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!