Comics / Comic Reviews / Marvel Comics

Secret Avengers, Volume 1: Mission to Mars Review

By Dan Horn
April 8, 2011 - 08:47

Steve Rogers, the original Captain America, is back from the dead (sorry if I spoiled that for you substratum-dwelling comic book readers), and, though he's not yet reassuming his costumed role, he's spearheading the Secret Avengers, a group of heroes who fight clandestine global and interplanetary threats. Make no mistake: this team is related to the Civil War Secret Avengers in name only. After the fall of Osborn's Dark Reign, there's not really a need for an anti-registration underground anymore.

Things get a bit hairy when the team uncovers a plot which includes off-world drilling and powerful relics. Rogers sends his newly recruited space Avenger, Nova, to follow up on some perplexing leads on Mars, but Nova goes MIA, forcing the rest of the Secret Avengers to mount a rescue mission to the red planet.

Though "Secret Avengers" denotes a decidedly espionage-related take on the super-group, what we actually get is much different from what you may be expecting. Aside from the ridiculously hackneyed female-agents-as-sexy-escorts foray with Valkyrie and Black Widow in the opening sequences of this series, we don't get any of the wetworks suggested by the book's supposed theme. Brubaker's Secret Avengers is really more of a good ol' fashion Avengers book, replete with fisticuffs, heroic bluster, and trite sci-fi themes. In many ways, this is the series that the other Avengers titles should aspire to emulate, but it isn't what a book entitled Secret Avengers should amount to. It seems to me that these secret threats referred to are really in no way different from any other threats that the other Avengers teams face, except that S.H.I.E.L.D. is involved more often here.

While this book is in many ways relatively superior to its Avengers contemporaries, I have to explicitly state that that is not saying much. The first two issues of "Secret Histories" (the actual title of the story, though the volume is unfortunately called "Mission to Mars") exemplify some of the worst scripting I think I've ever read. Ed Brubaker really doesn't hit his stride until issue three, in which his style changes so dramatically it's almost as if someone else is writing that chapter. This is one of Marvel's super-talents? I suppose it's no surprise when he occupies the same ranks as Bendis and Fraction, both of whom, at times, seem like they aren't even trying to write entertaining stories, yet are still revered for the average bodies of work.

Ant-Man and War Machine are the two heroes that bear the brunt of the character interactions. Beyond them, there are brief glimmers of personality elsewhere in other personages, but nothing compelling, nothing that gives this team so much as a touch of idiosyncrasy. Some of the heroes, like Moon Knight in this first story, are basically relegated to the graphical equivalent of film extras' bit parts, playing cannon fodder or providing living set pieces. Dialogue consists of terse, stupidly blatant observations and cliches and prosaic interplay, undermining the original premise's intellectual potential. Also, I'm sure this has been said long ago and reiterated many times since, but the Nova Corps? Glaring rip-off of the Green Lantern Corps, anybody? I'm surprised Marvel got away with that baldfaced larceny or that they even attempted to do such a thing.

Mike Deodato's artwork is great as usual. Beredo's colors are as flat and as earthy as ever, and while I may have thought that would perfectly compliment Deodato's settings and character designs in a black ops superhero book, a conversely nostalgia-inducing super-team comic, as Secret Avengers manifests as, requires a vibrant palette equally as nostalgia-inducing. Sadly, much of the artwork is too understated by the drab coloring and oil-slick inkwork to exhibit the passe dynamic of Secret Avengers.

The volume's fifth and final installment, a Nick Fury-centric epilogue to "Secret Histories," is a home run in relative terms of Brubaker's writing. It's also refreshing to have a new art team on this issue. Aja, Lark, and Villarrubia are like a break in the overcast skies of Deodato and Beredo.

Something will keep you reading "Secret Histories." Perhaps it's the cool, quaintly antiquated battles, or maybe it's the serialized nature of this first saga. Even if you don't find yourself particularly enjoying the story, you'll feel compelled to finish it. I suppose that is a feat in and of itself. However, if you're one of those people who believes comic books merely subsist for and should be read for their escapist entertainment value with little-to-no cerebral consequence, then Secret Avengers is most likely a series you'll want to absolutely indulge in.

The presentation of the hardcover volume itself leaves much to be desired. It feels rather bareboned save for the five reprinted issues and those obligatory variant covers, and, with it sporting a price of $24.99, this book is hardly worth picking up. Wait for the paperback or order the individual issues, but do not purchase this edition. Stop encouraging publishers to rush this overpriced dreck to store shelves.

Rating: 5 /10

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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