I read a lot of comics every week. My weekly take-home is usually 20+ books – that’s a lot of reading! To that end, I’m a little conflicted on how to comment on Secret Avengers #34, and I’ll tell you why. First, it’s an ongoing Avengers team book that has not been written by Brian Bendis over the last little while. (Although I cannot be a gushing fanboy over everything that Bendis has done, as he has done some things I loved and others I could put on the opposite end of the spectrum, I am actually glad he didn’t take on this book.) Second, it was an Avengers equivalent to X-Force, without the assassinations – it kept true to the ideals of the Avengers themselves. But the title has gotten a little… strange.
When it first started, it was the types of stories you wouldn’t find in Avengers and New Avengers. It was more of an underground squad who is taking on the threats that needed to be done covertly. Think SHIELD but with powers. The first writer on the title was Ed Brubaker who, although he had written for Uncanny X-Men for some time, had a knack for taking the (more-or-less) non-powered characters and giving them strong stories. Brubaker was the guy who killed Captain America (and resurrected him), but also the guy who brought Bucky back from the dead and made him believable (at least, within a Marvel comics continuity). But since then the books has had a few creative teams and it seems most missions have a new team showing up (similar to Secret Defenders back in the day but without Doctor Strange pulling them together). No, this is definitely a unique team…
The team is led by Hawkeye (who people who read this site notice I review a lot of). he isn’t why I buy this book, but that’s just a bonus. He took over as team lead from Steve Rogers not too long ago, and has been taking this team into weird territory. And, having been an Avengers since #16 of the original run of the book, he has most definitely seen a lot and can handle himself in a crisis. The team also consists of Black Widow (long-time Avengers mainstay and former team leader), Giant-Man (founding member of the Avengers), Valkyrie (every Avengers team needs an Asgardian, right?), Captain Britain (ummm… ok…. Who says the Avengers has to be American?), Ant-Man (not Pym or Lang, but O’Grady), and Venom (wait, what??).
The majority of the team is dealing with a race called the Descendants, who art artificial life forms. They live among the people of Earth in secret. (Like the Cylons in the recent Battlestar Galactica TV series.) But now they are being awoken. Their race is based on the oldest non-organic life form within the Marvel Universe – the original Human Torch. When confronting them, though, things go… south. Venom and Valkyrie (who appear to have a thing going on) are in a space station when there is a hull breach and they are blown into space. Flash Thompson calls the symbiote to him which allows them to survive in the vacuum, and as soon as they’re good they save a naked Valkyrie and re-enter the station. They re-unite with the Black Widow and go to take on the baddies, which include Ant-Man (betrayed by one of their own???), a Doombot, Lady Deathstrike, and a Sentinel.
In the meantime, Hawkeye and Captain Britain are making a stand on another version of Earth. Since Captain Britain is the protector of the Marvel multiverse, he has access to travel from world to world. As such, he had stored an object of power on Earth-666, which seems to be made up of the undead. Franken-Castle is here, along with Cap-Wolf, vampire Wolverine, and other undead versions of Thor, Hawkeye himself, and Doctor Voodoo. Although Cap B can generally open a portal to any world or his hub between universes, Doctor Voodoo has a strong affinity to the mystic realm here and prevents their escape. At this point, it hits the fan. (You mean it didn’t already?)
All in all, this is a… confusing book. Rick Remender has done some strong stories in the past (and I love what he does with Venom), but this arc was really losing me. It was too over the top, and was losing me a lot. The interior art by Matteo Scalera suited the darker feel of the book. I am not familiar with his work, but he could be someone to keep an eye on. I’ll be honest, I was going to drop this book a while back, but seeing as how it’s being relaunched in a couple of months why drop it now? Why not finish the run? I’ll probably pick up the new title to give it a shot as well, but it’s one I will be putting on the fence.
So, I’ve been critical. Was there anything good? Well, I’m hoping that the story when wrapped up will be good as a whole. There are some stories that just don’t work well until you can read the whole thing (such as Steve Gerber’s final Man-Thing story) and I’m hoping this is one of them. But the covers… The covers of the last handful of issues are done by Art Adams, probably one of my favorite artists to ever grace Marvel comics. Unlike a number of artists, when he draws someone they are unique. There’s no duplication. It’s just amazing. The cover here alone made the issue worth picking up. Now here’s hoping that the conclusion of the story makes the insides of the last few issues worthwhile.