Secret Avengers #21.1
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Patrick Zircher and Andy Troy
Letters by Dave Lanphear
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by George Marston
'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10
Rick Remender has his work cut out for him in following Ed Brubaker and Warren Ellis on Secret Avengers. This title has been one of the most consistent Avengers books hitting the stands basically since it started, and Ellis's all-too-short run of visually and thematically exciting done-in-one stories really cemented the book's continued potential. Here, in Remender's inaugural tale as ongoing writer of Secret Avengers, we are treated to what is essentially a team-up story between Captain America and Hawkeye as they infiltrate a country that is essentially Las Vegas, Dubai, and the fabled "international waters" all rolled into one steaming den of sex and gambling to rescue an American dignitary from an assassination plot. How does this fare against the series so far? Well, it's not a train wreck, but it's not really a smash hit, either. There's a lot of good stuff here, including Patrick Zircher's ever-improving art, and the continued presence of the Shadow Council subplot, but some confused characterization and a lack of real direction derail the reading a little too often.
My main problem with this issue is Rick Remender's take on the Captain America/Hawkeye dynamic. There's a little too much hostility, and never really any friendship, humor, or even mutual respect. It's made clear that Cap is intentionally pushing Hawkeye's buttons, attempting to ascertain whether Hawkeye is ready to take over leadership of the Secret Avengers, but even that doesn't really explain what's going on. There's very little hint of the admiration that's been fostered between these two men, and even less indication that they're great friends. It just doesn't sit right, and it feels forced. All of that said, the premise that Cap is putting Hawkeye through his paces, gauging whether he'd be a suitable leader for his black ops squad is fine, and when the focus is less on how angry these guys make each other, and more on the question at hand, the story moves along smoothly enough.
The only major hiccup, in terms of readability, comes halfway through the story, when Captain America is suddenly jumped by some kind of an evil green Ghost Rider. And when I say suddenly, I mean that you turn the page, and there it is. I honestly had to check and make sure that a page or two weren't missing from my copy of the book. All I could think was, "What the hell is Ghost Rider doing here?" Even after it became apparent that this wasn't the Ghost Rider that recently debuted, but an evil version of Ghost Rider — Vengeance. I was left puzzled by the character's presence in the book. Turns out, this character, who it took me a few tries to remember, is joining a new Masters of Evil, who are being assembled by the Shadow Council. Anyway, Hawkeye winds up saving Captain America from Max Fury and the new Masters of Evil (also including Whiplash and Princess Python) and I guess proves himself worthy of leading Cap's team.
The saving grace of this issue has to be Patrick Zircher, fresh off a terrific run on Hulk, whose art is just getting better and better. Zircher, along with colorist Andy Troy, dishes out the kind of widescreen, dynamic action that a superhero spy book of this caliber deserves. Sadly, it looks like Zircher is only on the Point One issue, though Gabriel Hardman should be a welcome addition to the creative team.
While it's not exactly an auspicious beginning, for Rick Remender's Secret Avengers, there's enough here to hint at some possible growth as the run goes on. The presence of the Shadow Council hints that the sub-plots that have been building since the series began will continue into Remender's run, and the pacing and plot of the issue are interesting enough on their own. If he can get more of a handle on the characters involved, there's a lot of potential in his storytelling. With a background on such titles as Uncanny X-Force, which features a similar team of behind-the-scenes heroes, there's a lot that says Remender should be great for this title. This issue is split 50/50 in backing up that assumption, but the potential is present enough to make it worth another shot.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!