REVIEW: Secret Avengers #21.1

Secret Avengers #21.1

Colors by  ANDY TROY / Letters by DAVE LANPHEAR

You have to admire Marvel for their commitment to the Point One initiative. On the whole, they do exactly what they’re supposed to: ensnare new readers with an easy to consume slice of superhero fun and entice the old guard with a new direction for the book. Secret Avengers #21.1 is no exception. Rick Remender’s first issue on the series is straightforward, well paced and playful in places. As a trailer for his tenure on the book it definitely gets your attention.

Set in Bagalia, a fictional city with a horrendous name, the narrative concerns itself with Hawkeye unknowingly auditioning for a leadership position with the Secret Avengers. Steve Rogers has once again donned the familiar red, white and blue Captain America duds and is understandably a bit busy in the post-”Fear Itself” world. He decides that although the Secret Avengers are necessary, he needs to hand over the reins. In steps Hawkeye, just in time for a certain film coming this summer, to fill his shoes.

Although Remender hammers home the idea that Hawkeye is about as subtle as a brick to the face, he seems uniquely equipped for an espionage team. This is mainly due to his new costume design and obvious skills. His new threads are subtle and practical, so he at least looks the part. But before we start pondering his potential, Remender lays down Clint’s personality. Brass, loud and obnoxious, Hawkeye is everything Cap is trying to avoid and that is the beauty of the conflict on display.

The time Remender puts in detailing the differences between the two creates a great dynamic. It is the well-worn dynamic we all know and love, but Remender just nails it. He understands these characters perfectly. This is highlighted in a wonderful moment where Cap tells Hawkeye some home truths. It is this level of characterization which makes Remender’s Secret Avengers so appealing. It also makes you wish both characters were on the book permanently as it would be nice to see this banter continue.

The amazing thing about this issue is that even though it’s packed with characterization, it doesn’t seem to affect the pace. There is a good mixture of character, action and plot to sell the book to both the new and old reader. To be fair the plot is uncomplicated and only serves as setup for the title, but it’s succinct story telling at it’s best. The idea of the Shadow Council creating a new Masters of Evil links the previous runs into what Remender has planned. It is a very simple but exciting prospect, enhanced by the eclectic mix of members The Masters employ. Vengeance, Princess Python, Max Fury and Whiplash; each one is as bizarre a choice as the next, but they take down Cap as if they have always been together.

The only real stumbling block for the issue is the end. It’s a bit saccharine and doesn’t really sell the idea that Hawkeye has convinced Cap or the reader, that he deserves to lead the team at all. Although he’s fun here, Clint has always been something of a one-note character and the idea of him as a leader fails to entice.

Patrick Zircher is on hand for this caper and his work is clean and functional. There isn’t any real visual flare, but he knows how to tell a well-paced story. It is well constructed, as the fight choreography is clear and there is a sense of motion in his pencils, which compliment the script’s pace. Bagalia however is washed in turquoise, which blurs any detail that in turn makes the backgrounds uninspired. But he should be commended on his distinct character work. He really sells Hawkeye’s new costume, as the archer bounces around the place like the circus boy he is. Cap is efficiently designed for combat here. He seems to flow whilst still maintaining a sense of discipline. The Masters themselves look formidable. Whiplash for the first time in a while looks great in his practical armor. Princess Python has the femme fatale look down and Vengeance is a great visual presence.

Although the plots point is having Hawkeye prove himself a worthy candidate for leadership, it doesn’t truly convince the reader. But aside from this grumble Remender has managed to sell his take on the superteam or at the very least whipped up some intrigue on what he’ll do next. Zircher’s assured pencils help craft a solid and entertaining issue. Even though it is aimed for the new reader it has enough in it to appeal to the original fans of the title. Well staged action and solid character moments at least show that the title is in good hands. All we can do now is see what’s next.

WRITING: 4.5/5
ART: 4/5
OVERALL: 4.25/5

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