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    Review: Captain America and the Secret Avengers #1

    By | March 31st, 2011
    Posted in Reviews | % Comments

    Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick
    Illustrated by Greg Tocchini

    Steve Rogers’ black ops femme fatales go on the hunt for a rogue assassin! The Black Widow & Agent 13 join forces to stop an under-aged assassin from taking her revenge on a killer of a headmistress. Fierce fisticuffs, death-defying duels and good ol’ fashioned espionage ensue as everything comes to a head in the Big Apple where the gals go in guns blazin’ against… teenaged versions of themselves?!

    Up until now, I had not bought any of the Captain America 70th Anniversary one-shots. It’s odd, because I’m actually a big fan of most of the creators involved (Kieron Gillen, Declan Shelvey and Rebekah Isaacs stand out, in particular) but none of the books felt like they had associated homes in my collection. However, with a one-shot “tie-in” to one of my favorite Marvel books at the moment, I felt like this wasn’t a book to pass up.

    Take a look after the cut to see if I was right.

    Ed Brubaker is doing some kind of magic over in Secret Avengers, writing what appears to be both a quiet prelude to Fear Itself as well as a great spy/espionage story mixed with space and kung fu. In a title that is so “outside the box” for the average Brubaker title, you would imagine that any follow-up writer who attempts to take on these characters would have difficulty. That being said, this comic is a pretty perfect example of why DeConnick should be writing more for Marvel, because in taking time to focus on two characters of the team she has created an excellent companion issue to the main title.

    Ostensibly*, the various Captain America one-shots coming out now are supposed to show the various relationships that Captain America has had throughout the ages with various heroes and villains, and how is presence has effected all of them. So far with the titles that have come out, that has only really rung true for the First Thirteen (or so I’m told, as the Batroc issue was mainly a character piece and the Crossbones issue took place in modern times as opposed to the 40’s), but there’s nothing inherently wrong with simply highlighting the various cast of Cap that have played important roles in his life in the modern era. It’s with that in mind that a story about Agent 13 works well, because she is Cap’s main squeeze, yet she gets very little time to actually shine in Secret Avengers.

    So the Black Widow and Agent 13 walk into a “bar” (read the issue and you’ll get it). In doing so they inadvertently walk into a trap masterminded by a new femme fatale, and have to fight their way out. You may have read some of DeConnick’s work previously in two Women of Marvel one-shots that came out last year, both telling self-contained tales of female heroism and adventure. This one-shot is fairly similar to those in style and execution, but filled with the wit that we’ve seen DeConnick use recently in her Osborn title. DeConnick is definitely one of the more underrated names in comics at the moment, specifically because her work thus far has been fairly limited which is a shame. She’s got a great ear for dialogue, and the issue reads incredibly well with Agent 13 and Black Widow having a great back-and-forth to them that really lets the characters shine. Secret Avengers is, albeit on purpose or not, essentially a Captain America and Friends title at the moment (which I suppose makes the title of this issue fairly humorous), with the other characters essentially offering boosts to Steve, but DeConnick allows Agent 13 and Black Widow to take Steve down a few pegs very early on in the issue, which not only sets the off-color humorous tone but also makes a great statement for our ladies to lead with.

    The only real downside to the issue is that it does lack a real connection to the Captain America mythology. While the solicit does state that the issue is mostly about the femme fatales (sans Valkyrie, since she’s not very spy-ish?), it would have been nice for an issue branded with Cap’s name to deal with the relationship between Agent 13 and Cap. It’s not that the issue implicitly stated anything like this would happen, but for something with a nice big Captain America logo on the top, it would’ve been nice to see him be a bit more than the Charlie to their Angels, especially since this is his 70th birthday after all.

    Continued below

    You may know Greg Tocchini as the man behind the glorious triptych of covers for the Cap specials, but this is the only issue that he does interiors for as well. The only thing I knew him on interiors from was the Last Days of American Crime with Rick Remender, and while the two books are in VERY different styles, they’re both still rather stylistic. In Last Days of American Crime, Tocchini did his own colors which allowed him to set the mood a tad more with very specific lighting that illuminated the page in the dark atmosphere of the story. In this one-shot, Paul Mounts is responsible for the colors with Tocchini, which give the book a much more bright feel. You can even notice the different from the cover alone, which uses similar shades across the entire triptych to evoke the colors of the American flag. The interiors still look good though. Mounts colors give nice accents to Tocchini’s illustrations, and Tocchini’s illustrations are very good indeed. While the book is a rather straightforward action/spy story, the inks and character design give the book a Philips/Southworth feel with a slight pulp-vibe.

    I can’t say much for the other one-shots in this series, but this one ended up being well worth the buy. It’s always nice to read more from DeConnick, and having Tocchini on art after a great cover series is a nice way to end this “series.” The book is very much a side-story that will assumedly never be mentioned again, but if you were a fan at all of the Women Of Marvel one-shots (they were really all quite good, truth be told), the issue will definitely make a nice addition to your Secret Avengers collection as it stands right now.

    Final Verdict: 8.7 – Buy

    *I should also add that it certainly didn’t hurt that Kelly Sue used my favorite word in the English language twice in her book. I was so excited that I tweeted about it, because that’s how good of a word “ostensibly” is (and not enough people use it).

    Matthew Meylikhov

    Once upon a time, Matthew Meylikhov became the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Multiversity Comics, where he was known for his beard and fondness for cats. Then he became only one of those things. Now, if you listen really carefully at night, you may still hear from whispers on the wind a faint voice saying, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine is not as bad as everyone says it issss."