During the relaunch of the Avengers titles, the teasers for the Secret Avengers title were (in my opinion) the most intriguing teasers out of the 4 Avengers titles that were coming out, what with the figures shrouded in black, and only their taglines to hint at their identities. And it was a good way to market the title, because this Avengers team isn’t supposed to be public anyway.
Upon his return to “life”, Steve Rogers was asked by the US President to become head of security, a position previously held by Nick Fury, Tony Stark, and Norman Osborn. After the Siege of Asgard, Steve sought to start the Heroic Age, putting the Avengers on the forefront. He approached several superheroes, asking them to join him and assigning various roles for each of them. One such role is to be part of a covert Avengers team that would be more proactive in dealing with situations before they become dangerous threats.
Upon hearing word of a new Serpent Crown, the Secret Avengers infiltrated the Roxxon Corporation headquarters in Dubai. Successfully retrieving the crown, the team discovered that this was not the Serpent Crown, but a “close relative”. Using intel gathered by Moon Knight and Ant-Man (Eric O’Grady), Rogers realized that this crown, together with the original Serpent Crown, was possily part of a set. He sent out Nova to investigate Mars – the crown’s suspected origin.
After losing contact with the cosmic superhero, Rogers assembled the Secret Avengers on a rescue mission and headed out to Mars. The mysterious organization known as the Shadow Council took advantage and led by a man who looked like Nick Fury, they infiltrated Rogers’ helicarrier and stole the second crown. Meanwhile, the team on Mars was assaulted by people who seemed to be mind-controlled. After a quick battle, the team split up, with each group being sent out to different parts of the planet.
Being the only fliers of the team, War Machine and Ant-Man headed out to a faraway outpost. Ant-Man wandered off and accidentally ventured into a portal that transported him to one of the Shadow Council’s bases on Earth. Rogers and Beast encountered both Nova’s helmet which held the Worldmind, and the Archon, an artificial being tasked to prevent the crowns from being used. Valkyrie, Moon Knight and Black Widow headed out to a nearby outpost, where they encountered Nova, who was now possessed by a third serpentine crown.
Responding to Valkyrie’s distress call, the rest of the team (sans Ant-Man, who was still on Earth) engaged the possessed Nova in combat, trying to prevent him from unearthing a primeval evil that was the source of the crowns’ powers. Meanwhile, the Shadow Council, realizing that the Avengers were on Mars, sent out a unit and tasked them to detonate a nuclear warhead to eliminate the Avengers and get rid of all evidence linking them to Mars.
Because of the combined power of the Nova force and the serpentine crown, Nova held his own against the Avengers. Rogers then donned Nova’s helmet and received the Nova force, weakening Nova. Despite the risk, Ant-Man “manned” up and headed back through the portal, detonating the warhead before the Shadow Council agents were able to reach the exit. The explosion served as a timely distraction, allowing Rogers to successfully separate the crown from Nova, which in turn successfully stopped the crown from reviving the evil entity from being freed. The detonation of the warhead also resulted in the destruction of the Shadow Council’s base on Earth, allowing Sharon Carter to identify their adversaries, especially the man who looked like Nick Fury.
After regrouping back on Earth, Carter and Rogers were met with Nick Fury, who explained the mystery figure’s origin – the rogue Nick Fury was a Life Model Decoy (an artificial being created as a likeness of another person, regularly used by Fury and Tony Stark) who was imprinted with Fury’s memories and personality. Refusing to believe that he was not the real Nick Fury, the L.M.D. went rogue and battled terrorism on his own until he was captured by S.H.I.E.L.D. and detained for decommisioning. He was saved by the Shadow Council and was given the new name of Max Fury, and has since taken part in the Shadow Council’s activities, believing them to be good.
This storyline introduced the mysterious Shadow Council and Max Fury, as well as successfully setting the tone for Rogers’ covert Avengers team. We also have yet to see the impact of the second crown, which is currently in the Shadow Council’s possession. As it stands, the arc doesn’t seem to have any lasting effects outside of the title, but these could easily be revisited (Secret Warriors vs the Shadow Council, anyone?).
Initial criticism that I read about this arc is that the title isn’t really a team book, but a Steve Rogers book that featured characters that he needed to move the story forward. And that’s exactly how I see the title – this is like the Mission Impossible films crossed with the Avengers, with Steve Rogers in the role of Ethan Hunt, utilizing different agents as needed by his current mission. That’s exactly how Rogers positioned membership to Moon Knight – he’ll be called on only when his skills are needed. So if you’re looking to read a team book, you might get disappointed.
Setting aside the right expectations, I found the storyline to be engaging enough. Here we have a new serpentine crown that hasn’t even been named yet, and a major player in the form of the Shadow Council – any group that can infiltrate Steve’s helicarrier without having trouble is a big deal right there. But the middle and the conclusion of the story veered away from the black ops feel of the book and took away the feeling of mystery and intrigue. By the end of the storyline, it felt less like a mystery and more like a typical comic book story.
I liked Brubaker’s script and dialogue – it fit the setting of the story well. I agree, not all the characters were given enough screentime, but those that had a share of the spotlight were written well: Beast was his usual intelligent self, Black Widow conducted herself in a cold and business-like manner, Ant-Man remained to be the immature guy who still sought acknowledgement from his peers. The art is perfect for the title. Mike Deodato’s art is filled with shadows and darkness, and it fit Secret Avengers as well as it fit Dark Avengers.
My favorite moments:
I loved seeing Ant-Man do something selfless and heroic. Sure, he needed some urging from Sharon Carter, but stopping a troop of agents carrying a live nuke isn’t a walk in the park.
My least liked moments:
Steve receiving the Nova Force just seemed like Brubaker’s pushing him hard. Steve is the definitive Captain America – he doesn’t need to get pushed any further.
The great art and good script equals a good start to the series, with plots that make me want to continue reading the book. Out of the 4 Avengers ongoing titles, this is my current favorite. I highly recommend this to fans of intrigue and covert ops-related stories.