‘Secret Avengers’ by Warren Ellis: Big, Smart Stories One Issue At A Time [Review]
Superhero comics have with increasing frequency been turning out stories that match epic scope with epic length, with massive world-saving adventures featuring casts of hundreds covering several issue-long arcs crossing over into multiple other books with spin-offs and tie-ins. And that's fine. I love a good, long, engrossing read that keeps you excited to see what happens next month. But there's also something to be said for a story that can capture that same epic scope of a world-in-unimaginable-peril and condense it down into a single issue. That is precisely what writer Warren Ellis, supported by various talented artists, is doing on his Secret Avengers run right now. His latest issue hits shelves this week from Marvel Comics.
Secret Avengers follows the black ops Avengers team as they fight dangers and confront conspiracies too dire to be revealed to the Marvel Universe's public. Ellis' stint as writer on the book began with issue #16, which featured artwork by Jamie McKelvie and colors by Matthew Wilson. That story saw Steve Rogers, Black Widow, Beast and Moon Knight infiltrate a secret underground city beneath Cincinnati and stop an enormous time machine from wiping Cincy off the map by sending it through space and time to be used as a blunt force weapon of mass destruction. This was accomplishing by, among other things, turning a convertible atomic Cadillac into a makeshift neutron bomb.
Secret Avengers #16 was a great read for so many reasons: Ellis' clever, quick and often biting dialogue was there, voiced most entertainingly by Beast; the character was a joy to see drawn by McKelvie again after the brief but wonderful S.W.O.R.D.; and the issue touched on how amazingly advanced technology can evoke wonder and terror at the same time, an idea that Ellis has often turned into a thoroughly compelling read. If you missed Secret Avengers #16 the first time around, make sure to pick up the second printing, which is also out this week.
Alongside that second printing of issue #16 will be the brand new Secret Avengers #17. This time joined by artist Kev Walker and color artist Frank Martin, Ellis tells a single-issue story of Steve Rogers, Sharon Carter, War Machine and Valkyrie investigating a high-tech device being used to abduct displaced refugees in Serbia. It's another sci-fi action story and cautionary tale about how giving people the power to do things no one imagined before means that sometimes they'll choose to do the unthinkable. Despite how far humanity has come, all too often we're still screaming apes attempting to put hard pointy objects into our perceived rivals from a safe distance and continue doing so until they stop moving. Also, the issue has a fight involving a man with a laser on his motorcycle, a woman with a sword and a flying horse, and a heavily armed big rig.
Ellis and his rotating art teams have been doing great work turning out self-contained stories. Please do yourself the favor of checking out Secret Avengers, because it'd be a shame if they got lost in a sea of big events and reboots because they don't have a month-to-month cliffhanger to build buzz.
Secret Avengers #16 and #17 are on sale now at finer comics shops.