“There’s no such thing as paranoia; the real situation is always much worse than you imagine.” ~Hunter S. Thompson
Thompson (1937-2005) is the author of The Rum Diary, published in 1998 but written in the ‘50s and recently adapted into a film starring Johnny Depp. Before that, he was known as the creator of “Gonzo” journalism (gonzo is either taken from a song title or means the winner of a drinking contest), a subjective, often-dramatic style of reporting in which the reporter becomes part of the story. It’s basically “telling it like it is” without any claim to objectivity.
Secret Avengers #24
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Gabriel Hardman
Color Art: Bettie Breitweiser
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover Art: Arthur Adams & Laura Martin
The Secret Avengers: Hawkeye (Clint Barton), Black Widow (Natasha Romanova), Beast (Dr. Hank McCoy), Valkyrie (Brunhilde), Human Torch (Jim Hammond), Captain Britain (Brian Braddock), Venom (Corporal Flash Thompson)
***WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD***
PLOT: Last issue, the Secret Avengers teleported to the Core, an underground city populated by different groups of mechanical beings, but were separated.
Captain Britain is attacked by Lady Deathstrike and Ultravisions (Vision clones). He defends against Deathstrike but is overwhelmed by the robots. When Jim Hammond appears to rescue him, the Ultravisions bow to him and call him Grandfather. As they fly off, Hammond learns the nature of Captain Britain’s powers (magic) and scoffs at them.
At the Parish Tower, Father holds a meeting with representatives from all mechanical groups in the Core: Doombots, Life Model Decoys of Nick Fury, Sentinaughts, Adaptoids, Machine people, Ultravisions, and Reavers. He tells them that the Secret Avengers must be dealt with right away.
Two Adaptoids find the Descendant boy that Eric O’Grady tried to protect, but he’s rescued by Black Widow and Valkyrie. Natasha calms the boy down, and Valkyrie finds Ant-Man’s homing beacon in a pool of blood but no body. The Adaptoids appear again and injury Natasha, but Valkyrie fends them off. Later they determine that Parish Tower has a teleporter back home. Valkyrie tries to use stealth to get in but she’s ambushed by an Adaptoid (the Urn), who absorbs her energy.
Back at the Lighthouse, Flash is lamenting being left behind when an alert sounds that the team’s location is blocked. He knows to call Cap but then sees the Venom symbiote in its container.
Meanwhile, Hawkeye and Beast are fighting Deathlok versions of Janet Van Dyne and Miss America. While Clint tries to talk sense into Janet, Miss America shoots Beast through the chest and knocks out Hawkeye. The Deathloks take them both captive. Once Hawkeye wakes up, he finds to his chagrin that Janet won’t help them and manages to stop Beast’s bleeding. It is then that a miniature O’Grady, alive and well, becomes normal-size, claiming that no one’s dying while he draws breath.
THOUGHTS: Once again, Secret Avengers successfully delivers a lot of action-packed content in just one issue (as you can probably tell by the plot synopsis above). To echo one of the comments from last issue’s review, there are many plot points, all moving forward, never once feeling slow or dull. Every character gets some sort of treatment. I like that about ensemble casts. This is not Cap’s book or Hawkeye’s book. This is about the Secret Avengers, each contributing something to the mission and to the team. That is, after all, the main theme of the Avengers, fighting the battles no single hero could.
Much like last issue, I never once felt confused or lost in the narrative, especially when the story deals with several characters and even groups that I’m very unfamiliar with. While most people groan at expository dialogue (natural as it was in this issue), I found it very helpful when explaining such things as Captain Britain’s armour and Valkyrie’s Dragonfang sword and identifying every mechanical group in the Core. Doombots and LMDs I know because you just can’t ever kill Dr. Doom or Nick Fury, respectively, but I learned through this issue the existence of Reavers, Deathloks, and Ultravisions. Last time, I incorrectly labeled everyone as an Adaptoid, but as it turns out they are one of several factions at the Core, but they all equally hate the Avengers.
This new roster is split up in three groups of two, with Flash being on his lonesome. It’s clear that Braddock and Hammond do not get along, one having magic-based powers and the other being an android (and thus finding magic unreliable). Jim Hammond still has some mysterious role to play, what with his technology being connected to the Adaptoids and the Ultravisions worshipping him as Grandfather (somewhat linking him to the charismatic leader that is Father).
On the other hand, we have Natasha and Valkyrie, the veterans of the team along with Beast. What is shown in this issue is a good and effective working relationship between the two ladies. Valkyrie not being good at stealth goes all the way back to issue #1 (where she blows their cover as escorts), and I found it hilarious here that she does it anyway to show up Natasha, only to be found out five seconds later. I usually see Natasha as a somewhat cold character, so her comforting the Descendant child shows a warm side to her. The scene when they are approaching the site where Ant-Man supposedly died is very chilling, as I expected them to behold some grim cadaver. All the reader sees is the pool of blood, and later the dialogue makes it clear there is no body.
Hawkeye is the only character here that gets an inner monologue. Worth mentioning is his internal struggle trying to determine if Janet is the real deal or a copy, and then trying to keep Beast (whose arrogance finally catches up to him) from dying. It hasn’t been made clear whether this is the real Janet turned cyborg or a fake (I’m leaning toward the latter), so one can see why Hawkeye couldn’t bring himself to kill her, especially given their past romantic relationship.
By the way, this has nothing to do with the review, but I’ve been meaning to do a little write-up covering all of Hawkeye’s romantic interests. He’s had quite a few, believe it or not.
Finally, Flash gets the short end of the stick, with barely one page of him sitting around in space. Admittedly, he gets the appropriate level of character development over in his own book, but for his debut adventure with the Avengers, his role has been fairly low-key (he hasn’t even put the symbiote back on, for starters). It’s not a complete waste, however. There are hints of him not always willing to follow orders as told (which is also backed up by Venom #15). Also, I found the panel of him eating chocolate bars pretty amusing. Why? Because I have this little theory that Remender has been putting in obscure Easter eggs for long-time Venom fans. Venom needing chocolate bars to satiate his hunger for brains was first established in Venom: The Hunger #4 by Len Kaminski. Something similar happened in Venom #15, where Hank Pym devises a way for the symbiote to be transported to Flash via phone. As ridiculous as that sounds, it’s nothing new. Eddie Brock once transferred the Venom symbiote via phone lines to his ex-wife in Venom: Along Came a Spider #1 by Larry Hama. But I digress.
The art is still an excellent collaboration between Hardman and Breitweiser. Hardman’s designs are really well done, and Breitweiser’s coloring is dark and subdued, which fits the tone of the book perfectly.
Of course, I can’t finish this review without discussing the cliffhanger. After what I thought was an excellent send-off for our irredeemable hero, he appears perfectly fine and ready to bust out Clint and Beast from jail. I honestly was surprised at this development (not so much that he came back to life but that it happened immediately the following issue), and I’m at the point where I don’t know what to expect next. How did he survive? Is he really fine? Why is his helmet fixed? Could it be that he’s been turned into a Deathlok? Is he friend or foe? Even his lines suggest something’s not right (can he even draw breath?). I can’t wait for the next issue now, so I’d say it was a good cliffhanger.
VERDICT: Rick Remender has been on a roll (does that make it a… Rick-roll? *rimshot*), and Secret Avengers #24 maintains the storyline’s excellent pace with interesting character work and exciting developments. You should definitely pick it up. 4.5 Symbiotes out of 5.
SHAMELESS PLUG: Follow me on Twitter (@2BitSpecialist)!
~My Two Cents