Secret Avengers #23
Secret Avengers #23
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Rick Remender
Penciller: Gabriel Hardman

Much to my dismay, I have to admit that Rick Remender, has been a bit off his game recently. The most recent arc of Uncanny X-Force is almost too busy, while his .1 issue of this title suffered from poor characterization and a general question of the story's relevancy. Last year's Dark Angel Saga in Uncanny X-Force was so epic in scale and so pitch perfect in story beats, it would be hard to blame him for being a bit creatively drained. However I am happy to say that this issue of Secret Avengers represents a return to form for Remender.

Ant-Man follows the new Adaptoids back to their home base, and we learn more about the artificial lifeform enclave they belong to. Meanwhile, Steve Rogers continues to build the squad of covert Avengers he used to lead, much to the chagrin of Hawkeye, his hand picked successor to lead the team.

Remender is juggling a large cast, twice the size of the one he uses in Uncanny X-Force, but is doing so with admirable skill. And while not every character gets their fair share of screen time, it's evident from his character work this issue that he has an intuitive understanding of and respect for his cast. Remender works wonders with Hank McCoy, developing a friendly rivalry between him and Hank Pym, and elevating him to the role of Clint's closest advisor. Remender also gives Eric O'Grady, the Iredeemable Ant-Man a chance to shine through a hopeless situation, and an inner monologue in which the character laments that the way he conducts himself as an Avenger is by going against what his every instinct tells him to do.

While the friction between Hawkeye and Cap seemed forced in the aforementioned .1 issue of the series, it works much better here as the flare up between the two old friends feels properly motivated. Steve technically handed over the reins of the team to Hawkeye two issues ago, but since that time has still been calling most of the shots, going so far as to handpick the roster without Clint's input.

Gabriel Hardman's art is a bit grittier and sketchier than you would expect from an Avengers title, but I think it is well suited to the espionage flair of this title. While I'm still not crazy about the way he draws Beast, there is a certain classical nature to his renditions of Human Torch and Captain Britain that are just a joy to behold. The action scenes featuring Ant-Man are well choreographed and multiply the tension to what was already a nail biter of a sequence.

The issue ends on a cliffhanger that, if this were any other book, would feel like a cop out. However I think that hallmark of a great creative team, is one that can take a cliffhanger that I, a dyed in the wool comics fan, have seen many times before, and make me wonder if next issue won't open on tragedy than a last second save. Get on board now, because this creative team is gearing up for great things.

Grade: B+
comments powered by Disqus