With Warren Ellis at the helm of your book, you had to know things were going to get a little weird eventually (perhaps even very, very weird, but we’re only two issues into a six issue stint, here), and with Secret Avengers #17, we’ve started down that path. The bulk of the issue concerns Commander Steve Rogers, Valkyrie, War Machine, and Sharon Carter’s assault on a semi truck that travels through Serbia carrying a set of freakishly powerful energy blasters on its cargo bed. Unlike many of the Secret Avengers’ other missions, where they’re sent into places governments fear to tread, Steve takes it upon himself to bring this weapon down, even in the face of total disinterest from his usual governmental allies. Steve’s independence and deceny isn’t surprising, but the identity of the truck’s driver sure is…
Admittedly, this story ranks about a 2.3 on the Warren Ellis Scale of Weird (assuming 1 is the lowest and 10 is the highest), but this issue is built around a concept, and an antagonist, that’s a good sight different from what we normally see in mainstream superhero comics. The Secret Avengers find themselves stymied no matter what sort of move they make, for page after page, until War Machine gets sick of playing it safe and unloads [maybe] 20% of his on-board ammunition reserves into the truck. As smooth and smoothly-executed as #16 was, #17 is rough, scratchy, and comes out on top through sheer force of will.
Kev Walker’s art matches up well with this issues thematics; he does some great, dynamic, dramatic stuff, but it’s not exactly “beautiful” (Frank Martin’s colors, on the other hand, are gorgeous, and compliment Walker’s art nicely). There’s some real weight to the semi truck as it barrels ahead, indifferent to the Secret Avengers’ assault, and when this issue gets a chance to really feature an explosion, it makes the most of it.
This issue doesn’t quite reach the dizzying high that the previous one did, but we’re 2 for 2 in the post-Nick Spencer Secret Avengers world, so maybe that means we’re on an upswing?
PS – I know I’m the “Marvel Comics Examiner,” but this weekend I *finally* got to sit down with the New 52 issues I’ve bought, and I’d love to beg your indulgence while I make a couple quick suggestions:
– Stormwatch. As a big fan of The Authority (and the original Stormwatch), I was excited to see that Paul Cornell was going to be able to continue the tales of Apollo, Midnighter, The Engineer, Jack Hawksmoor, Jenny Quantum and the rest of the rotating cast of characters that make up the team. The first issue did a nice job setting the stage and introducing new/lapsed readers to the sort of crazy threats Stormwatch/The Authority routinely face down (this time, the moon’s grown claws and seems to be preparing an attack on Earth)… While I’m still not totally behind integrating the Wildstorm characters into the main DC continuity, I have to admit that putting the Martian Manhunter on the team was a stroke of something like genius.
– The Flash. Everything anyone’s written about this issue has focused on Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul’s art, and for good reason. It’s gorgeous, and gorgeously nutty (at least with regards to layouts). It’s the sort of comic you put in the hands of people who “don’t read comics,” just so they can get an idea of the special things a comic brings to the table that nothing else can.
– Batman. Anyone who hasn’t read Scott Snyder’s now-concluded-run on Detective Comics (with Jock and Francesco Francavilla on art) missed one of the best modern Batman creative teams, there’s no question about it. Well, he didn’t lose a step when he teamed up with Greg Capullo on Batman. This is, as loads of folks before me have mentioned, flat-out the best issue of the New 52, that does everything a great superhero book should. Great art, a nice and zippy plot, and a final page that should draw in all but the most disenhanted readers for the next issue.
Batman’s in kind of an odd place these days, with a recurring cast that could rival the heyday of the Flashes (Bruce, Tim, Damian, Dick, Alfred, Jim Gordon), but Snyder’s script integrates them with an ease that’s enviable, and his smooth characterization should minimize confusion for those new to current Batman continuity.
It seems like Bat-continuity wasn’t really affected in the New 52; I didn’t think there was a problem with it before, honestly. Bruce is back to being Gotham’s Batman full-time, though, which is a bit of a letdown for folks like myself who enjoyed reading Dick Grayson’s adventures as the new Dark Knight. At least he hasn’t been dropped from the book outright…
If you read to the end of this, thanks, and I hope you’re a little more inspired to pick up some good comics now.