Comic Book Review – Secret Avengers by Rick Remender

Secret Avengers V1-3 (2012-13)
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Patrick Zircher, Gabriel Hardman, Renato Guedes, Matteo Scalara, and Andy Kuhn

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Founded in the wake of Norman Osborn’s reign as leader HAMMER, the Secret Avengers set out to deal with rogue nations and terrorists under a veil of secrecy. Initially founded by Steve Rogers, the reins are handed over to Hawkeye with a team consisting of Valkyrie, The Beast, Black Widow, Captain Britain, the original Human Torch, and the Irredeemable Ant-Man. Their first mission has them responding to what appears to be a terrorist attack in Pakistan. Instead, they uncover a conspiracy of robots, androids, and automatons that has been brewing for decades. These Descendants, as they call themselves, are intent on getting their hands on a child born from one of their own, an anomaly in creation. A second threat comes in the form of a life model decoy of Nick Fury that runs the rogue nation of Bagalia. This sends the Avengers into a full-on war with an army of super-villains.

As with most of Remender’s Marvel work, he picks up threads of his other titles. Here one of the core plots revisits a minor thread from Uncanny X-Force. In that series, he introduced The Father, one of a trio of scientists who created Weapon Plus, a U.K. version on Canada’s Weapon X project. When Fantomex of X-Force was investigating Father’s facility, he set loose an army of Deathloks from the future. In the pages of Secret Avengers, we learn more about Father and his ties to Captain Britain. Remender reminds me of Geoff Johns in his repurposing of past bits of comic book history into something new. Here we have the Deathloks as well as Vision-inspire synthezoids, Doombots, LMDs, The Reavers, and even the original Human Torch. I love seeing writers develop plots that make the reader feels the scope of the universe, that this is a place which has seen so much life and significant events.

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Remender is also not one to shy away from tragedy. His take on the Irredeemable Ant-Man has a very painful angle in my opinion. The character, Eric O’Grady was a SHIELD agent who used the Pym technology to his selfish ends and operates a rogueish anti-hero. His inclusion in comics was often as comic relief, but Remender saw darkness in O’Grady. What happens to this Ant-Man in the first arc, and his subsequent development leaves him as one of the darkest elements running around the Marvel Universe. He’s a full-fledged villain now, having just recently popped up in the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man. How O’Grady went down this path, the twisted avenues he goes down regarding understanding his own identity are subtle but gravely disturbing.

Remender has a fondness for Captain Britain, having used him prominently for an arc in Uncanny X-Force before his Secret Avengers run. While this arc doesn’t deal a whole lot with the omniversal aspects of Britain’s character, it does touch on his sense of heroism and inadequacies. It is a very different take on Britain and has some discussion on his comparison with Captain America. In the third and final arc, Britain uses his Otherworld connections to travel to Earth-666 where a critical artifact needs to be retrieved. Remender gets to indulge in his love of the macabre by having Britain and Hawkeye fight the Avengers of the Undead.

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Secret Avengers also manages to give a fantastic spotlight to Jim Hammond, the original Human Torch. Because Hammond is an android, the Descendents view him as their progenitor and with a little reprogramming he goes along with it. Captain Britain gets his great heroic moment when it’s up to him to convince a dogmatic Hammond to stop the singularity from overtaking humanity. Once again, Remender delivers a beautifully tragic conclusion for a character. Hammond does the heroic thing, but it costs him emotionally and spiritually.

Remender delivers an unexpected romance between Valkyrie and Venom which is unforeseen but works. The Venom in question here is Flash Thompson’s Agent version, but Remender doesn’t ever give him the sort of spotlight he had in the solo title that led into this Secret Avengers title. Hank Pym reunites with his lost love, Janet Van Dyne in the form of an alternate future’s Deathlok cyborg. She’s part of the Descendents and Pym, of course, has a sacred place in their ranks being the father of Ultron and grandfather of The Vision. She attempts to convert Pym into one of the Deathloks but ultimately fails. However, Remender isn’t done messing with Pym as we’ll see when we get to the final book in this series.

Overall, Secret Avengers is much fun, though we only get two story arcs in three books. These stories are packed to the gills with references to everything Remender loves and his other titles. The finale is large enough in scope that we get cameos from across Marvel’s New York while never losing sight of the core team and the personal dramas happening between them. All this would serve to work as a prelude to Remender’s most ambitious title yet: The Uncanny Avengers.

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