Review: Secret Avengers #16

Warren Ellis takes over, bringing his trademark Nextwave-esque bombast to Steve Rogers' covert Avengers squad.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Secret Avengers #16

Ever since the surprise success of the madness that was Nextwave, Marvel fans with a taste for the ridiculous have hoped Warren Ellis would bring that team back for more shenanigans.  He hasn't done in yet, but with the start of his run on Secret Avengers with #16, those who enjoyed the crazy adventures in swashbuckling from Nextwave may have a thing or three to enjoy here.

Ellis, of course, is certainly a tonal shift from the previous take on this series, which was started by Ed Brubaker.  Ellis is always a tonal shift, because he's Warren Fucking Ellis.  For a prime example of when I first noticed this, I invoke the underrated series Doom 2099, which ran from 1993 to 1996.  For the first 25 issues, John Francis Moore wrote a pretty neat story about Dr. Doom finding himself a hundred years in the future and going on a quest to regain control of Latveria.  Then Ellis came on board and made things completely incredible, as Doom conquered America and immediately made the entirety of corrupt corporate America his bitches, for lack of a better term.  When they struck back, Doom was humbled and his armor was damaged, but he was still able to take a shotgun to a bunch of evil SHIELD agents and just be completely badass even in defeat.  This, plus the genius of Transmetropolitan, will always make me appreciate what Ellis does.

And in Nextwave, he had Elvis MODOKs and Devil Dinosaur in a smoking jacket.

So now, he's on Secret Avengers, and the question some nerds may have is whether or not Ellis can tone the ludicrousness down a bit.  These are the Avengers we're talking about, after all, and they should never look silly, right?  Perhaps not, but they can still be fun.  The core team is still together, although in #16, the focus is just on Steve Rogers, Black Widow, Moon Knight and Beast (War Machine and Valkyrie will return in #17).  Right away, we're thrown into cool sci-fi adventure as the team discovers an abandoned secret city a mile beneath Cincinnati, and a nuclear powered Cadillac convertible to tool around in while they try to figure out why it's all there.  They all even have fancy high-tech flechette weapons from "Q" McCoy, as well as Ellis' trademark amusing banter – and really, you should always have amusing banter if you've got the Beast on your team.  Natasha Romanov might be a bit more loquacious than she's been seen to be lately, but she doesn't have to be stiff spy hardass all the time. 

It's really a much brighter and fun tone to all the proceedings, and Jamie McKelvie's art brings that across as well, looking very clean and slick, with none of the moody grizzle that a lot of comics truck in these days.  The splash page of Moon Knight gliding over the MC Esher-looking secret city is a beautiful thing, and it's very refreshing to seen ol' Moonie drawn in this kind of style again – a big departure from his burly, shadowy, crazy-faced recent stuff. 

Anyway, it turns out that The Shadow Council of The Secret Empire has built a Von Doom Time Platform (and how awesome is it that Dr. Doom has pretty much cornered the market on time travel in the Marvel Universe?  You need to create some chronal anomalies?  Come on down to Latveria and shop at Crazy Vic's Time Machine Emporium, with the latest Von Doom Brand Decade-Jumpers!) that's a few miles wide, in order to be able to drop a city on another city and get crazy terrorist cred to boot.  That's the kind of big-idea work that Ellis always brings to the table, and his solutions are equally high-minded – turning an old car into a nuclear bomb to wipe the bastards out.

These are the Secret Avengers, after all.  The covert squad doing the ugly jobs.  Those who like their Avengers squeaky clean need not apply.  A soldier, an assassin spy and a psychotic mercenary who recently carved people's faces off – it makes sense that only the scientist feels the regret about racking up a body count to save countless lives.

Anyway, it's not the Secret Avengers you knew thus far, which were pretty cool and who we'll miss, but if you can handle the tonal shift towards high adventure, you're gonna like Warren Ellis' take on the team.