The Comic You Should Be Reading This Week: ‘Secret Avengers’ #1

Superheroes and espionage would seem to be a slam-dunk mix, but the truth is that it’s hard to get the tone right. Sleeper has probably come closest, but it also illustrates the main problem that strands most books: Holden Carver was not a hero. Most guys in espionage aren’t. So when you put the brave and the bold in murky ethical waters, it gets tricky to write, very quickly.

Nick Spencer (who also wrote this week’s superb Bedlam #4) may have found a way around it.

Spencer has an unenviable job: Part of Secret Avengers‘ editorial mandate is to import Phil Coulson and make Nick Fury just like Sam Jackson. Essentially it’s Movie Avengers: The Team Book. Spencer, to his credit, rolls with it, and justifies the oddest switch with a running gag about James Bond movies.

Spencer also has some fun with the plot. The book jumps forwards and backwards in time, as the foundation of it is that Hawkeye and Black Widow have memory implants that allow Maria Hill to blank out their memories, at will, with a code word. Spencer closes the book by establishing that the “new” Nick Fury is more practical than heroic.

What’s most likeable about it is that it’s a tight, concise, balanced team. The cast is small, Spencer introduces them efficiently, and within the confines of an editorial mandate, he makes the book tense. Hawkeye does not get the long end of the stick in this issue, and it’ll make you cringe.

Meanwhile, Luke Ross is enjoying himself, bringing a fairly cinematic sense to the book. Like this interchange:

Ross doesn’t get much of a chance to show off: This book is mostly dialogue. But it’s a hint of things to come.

Calling this an Avengers book seems a bit of a stretch, but that’s not for lack of talent on display. If Spencer can keep up this pace, this will be a great espionage book.