“Secret Avengers” #36 from Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera is a tried and true fight comic in the greatest superhero tradition. Narrative wheels churn, but the issue consists mostly of boiling action in anticipation of next issue’s series conclusion. The stakes are raised, final plays made, and everything hangs in the balance. It’s a good superhero comic, but it unfortunately lacks the resonance Remender brought to his “Uncanny X-Force” run. The main difference being this comic doesn’t feel like it’s actually about anything.
Spider-Man works to save citizens around a Sentinel running mad, Beast chops down a Doombot, the original Human Torch and Captain Britain duke it out in the air, Venom and the Black Ant trade blows, etc, etc. These are all fantastic set pieces for action, but their beauty is truly skin deep. Punches, powered blasts and flame can only hold attention for so long. It’s a fun ride but it’s the sort of thing you walk away from with a smile and then can’t express your delight for it in any cognitive way later on.
Remender uses the intellect of some characters as an almost deus ex machina, which is a major issue. Captain Britain’s plan at the start is actually well thought out, so it’s excusable, but when Beast saves the day later on it becomes almost groan-inducing. Allowing Beast to have the solution ready because he thought to come prepared for this insane eventuality is an incredibly simplistic way to push through a portion of the complication. It leads to some great material and moments for Hank Pym in Deathlok mode, but it isn’t earned.
Matteo Scalera is the shining star of this book. His composition and inky execution brings a level of craft to the page that makes this fight comic feel like more. The scratchy inks and splattered layers lend a gritty nature to a comic that could easily have been too polished. Scalera’s double page spread of Pym in fighting style is glorious in the weight it carries as well as the technical prowess it shows. Scalera can do it all and yet his style isn’t mainstream Marvel fare. In fact, I’d go so far as to say I don’t want to see Scalera on a flagship book as much as I want to see him succeeding on a creator owned title where this style can fully flourish and be appreciated.
“Secret Avengers” #36 is the penultimate chapter to Rick Remender’s run on the title. There’s plenty to like about the issue, but amidst some of the great work out there, much of it belonging to Remender himself, this book is just another fight comic like far too many others. There are some interesting character points at play with this diverse cast, but the book struggles because it isn’t truly about anything. Hold on, have fun, and enjoy it for what it is.