep this a secret? It’s silly enough that the guy leading these spy missions and joining in on the field work is the most publicly beloved man in America, but wearing a blue leotard? Especially when he made a big deal about not being Captain America anymore?

Other than that, great issue, and looking forward to the next.

Man, I wish this wasn’t drawn by Deodato.

Really loved this issue. Just hit the mark of what I was hoping “The Heroic Age” might be. (Sure as hell closer to the meaning of the title than “Brightest Day” is so far over at the Distinguished Competition.) I just happened to read some of the original Serpent Crown Avengers stuff a few weeks back, and I was astonished at the Avengers’ solution back then to “powerful artifact, dangerous”: get the Vision to drop it into the deep ocean. On a planet where there is an entire race of superhumans living in the ocean. I love ‘pro-active’ teams when they really seem to move towards a smarter kind of superheroing without necessarily heading for the Authority/Miracleman exit of ruling-the-planet. This looks like it might fit the bill.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

May 27, 2010 at 7:06 pm

In fairness, Steve’s outfit is no sillier than the nearly five decades we’ve seen of Nick Fury and his agents of SHIOELD wearing blue spandex uniforms to carry out covert operations, or the heroes in Bendis’s Secret War and the current X-Force title being “hidden” by ash-grey and black versions of their otherwise utterly trademark costumes, or HYDRA as a secret organization where everyone has to wear a bright green jumpsuit. In the MU, costumes *are* covert, apparently.

I just love that Steve looks like he’s wearing an old Team America jumpsuit. I’m holding out hope that it’ll be a plot point, and the Marauder will start showing up mysteriously any issue now.

I was trying to remember is Val ever actually met Steve before now, and then remembered she has, briefly anyway — in the Avengers/Defenders War and a Defenders guest shot in Cap’s own title 30 years ago. But I reckon when Cap calls, pretty much anyone will come a-running.

Well, costumes are so commonplace in the Marvel Universe they CAN be covert.

Does Steve have a new name to replace ‘Captain America’ or is he just plain Steve Rogers? (As far as I’m aware, ‘The Captain’ has remained available ever since he stopped using it, even though the USAgent took the suit.)

I don’t see what’s so wrong with Deodato’s art. I’ve loved it everytime I’ve seen it. I realise it might not work for every kind of story, but this seems to be the right genre for it.

I’m not sure if I’ll like this series, though. I’ve never liked covert operations against enemies that haven’t actually done anything yet. And it sounds like a bad fit for Steve Rogers. He’s always struck me as someone who wants everything to be aboveboard and legal. Even when he was underground with the Civil War, that was meant more as a temporary tactic against a Government that was acting secretly and illegally. And I hate series that have a paranoid feel to them, at least when it lasts past one storyline. That’s why I only like Mutant books occasionally.
I hate the idea of Roxxon mining Mars, too. I really prefer my Marvel stories to fit more into the real world. It’s okay for the Fantastic Four to fly off to Mars, and maybe a handfull of others can have that capability, but I hate it if the futuristic technology gets spread around much. I know that’s kind of an abitrary place to draw the line on the suspension-of-disbelief-thingie, but the line has to be drawn somewhere, and when things become too mundanely futuristic it clashes with the more normal portrayal of the world in Spider-Man or Daredevil.
But if the story is good enough, I can deal with all that.

I’ve never read much Brubaker. Just a handful of Daredevil issues is all that I can remember. So he’s still an unknown quality to me.

@Mary:
I believe he is now simply “Captain Steve Rogers,” though man, you’d think with the promotion would come some higher rank (though I guess it never bothered Col. Nick Fury any).

@ Mary:

I think the “Captain” moniker was taken by The Captain in Nextwave, and given the circumstances of the meeting of The Captain and Steve, I don’t think Steve would be interested in taking that code name. I thought Nomad would be a good codename for Steve, although it probably wont’ stick.

Oric, there’s already a Nomad wandering around–Rikki Barnes, who will be in the Young Allies series.

With regard to his rank, I don’t believe he’s actually a captain at all anymore. I’m having trouble finding a citation, though, and need to get off the computer. Anybody able to help?

