Written by Ales Kot
Art by Michael Walsh
Published by Marvel Comics
Release Date: March 12th, 2014

SECAVN2014001_DC11_LRThe Secret Avengers squad gets the All-New Marvel NOW! treatment with a first issue that will blow you away. Writer Ales Kot’s brief run on DC’s Suicide Squad and his creator owned title Zero have made him one of the best writers of espionage comics in the business. The trend continues, alongside artist Michael Walsh, as the duo delivers a comic that has a great chance of quickly becoming a fan favorite.

Maria Hill is putting together a new S.H.I.E.L.D. sanctioned Avengers squad led by Agents Fury and Coulson, but as usual things don’t go as planned. The result is a fast paced issue with things going bad on several different fronts. Whether it is Fury and Coulson facing off against a classic Alan Moore villain, Hawkeye on the run from A.I.M. goons, Spider-Woman and Black Widow enjoying a massage, or Maria Hill trading barbs with M.O.D.O.K., the issue never seems to slow down. The plot itself is pretty straightforward, as things go bad, and the team is forced to come together much quicker than expected. A lot does happen in the course of the issue, and enough is setup for the future that you will want to see where the book goes from here.

The biggest surprise here is just how much fun the book is. When the book’s creative team was announced I assumed the book would be more in line with the duo’s previous effort on the first issue of Kot’s Zero. I was expecting a serious book featuring the Marvel Universe’s premiere spies, not the second coming of Hawkeye in team form. Maybe the comparison is a bit unfair to Kot and Walsh who will want this book to stand on its own, but it really is the best way to describe the book for readers who are coming in blind. In fact, if I were Marvel, and Matt Fraction were to ever leave Hawkeye’s solo book, my first phone call would be to Ales Kot. Essentially what it comes down to is if you love Hawkeye there’s a very good chance that you will adore Secret Avengers. The dialogue is snappy, and the action is both plentiful and kinetic. On top of it all, the characterization of Clint, Natasha, Jessica, Maria, Nick, and Phil are top notch. Clint is the loveable loser we’ve come to know from his book. Then you have the duo of Spider-Woman and Black Widow. The friendship between the two women have become a fan favorite over the past few years thanks primarily to the work of Kelly Sue DeConnick. Kot just writes the hell out of these two, and those readers who love what DeConnick did with the two in Avengers Assemble will love how they are portrayed here. On the flip side of those two you have the bromance that is Fury and Coulson. They are friends, partners, and two powerless S.H.I.E.L.D. agents that get in over their heads. Kot also does a great job of having the book honor what has come before while making sure the book is an ideal jumping on point for new readers. The best example of this is how he deals with M.O.D.O.K. and his current relationship with S.H.I.E.L.D. The characters are great, the dialogue is great, the action is great, and the art is the same.

In the letters page of this issue Ales Kot describes the art style of Michael Walsh as a “descendent of the art styles of Sean Phillips, David Aja, Michael Lark – yet it’s own thing…” and I couldn’t agree more. The assessment is spot on, and perfectly describes what you can expect when you pick up this issue. The book is beautiful while matching the script brilliantly. Above, I described the action as kinetic, and most of that can be attributed to the art of Walsh and colorist Matt Wilson. A.I.M. chasing Hawkeye through the rooftops of New York, or the scenes with Fury and Coulson in space are just beautifully rendered. There are also some familiar yet fun visual tricks to cover up some nudity that don’t add a lot to the story, but helps set the fun tone of the book. The work on the individual characters is equally impressive. The smiles on Natasha and Jess’ faces as they throughly enjoy shooting big guns, the look of embarrassment on Clint’s face as he finds himself in a compromising position, and the look on Maria Hill’s face as the issue comes to a close are nice touches that add a lot to the story. The color work of Matt Wilson cannot be overlooked. He uses a bright palate that helps Walsh’s line work jump off of the page while invoking the feel of the classic Steranko S.H.I.E.L.D. run. The end result is a very pretty comic book.

Overall, Kot and Walsh smashed a home run with this first issue of Secret Avengers. If you like Hawkeye, Zero, Avengers Assemble or fun comics in general than you can’t pass up this issue. If you weren’t planning on picking up the book or if it just wasn’t on your radar, make sure to rectify that immediately. Another great addition to the Marvel lineup, and more proof that the All New Marvel NOW! intitative has been a rousing creative success. I can’t wait to see what this creative team has in store for us next.

The Verdict: 10/10

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