Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Secret Avengers: Mission to Mars (comics)

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artists: Mike Deodato Jr, David Aja, Michael Lark
Collects: Secret Avengers #1-5

Ed Brubakers run on Secret Avengers was shockingly short. Around when the second arc actually kicked off and the closing issues of said arc were being solicited, suddenly the word was that he was going to be off the book. When this happened, Brubaker admitted something; that he didn't feel like he really fit with the team concept as well, or something to that effect.

I bring this up because I would have gotten that feeling from this book even if he hadn't said it.

For most of this volume, this doesn't necessarily feel like a team book. For the first four issue arc, the focus seems to fall largely upon Steve Rogers. This is, to some extent, expected - he has, after all, been writing the Captain America book for the better part of seven years as of this writing - but it goes to the point where at times this feels more like a secondary Steve Rogers book with some allies tagging along on adventures than the team book it's supposed to be. Steve is in the vast majority of the scenes in this comic - I'd say about three quarters - he's clearly in charge and it comes down to him to stop the threat of the main four issue arc.

There are a few scenes spotlighting different characters - Black Widow and Valkyrie have a few decent scenes in here while Ant-Man does help in saving the day - but the other half of the team is just there. Nova himself has like one scene, Beast barely plays much of a role and both War Machine and Moon Knight have few lines, much less anything to actually do. I can barely remember anything War Machine said or did and I just read the damn thing. Fair focus on the team at large, this ain't.

The last issue barely has any of the team in it, as it's a bit of a "revelations" issue, which sheds light on a mystery or two introduced in the first four issues.

This is not to say the story is bad. It's well written, as expected, Brubaker portrays a likable, capable Steve Rogers, what little we get of the others feels on point and it's a pretty well told tale. It's by no means a crash and burn. But it's not what I expected and it's not necessarily as advertised. Team books aren't supposed to be like this.

None of this is to say anything bad about Ed Brubaker, however. Sometimes, some writers just cannot gel with some projects. Shit, I like Matt Fractions work, but he and the X-Men haven't been the best of fits. If nothing else, it's worth noting that Bru clearly knew something wasn't working and decided to bow out of the title a little bit later. Besides, Bru's done enough damn good projects to build some leeway; hell, this book is proof that even when he isn't a hundred percent on he can still pen a damn capable title.

So, hey, I've barely talked about the art. This isn't a knock on it though. It's damn good stuff. Deodato's work is great enough, but man, something just really clicked with me in regards to the fifth issue. It's simpler in linework and the coloring feels a bit older. Think seventies, eighties era comics. Since it's essentially part flashback to years past, this gives the issue an extra little oomph, to me. I'm not exactly sure what the breakdowns are for this issue - the art looks Lark-esque, but it could be mostly Aja for all I know and the credits sure as hell don't make it clear - but it's sharp stuff.

The Score: 7 out of 10

Even on an off day, Brubaker pens a solid tale. Really, if this were a Captain America comic, I'd probably say this were a seven point five or a solid eight. But it's supposed to be a team book and it didn't necessarily feel like one, so I feel like I need to knock a point off or so. But don't be fooled, this is still a decent read. I wouldn't say it's one of Brubakers best, but if you're just looking for a dependable read out of the post-Siege Avengers relaunch, I don't think you could go wrong here.

Just don't expect a lot of focus on the guys not named Steve Rogers.

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