Ed Brubaker started a cool thing with Secret Avengers, and Warren Ellis' interim run kept them cool. Now Rick Remender, the guy who's created his own dark edge of the Marvel Universe, is getting to take that ball and run with it, and after seeing what he's done with Venom and, more significantly, Uncanny X-Force, you know that cool ain't goin' nowhere.
That said, his first issue, Secret Avengers #21.1, starts off a little choppy with some heavy exposition, as Captain America and Hawkeye drop into Bagalia, a sovereign nation owned and operated by bad guys for the pursuit of bad-guyness. Sure, it's needed to establish this new concept, but it feels a bit ham-fisted with two guys basically telling each other things the other already should know. Things pick up when they walk into a trap and a virulent anti-American L.M.D. tries to blow them up, and they eventually uncover that Max Fury and the Shadow Council are forming a new Masters of Evil that includes a new-look Whiplash, a crop-cut Princess Python and the evil Ghost Rider known as Vengeance. But really, the entire issue focuses on the long-standing Steve Rogers/Clint Barton dynamic.
It's all laid bare with the dialog, as Cap is leading Clint along on this mission, knowing more than he's letting on, so he can test Hawkeye's readiness to take over the reins of the Secret Avengers, which is one notch on the saddening side, because Cap, whether he's sporting the A-head or the SHIELD Rogers look, is cooler than Hawkeye on his best day, so knowing that, going forward, it's going to be the other guy in charge, it feels like a bit of a trade-down, even though it makes sense. Especially with the Ultimate look – er, I mean, the "movie" look that he will sport this year for publicity reasons.
There's a bit where it seems like Remender's going off the rails with Cap railing on Hawkeye pretty rudely, but he brings it around when we realize Cap's just running another test on Clint's hot-headedness. Of course, Clint eventually passes the test with flying purple colors, and the banter between Steve and Clint is pretty fun, and Patrick Zircher's art is good enough to pass the ultimate George Perez test – putting the unmasked Steve Rogers and Clint Barton on the same panel and being able to tell them apart by face alone – but only barely. The purple tie and the haircut difference skews the results a bit.
This is a "point one" issue, designed for new readers to hop on board, and for that, the exposition-heavy opening is forgivable. It's a fun adventure issue, with our heroes being pretty cool, and let's hope that cool isn't lost when Captain America bows out of the book.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING: 8.0