Steve Rogers of Mars

Ed Brubaker had me worried, for a while.

The first two issues of Secret Avengers were alright, I guess, but more often than not they were convoluted, confusing and hard-to-follow. The second issue, by far the worse of the two, suffered even further from some poor storytelling by Mike Deodato, something particularly obvious in the painful transitions between scenes and perspectives.

Secret Avengers #3, though- this is the stuff. As Brubaker's threads begin to come together, as we're introduced to new characters, as he gets more comfortable with his team and as result his characterization improves, as we begin to sense what might be going on and what it means, the issue comes together in a way that some of the previous ones haven't. If that's because the book has a significantly greater focus on Steve this issue instead of because Brubaker is beginning to control his imagination rather than let his imagination control him (let's call this the Grant Morrison Problem, shall we?) well, that would be worrying. I think perhaps it does help that, this month, the book feels a little bit more like a Steve Rogers solo title, but only insofar as it lets Brubaker acclimate to a much different style of writing, a style in which an ensemble of characters share equal billing.

As much as he's been uneven with his ensemble cast, the ideas in the last two issues outpaced his writing. In many ways, they seemed wild and cavalier and it didn't help they just sort of piled one right on top of the others: let's go to Mars, Nova's gone rogue, there's a second Nick Fury, etc. Here though, all of these things really do begin to come together, and they begin to make a modicum of sense (although, luckily, not too much sense). The most interesting part of this is the hint as to the origin of the Shadow Council; the choice to make the series' villain HYDRA without making it, you know, HYDRA, is unbelievably brilliant, and that Brubaker seems to be borrowing elements from Jeff Parker's Atlas for his villainous secret organization makes everything even better. This way, the villain isn't some half-assed joke: The Shadow Council is what HYDRA would be if anyone but Jonathan Hickman took them seriously, and having a real villain with real mystique adds tons to Secret Avengers. I suspect Brubaker's planting seeds here that won't come to fruition for years and I sincerely hope this is a book that lasts long enough for him to see them all through.

Deodato, too, has made major strides: his transitions, so jerky last issue, are seamless. His action and characterization are a lot less stiff- he's no David Aja (we're going to have to wait until issue five for that*), but there's a little more kineticism than is usually in his work, and it's welcome. The characters have a little bit more depth too, but that may be a matter of a welcome improvement in coloring. I think Deodato is growing on the book in much the same way that Brubaker is, and that, in a couple of issues time, my initial worries about the art team for Secret Avengers are going to seem unfounded.

Hopefully, the book will continue to improve by leaps and bounds as it matures. What we've got here is a look at what Secret Avengers could become in just a few issues time and damn if it isn't good looking.

*Not a joke. AWWWWW YEAH!

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