Secret Avengers #16, “Subland Empire” marks the beginning of Warren Ellis coming on board as the writer for this title. Mr. Ellis is one of my very favorite writers of all-time, so I thought I would give this issue a spin. In the past, when Ellis took a semi-recent run on another Marvel title, Astonishing X-Men, I had mixed feelings about the book. Will his writing on Secret Avengers be the new Ellis/Marvel title that wins me over?
Our team of superheroes in Secret Avengers is made up of The Beast, Moon Knight, Black Widow, and Steve Rogers. This issue opens up with the Secret Avengers descending into a secret city “more than a mile under Cincinnati,” after detecting stray particles of Von Doom radiation. A “time platform” is the suspected culprit, and must be disabled if it does indeed exist.
The team sends Moon Knight out to scout the huge subterranean city by air, while they explore the area in an atomic-powered Cadillac. If you need to go adventuring into the unknown, it is always best to do so in Cadillac style.
It soon transpires that the Secret Avengers aren’t the only players in this underground city, and what’s worse is that the team’s presence doesn’t stay secret for very long. A wild chase, as well as a nicely illustrated fight sequence with Moon Knight takes place, before the action is interrupted by a two page centerfold of Captain America trying to sell me gum. [Ahem, the centerfold? Really?!]
Eventually Beast surmises that the entire area is one giant time platform that could be used to drop the entire underground city like a bomb, on any target in the world. This obviously won’t do, and swift action must be taken to prevent that scenario at all costs. But what will our heroes do? Sorry, no spoilers here – read the issue!
I liked the fact that Secret Avengers #16 seems to be a complete story, contained in this single issue. Ellis keeps the story moving at a brisk clip, even if it does all seem a bit tame compared to his work with other publishers. All and all, not a bad story in the least – but not mind-blowing and amazing either.
Jamie McKelvie’s art strikes a similar chord for with me – entirely serviceable but not eye-popping. The panels aren’t especially dynamic, and even fall a little flat at times. Many of the illustrations lack the level of detail or style that I have come to associate with great comic art. By no means was the art bad (it was much better than I could ever hope to personally achieve), I just wish it had that je ne sais quoi that would elevate it to the next level.
So obviously I won’t be picking up the next issue? Actually, YES, I likely will be picking up Secret Avengers #17. Even though I think there are a couple of things that could be worked on to make Secret Avengers a stronger title, this issue was still a solid read. I really liked the way Beast and Moon Knight in particular were written here, and look forward to what Ellis has in store for us next. I am not sure how long he will be on this title, if the issues will continue to be self-contained stories or if a longer continuity will be developed, but I don’t mind sticking around a while to find out.