REVIEW: “Secret Avengers” #4

(Marvel Comics, 2013)

Review by Shawn Warner

WRITTEN BY:  Nick Spencer
ARTWORK BY:  Luke Ross

A.I.M. has stolen the Iron Patriot technology and recruited Mentallo, a disaffected S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, to bring sentience to the armor. They began to think and reason, they ascended. They set about serving the will of their makers- no matter what the cost in lives.

Meanwhile Doctor Bruce Banner is brought onboard the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier Iliad where acting director Maria Hill is hoping he can shut down the Iron Patriot drones. Unfortunately Doctor Banner informs her that judging by their response time, their reflex movements and the communication between them that they have become sentient. He goes on further to explain that they now have a sense of self-identity and survival instinct. In light of this the task of simply shutting off a machine has become that of extinguishing vast amounts of individualized life. His solution is to find a means of communication and open it with them.

Elsewhere aboard the Iliad Agent Coulson is on his way to meet with Colonel Rhodes. Coulson is interrupted by Tony Stark via a remote Iron Man suit, since Stark is at this time far away with the Guardians of the Galaxy. Stark is running down his busy schedule for Coulson who is somewhat less than interested as his goal is simply to meet with Rhodes.

Maria Hill has taken Doctor Banner’s advice under consideration but has arrived at another conclusion. She decides to use The Hulk to deal with the Iron Patriots. Banner is deployed from a S.H.I.E.L.D. helicopter over Tehran. In order to avoid nuclear retaliation from the Iranians The Hulk is to engage six separate contingents of Iron Patriots. He is instructed not to hold back which he does not as he smashes the sentient robots to pieces. Upon completion of his mission, amid a pile of Iron Patriot wreckage The Hulk turns back to Doctor Banner to find himself surrounded by armed soldiers, tanks and helicopters all from S.H.I.E.L.D. sent by Maria Hill. She goes so far as to deny at a press conference The Hulk’s involvement with S.H.I.E.L.D. and even his membership status as an Avenger. She informs the press that The Hulk was under a mind control influence by Mentallo at the time of the attack.  Mentallo a.k.a Marvin Flumm is currently being given sanctuary on A.I.M. Island.

Now 2 miles off the coast of Barbuda Nick Fury, Black Widow, Hawkeye and Mockingbird infiltrate A.I.M. Island. Mockingbird is given responsibility for finding the location of the communications network used to talk to the Iron Patriots. While Agents Fury, Black Widow and Hawkeye are officially given clearance to assassinate The Scientist Supreme.

Secret Avengers is the Avengers title that is written most closely to resemble the Avengers movie. It is very obviously aimed at that audience right down to the inclusion of Agent Coulson (who is even drawn to look like Clark Gregg, his film counterpart). However there are original aspects to the book as well. The fact that the team has the memory of each mission erased from their minds upon completion is the big one and I love it. The missions are deemed too sensitive and dangerous to be handled by the higher profile teams so The Secret Avengers were formed. They are strictly black-ops.

Nick Spencer does a fine job of writing a team book although he is most known for his crime noir work. That is not to say he hasn’t written a good bit of super hero comics including Iron Man 2.0 and Ultimate Comics: X-Men for Marvel and Action Comics for D.C. He took over the Secret Avengers from Ed Brubaker and has made the title very much his own.  At its heart Secret Avengers is a S.H.I.E.L.D. book more than an Avengers book. There is that feel of intrigue and Spy-like adventure to the stories here. The action is there but it is tinged with politics and conspiracies. Nick Spencer is a smart writer who gives his characters individual voices and personalities that can sometimes get lost in team books. This book is fast paced and expertly written, clear and coherent even when it’s not exactly evident who the good guys are.

Luke Ross brings a very cinematic feel to this book. He shines particularly on the pages involving The Hulk and his battle with multiple Iron Patriots. His facial renderings are superb. Each character is easily recognizable even the somewhat similar looking Maria Hill and Daisy Johnson. Over all Luke Ross does a great job on this book keeping the action brisk even on the dialogue heavy pages. His page lay-outs are well planned and make optimum use of space.

Secret Avengers is a fun book. It brings together diverse elements to create an exciting original team book that is part super hero part spy thriller. It’s not a typical Avengers book but those elements are there. If you are a fan of the Marvel movies this is the book I would use to bring you into Marvel continuity. It bridges the films and the comics in such a way that both are respected and one enhances the other.

So until next week, see you at the comic book store.

___________________________

Follow Shawn Warner on Twitter:  @shawnwarner629

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