It's amazing how good Mike Deodato is at drawing cosmic. When "Secret Avengers" was first announced, it seemed like it would be the spiritual successor to "Dark Avengers" (which was a successor of sorts to Deodato's run on "Thunderbolts" with Warren Ellis) with darker stories that take place in the shadows of the Marvel Universe. And, honestly, the book has been just that so far, but who knew that the dark shadows of the Marvel Universe would involve the team going to Mars? Who knew that it would involve the Serpent Crown possessing Nova? And Deodato has done an absolutely fantastic job with those unexpected elements.
Near the beginning of the issue, Deodato does an page straight of a '70s Marvel comic with Ant-Man tumbling through a dimensional gateway providing extreme contortions and perspectives to highlight his helplessness in the chaos. Later in the issue, he does a great two-page montage of various cosmic elements of the Marvel universe including a Celestial, the Silver Surfer, and a Watcher, doing them all in his unique style and showing that he can draw just about anything. While Deodato has done some work like this in the past, he seems to be pushing himself here and succeeding quite ably.
The same goes for Ed Brubaker, a writer not known for his larger-than-life cosmic superhero stories as much as his grounded, more urban characters. He's shown that he can write this sort of comics in parts of his "Captain America" run and in his work on "Uncanny X-Men," but he does it here with more ease and comfort than ever before. However, while that confidence is apparent in his writing, this issue doesn't quite progress things, relying on exposition to drive the story forward, while the actual plot treads water somewhat.
Nova being possessed by the Serpent Crown is handled very well, especially his fight with Valkyrie with the two colliding on a single page of page-wide panels and Nova coming out on top. But, aside from that confrontation and one near the end of the issue, the team doesn't do anything on Mars in this issue. Information is learned that increases the stakes, but with the stakes already high, that new information doesn't land as strong as it should.
Something that Brubaker does very well is tease out the shadowy organization that was responsible for the dig on Mars and that stole the Serpent Crown that the team had obtained in the first issue. The opening scene of the book provides some background on the man in charge and we still don't know exactly what's going on with the Nick Fury that works for him. That subplot is one of the most intriguing parts of the title and Brubaker teases it out well here.
While the issue is slower than I would like and doesn't move things forward as much, the individual scenes are all very entertaining and the ending of the issue has a genuine 'we're all screwed' feeling. "Secret Avengers" is shaping up to be a really solid superhero team book with both Ed Brubaker and Mike Deodato showing that they can do more than grounded, dark stories by playing against expectations with a grandiose cosmic adventure.