Steven R. Stahl

May 27, 2010 at 9:34 pm

I read the issue. . . The plot was mediocre. Valkyrie going undercover as an escort makes about as much sense as Elisabeth Hasselbeck helping out the NYPD by going undercover as a hooker. The Roxxon exec is an idiot. The two heroines take on a bunch of guys armed with rifles and find that the corporation which has normally armed security forces has mining operations on Mars — there’s a certain logical inconsistency in that, and in Cap failing to know that aircraft leave heat trails.

The idea of another mind-controlling crown isn’t that bad, but Nova should have put up some resistance. Having superior will power is basic to superheroes.

The Avengers had interstellar quinjets back in the ’70s. Needing to use a remodeled Kree starship to get to Mars, where an American company has operations, suggests that Brubaker has little idea how to equip villains and heroes with technology.

Not recreating S.H.I.E.L.D. was a bad idea. The organization was a good high-tech law enforcement body to have between the heroes and regular law enforcement types.

The issue wasn’t all bad. The dialogue in some scenes was good, and the heroes were introduced effectively. If the series concept involves heroes doing what S.H.I.E.L.D. agents would normally do, with some complications that only the heroes can handle, there are repeatedly going to be problems setting up appropriate situations. A split between the villain and his powerless flunkies shouldn’t occur repeatedly.

SRS

To Jeff and Rich– As far as I’m aware, Steve Rogers has NEVER been an actual captain. (Although there are a lot of stories I’ve missed over the years, so I could be wrong.) I know he was an enlisted man during the war– I’m not even sure he rose above private. And when he was a cop, I don’t think he rose very high in rank, either. I always assumed ‘Captain America’ was just a name, nothing more. ‘Captain’ is more an honorific than a rank. Since he was the only graduate of the Super-Soldier programme, there really isn’t anyone else to rank above or below him. It’s not like Captain Marvel (the Shazam guy), who had three lieutenants serving under him.

I don’t know if they ever really said what Captain America’s official rank was (it seems like an odd thing not to clarify, but comics could play fast and loose with the details back in the Golden Age) but I’m pretty sure that Steve Rogers being a private was just a cover identity so that he could have an excuse to be on military bases out of costume. He was rejected when he tried to enlist in the Army, and was then brought in as a test subject, so (unless they’ve said otherwise in the comics) I don’t think he actually went through standard boot camp, and whatever his rank was it was probably honorary.

When he was in costume, the average soldier would have no idea that he was actually Steve Rogers and would know him as nothing other than “Captain America.” Any Army peronnel below the rank of captain would have to assume he was an actual captain (after all, the Army could just as easily have given him the code name “Sergeant America” or even “Mister America” or “Citizen America”) unless they’d been specifically instruced not to by a ranking officer. (To be fair, for all I know, there actually was a “Captain America is not a real captain” filmstrip shown at every military base or something, but that brings back the question: why not just call him something else?)

Sharon refers to him as Commander Rogers during their first discussion, but that could just be because he’s the commanding officer.

Commander is a Naval rank, so I really doubt that that one is official.

Thinking about it some more, it seems to me the Army probably wanted him to be treated as an officer while in costume, so he could command any nearby soldiers while in the field, and so he could be present at strategy meetings and such. But they probably didn’t want too high a rank, so he’d be easier to command and to discipline if he turned out to be less heroic than expected.
But I still doubt he ever held an official rank as Captain America. He was a unique specialist outside the usual chain of command.

“I don’t see what’s so wrong with Deodato’s art.”

My objection is that it’s really dark and muddy, the women are all generic arched-back pin-ups, and the linework is flat and bland.

But that’s just me.

a few random comments:

1.The great Captain America rank controversy: For what it’s worth, I seem to recall Stan Lee writing in an old STAN’S SOAPBOX that Captain America does indeed hold the rank of captain.

2. Art: Although I am not a huge Deodato fan (Those hypersexualized drawings of Wonder Woman still make me ill. Come on, Wonder Woman in thong!?), I do think that this marks an improvement over that weirdly young Romita JR art that was recently discussed.At least Steve no longer looks like an 18 male model wannabe.

I seem to recall..maybe in the Gruenwald run….or Priest’s CapFalc…in fact, I’m thinking it was that….that Cap holds the effective rank of a general.

Maybe it’s time Steve changed his name to General Glory.

Khen E. MoZhione

July 5, 2010 at 10:53 am

In one of the last run of Captain America he was ranked as a BG (Brigade General) or first star general!

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