I wasn’t initially planning on picking this new Secret Avengers relaunch up, because that series as a whole has never lived up to the potential it has (except for briefly under Ellis). But in the end, I couldn’t ignore the fact that this was Ales Kot, the writer of the amazing Image spy book Zero doing a superhero spy book, and on top of that, he’s joined by the artist of Zero #1, Michael Walsh. Marvel roped me in, and on the basis of this first issue, they’ve got me for a the long-haul. This was a fantastic series opener, full of great character moments, some fun action, a surprising amount of humour and amazing artwork.
Kot kicks things off with Nick Fury Jr (a character I’m still not sold on, but I think this book might turn me around) and Agent Coulson on a SHIELD space station, dealing with a threat that’s a bit above their paygrade in The Fury. You know, from The Original Writer. We then flash back to 6 hours earlier when Maria Hill sent those two on this mission by themselves, because the new Secret Avengers team hasn’t officially been formed yet. I love how this gets across the bureaucracy of SHIELD. They’ve decided that the new Secret Avengers’ first mission will be on Friday, and no crisis will get in the way of that. But of course, it’s never that easy for the Avengers.
The other members of this team are set to be Black Widow and Spider-Woman, who are spending their time before they start relaxing and getting a massage at a Russian Baths, which is more than just a baths… it’s got a superhero target range for the ladies to have fun with, including Hulk Hands!
I said that things are never that easy for the Avengers, and nobody embodies that more than Hawkeye, who is not supposed to be on the new team, but stumbles into it anyway as he tries to run away from AIM and into the same baths that his ex-girlfriends are. Hawkeye is in full on Matt Fraction mode here, and I’m actually kind of conflicted about that. I love that book, but I think having the character appear in other settings and be that much of a fuck-up idiot is a bit ridiculous. There’s a reason that book shows what he’s doing when he’s not Avengering, and it’s because he’s allowed to be a bit incompetent. That said, his scenes here were very funny, and Kot has a lot of fun with it, even bringing back the old-school Hawkeye face to censor his dick, and to make it even better, doing the same thing for Spider-Woman’s boobs. I think that’s actually why the Fractionesque Hawkeye works here better than it should, the whole tone of the series is similar, and other characters are shown with the same humanity… and genitalia.
Hawkeye, Black Widow and Spider-Woman get into a naked fight with AIM and at the same time, Fury and Coulson are in trouble in space with The Fury (it’s meant to be confusing that there are 2 entities called Fury here, Kot gets a lot of funny bits out of it) but that’s not all, as there’s bad stuff going down at SHIELD HQ too. Maria Hill goes down into the Labs to meet with MODOK, who has turned informant and is now working for her, I really like Kot’s take on MODOK, who is just the right kind of ridiculous. He’s over-the-top weird and funny, but he’s still dangerous and you have to take him somewhat seriously. Whilst she’s down there with MODOK, a new Latverian SHIELD recruit is making his way through the Helicarrier killing agents, and he’s headed right for Hill.
Out in space, Coulson accidentally blasts open a window, and, whilst that does suck out The Fury, it leaves him and Nick Fury susceptible to getting lost out in the atmosphere themselves. Hill contacts Widow and Spider-Woman and tells them to go into space and save their soon-to-be teammates, with Hawkeye tagging along, but, to MODOK’s surprise, she doesn’t ask for help with the Latverian attack. She thinks he’s just a lone gunman, she can deal, but uh… nope, he shoots a hole right through her hand and it looks like he’s out for revenge for his parents.
This was an excellent first issue, it threw 2 exciting plots at us, has engaging characters, and as I said, a surprising sense of humour. I went into this expecting Zero but with superheroes, but this is totally different, Kot is a more versatile writer than that. This book is funny, and it’s not just Hawkeye. MODOK is funny, the Nick Fury/The Fury stuff is funny, even Black Widow has her moments, and she is a deadly serious bad-ass at all times.
Michael Walsh’s artwork was great too, as Ales Kot himself says in the letter’s page, his style is in the same zone as Aja, Phillips and Lark, all big favourites of mine, but he does bring something different to it. It’s a little rougher, which makes the violence harder but also makes the jokes hit better too. This is a dense book, with lots of panels, but it all looks great, and adds to the frantic feeling of SHIELD having to deal with 3 things at once before they’re ready.