The Hawkeye-ification of the Marvel Universe has begun, and I couldn’t be happier! Hawkeye is one of Marvel Comics’ most critically acclaimed series these days, and for very good reason. It’s a new, more personable take on the life of a superhero, with the focus more on Clint Barton’s normal, everyday life. The superheroics are there, but Clint the landlord, lousy boyfriend and dog-owner seems to be infinitely more interesting. And now a lot of other Marvel comics are following Hawkeye‘s lead, especially in the All-New Marvel NOW! She-Hulk by Charles Soule seems headed in that direction. Superior Foes of Spider-Man by Nick Spencer definitely has that flavor. And now here comes the relaunch of Secret Avengers, which not only features Hawkeye as a character, but definitely borrows his style.
Which means we get a wacky, character-driven take on a new Avengers squad, and I, for one, very much enjoyed it. I think writer Ales Kot clearly devoured all of the Hawkeye trades before he started scripting Secret Avengers #1. And artist Michael Walsh definitely does his best to adhere to David Aja’s style. This is my kind of comic.
The Secret Avengers have been around for a few years now – ostensibly as a black-ops version of the normal Avengers – but I’ve never particularly seen them actually pull that off. I don’t think there’s ever been a mission in this title that couldn’t have been handled by the regular Avengers, let alone any other superhero team on the market. Frankly, I feel that way about a lot of supposed ‘black ops’ superhero teams. But that’s neither here nor there. Kot has decided to focus more on a grounded group of ‘secret agent’-style heroes, with an emphasis on the partnership between the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. I think that’s a good premise for a series, keeping it distinct from the other Avengers titles out there – though who can really keep track of them all?
Kot’s team is Nick Fury Jr., Agent Coulson, Black Widow, Maria Hill, Spider-Woman, a reluctant Hawkeye and, as the surprise character, M.O.D.O.K. There’s always at least one surprise character. There are several plots and sub-plots going on, most notably MODOK building weapons for Maria Hill in secret, and Fury and Coulson battling the Fury on a space station – you remember the Fury, right? Classic Captain Britain villain? I don’t really think the Fury has any reason to tussling with these two agents on a space station, other than the obvious – and legitimately funny – Fury vs. Fury jokes. Hill and MODOK have nice chemistry, but Fury and Coulson still read to me like forced characters. They are still nothing more than Marvel’s weak attempt to bring popular movie characters into the comics. They need to stop trying to make Fury Jr. and Coulson happen, they’re not going to happen.
On the plus side is a story about Hawkeye, Black Widow and Spider-Woman battling a bunch of AIM agents – and not just because of the gratuitous female nudity. Here is where the comparisons to Hawkeye are strongest, with some truly excellent character work, comically brilliant art and the clever use of in-panel icons to hide the nudity. We’re not talking adult style nudity, more like ‘fun at the spa’ kind of nudity, because that’s where the battle takes place. It’s a fun sequence that shows a lot of promise for this series. It’s witty, clever with the action beats, and is a strong outing for all three characters, and the issue as a whole.
The art by Walsh is a good fit to the series, and like I said before, it bears a strong resemblance to the style of David Aja from Hawkeye. Characters are slightly cartoony, though clearly designed to look like normal people. There’s a sloppiness to it that seems to just be Walsh’s style, with less of a focus on solid black lines. It’s done in an effort towards realism, and it definitely works. The characters look and emote like real people, while still being comic book characters. That is also part of the new Marvel style, and I’m a big fan.
Secret Avengers #1 is a solid start to the title’s All-New Marvel NOW! relaunch. There’s no telling how long this volume will last compared to the others, but seeing as how it closely follows the style, humor and character focus of Hawkeye and similar Marvel Comics, I’m hoping for a really good series. Not that any of us really needed another Avengers comic these days.
Rating – 8/10.