Wazzup! Oh, what? Were you expecting someone else? Someone… “crazy” perhaps? Well, tough. The only crazy you’ll get today is your old pal Two-Bit. But if you recall the review for Venom #14, at the end of that issue, Flash Thompson/Venom is accepted into the Secret Avengers, and writer Rick Remender follows up on that in this issue. Do we get to see a whole lot of symbiote action? You might be surprised. Read on to find out!
Secret Avengers #23
“The Descendants, Part 2: A Victory for the Little Guy”
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Gabriel Hardman
Color Art: Bettie Breitweiser
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover Art: Arthur Adams & Peter Stiegerwald
The Secret Avengers: Captain America (Commander Steve Rogers), Hawkeye (Clint Barton), Black Widow (Natasha Romanova), Beast (Dr. Hank McCoy), Valkyrie (Brunhilde), Ant-Man (Eric O’Grady), Captain Britain (Brian Braddock, not listed for some reason), Giant-Man (Dr. Hank Pym, guest)
***WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD***
THE PLOT: In the previous issue, a woman named Yalda creates an “organically magnified explosion” in Pakistan, prompting Hawkeye’s team of Secret Avengers to investigate. They have an encounter with advanced Adaptoids, who kidnap Yalda and her son, Parvez. Ant-Man, however, manages to hitch a ride with them unnoticed. In this issue, the Adaptoids teleport to the earth’s core, where Yalda and Parvez are presented to their leader, Father.
Meanwhile, Captain America introduces Flash Thompson to Jim Hammond, the original Human Torch. He takes them to the new Secret Avengers headquarters in space, the Lighthouse space station, where Hank Pym has successfully created a 24-hour sedative for the Venom symbiote so Flash can stay in full control. Hawkeye, who hasn’t had much sleep and has been beating himself up over Ant-Man’s disappearance, has an argument with Cap over Venom joining the team, and he takes off with the others to track down Ant-Man. They find the teleporter but only Hawkeye and Beast manage to go through the portal.
Back at the core, Father explains to Yalda that she and Parvez are Descendants, an even higher step in human evolution than mutants (“the marriage of nature and her daughter science”—eww). When she refuses to accept his help, he orders the Adaptoids to kill her. Ant-Man tries to prevent this but fails, so he takes Parvez and jumps off their tower. They survive, but damage to his helmet causes all the Pym particles to leak out. Before Ant-Man can catch up to Hawkeye and Beast, he becomes surrounded by Adaptoids and dies defending the boy.
THOUGHTS: If you’re like me, you bought this issue because you saw Venom on the cover and thought it would center primarily around his involvement with the team. The truth is, Flash Thompson joining the Secret Avengers is a small subplot (at least for now), and whenever he does appear he’s not wearing his symbiote at all. I recall saying a couple of weeks ago how disappointed I was over this. I regret saying that, because this was a very good issue. Just not what I was expecting. I ought to be outraged like I usually am in these situations at the bait-and-switch cover (a striking and very well done work by Adams and Stiegerwald, nonetheless), but you can’t argue with results, especially when it does actually deliver quality product.
Also, if you are like me (and I pity you, if you are), you might be disinclined to pick up an issue that’s Part 2 of an arc if you don’t have Part 1 already. I would’ve normally gone back and track down issue #22, but I quickly realized that it wasn’t necessary. Not once did I feel lost while reading this issue. The recap page did its job to fill me in, and exposition in the issue itself is clear yet not heavy-handed.
In reality, this issue was all about Eric O’Grady, the third Ant-Man. Ever since Andy Diggle’s Thunderbolts run (back during Dark Reign), he’s been one of my favorite characters. He’s grown from being a sleazebag to being a real hero, and Remender’s treatment of him does that aspect of his character justice. Whenever the story switches back to him, the reader gets narration boxes that illustrate his thoughts: he’s not perfect, and selflessness does not come naturally to him, but he seeks redemption for his past, and I can always appreciate that. The other Avengers have a very low opinion of him, and he knows that, so he tries hard to earn his place among them. If this is really the last we’ll see of him for a while (and I’ll be very sad if it’s true), then I’m glad he went out the way he did.
Hawkeye also gets a little bit of the spotlight as the new leader of the Secret Avengers. Stress over failing his first mission has him getting into arguments with Steve Rogers and yelling at the rest of his team, and Beast is the first to call him out on it Speaking of Beast, I liked his little jabs at Hank Pym, but, boy, he comes off as unbelievably condescending.
I liked the designs by Gabriel Hardman, but this is the first time I’ve seen coloring like this before. It’s very unique, very reminiscent of old-school coloring, which gives it a similar feel. It took some getting used to, but now I dig it, though I bet it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.
Like I said, you can definitely enjoy this issue without having read #22, though some additional outside knowledge might be necessary. I actually had the benefit of knowing what an Adaptoid is because I just read Avengers #24, and if you were smart and left it alone, I’ll tell ya anyway: they are androids which can adapt to superpowers. It seems like they hate the Avengers immensely but like to appear as their knock-offs. Jim Hammond seems to have some link to them. Lady Deathstrike and Skullbuster are helping them out, for some reason.
Worth mentioning is that Flash now has leg prosthetics (though he still needs his wheelchair to move around). Also, he can only wear the symbiote for 24 hours (it used to be 48). I don’t think Marvel would’ve permanently turn the symbiote into a vegetable because that would just remove all the drama that comes with it, so I’m sure this new time limit will play a role either here or in the Venom monthly. It also would appear that Cap has warmed up to Flash, as he talks him up to Hammond, saying that Flash helped saved New York from the Spider Queen and Las Vegas from hell (remember that Cap himself needed convincing from Hank and Hank to let him join the team in Venom #14).
VERDICT: I know what you guys are going to say. “Oh, O’Grady will be back in six months herp derp” I don’t care. The issue was beautifully done, and besides, with Scott Lang back from the dead, I’m not so sure if the Irredeemable Ant-Man is going to make it. Regardless, if you still can, find this issue and buy it. I guarantee you, you are going to like it. 4.5 Symbiotes out of 5.
~My Two Cents