There’s no doubt writer Rick Remender is one of the most prolific comic book writers out there, especially since he transcended comics and has entered the realm of TV and movies with Deadly Class. It’s a success story that warrants a look at his previous work, which has strokes of brilliance and cleverness well worth looking at. Marvel Comics has recently released his 17 issue run on Secret Avengers, which was a masterstroke in complex espionage stories and superhero ideas. It’s a run that has a beginning, middle, and end, utilizes classic superheroes like the original Human Torch and even invented a new character with Black Ant. Here are my three takeaways after reading this great collection.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Hawkeye takes over Steve Rogers’ covert Avengers team! And with a new leader comes a fresh lineup as Giant-Man, Captain Britain and the original Human Torch join Black Widow, Beast, Valkyrie and Ant-Man as Earth’s stealthiest heroes. But will Hawkeye draw the line at Cap’s final recruit: the deadly Venom?! As the Avengers battle the X-Men, Thor takes a secret squad to stop the Phoenix by any means necessary! But on the Kree homeworld, can Ms. Marvel and the Protector break free of Minister Marvel’s influence to aid their former companions? As Hawkeye and Black Widow seek to unmask the spy in their ranks, a new Masters of Evil forms – and the Shadow Council’s true goal is revealed! But the robotic Descendants’ rise may end the Secret Avengers once and for all!
Why does this matter?
This is a solid 384-page read with one overarching story taking place. It does get disrupted by a Phoenix event Marvel was doing, but for the most part, Remender keeps his focus on a guy named Father who wants to propagate a race of robots, weaves in Human Torch’s insecurity as a robot, and an overarching theme of Hawkeye as the leader of the Secret Avengers.
Black Ant is created from this storyline
It’s quite cool to see Black Ant’s introduction to the Marvel universe here, since he’s been popping up in Amazing Spider-Man lately. It’s a character who is deeply tied to the narrative here and he has one of the stronger arcs. He goes from Ant-Man on the Secret Avengers, to secret spy working for the enemy, and eventually shedding his Ant-Man garb to become Black Ant. Remender writes him in a serious way like a good soldier. There is a touch of his current humor though, like when he tells Venom the name change is, “sort of like how goths wear black as an external representation of all that angst. I’m like goth Ant-Man.” Ha, whatever works! Thanks to the Secret Avengers pulling off the win, in the end, Black Ant has a tragic story here but one that’s captivating. You’ll want a Black Ant solo series after reading this.
Hawkeye is a different kind of leader
This collection opens with a story focused on Captain America sort of secretly testing Hawkeye on a mission overseas. Cap is quite tough on Hawkeye and the psychological game he plays on him helps show Cap is serious about Hawkeye being a field leader. Remender writes Hawkeye in a believable sort of way, like how many of us would act as team leader. He’s a bit tough on teammates, barks orders, and keeps secrets. He doesn’t have the valor of Cap, but he’s doing his best. When he screws up he doesn’t want it getting out. You get the sense he’s doing this to prove something to Cap, especially after the first issue establishing their rocky relationship, and it permeates throughout the whole collection.
The “secret” in the name actually works
There are a few missions that take place in this collection with a bigger story involving a robot named Father, all of which are unknown to the world. This slice of Marvel history is quite cool because the missions are secret either because the heroes don’t want it getting out, or because there’s no real way to explain to the world they were all minutes from being turned into robots. The espionage angle of it all suits the narrative too since it requires the main Avengers to be in the dark on these missions.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
The weakest element in this story is the Human Torch character who is in the story very little until midway through. He’s a bit of a mystery which is sort of who his character is, really only taking part in the team early on as he has a hand in getting Flash Thompson on the Secret Avengers as Agent Venom. When he does enter the story halfway through he fights, gets damaged, but then in the 11th hour decides to break bad. There isn’t enough done to make his turn believable and relatable and instead he sort of just goes bad since a robot uprising makes sense, morals and all hero work he’s done prior be damned. How he’s wrapped up at the end is a quick one-off mystery too. It’s nice that he’s sort of in the story throughout, but it’s half baked how he’s integrated.
Is it good?
I had a blast reading this collection, which highlights Rick Remender’s epic run from 2010. The darker tone of the book suits the characters, rendered exceptionally well by Gabriel Hardman, Patch Zircher, Renato Guedes, and Matteo Scalera. The collection serves an important part of Marvel history while also acting as a great test case for longer story arcs that tell many stories while building on the characters of the team.
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