The idea of Bagalia, a sovereign nation catering exclusively to supervillains, is a fantastic one, and Rick Remender's Secret Avengers #29 explores that concept a bit more. Where else could the Circus of Crime actually thrive?
When Captain America handed over stewardship of the covert Avengers team to Hawkeye, it was during a mission in Bagalia which required secrecy. Now that Max Fury's Shadow Council is spiking in activity again, they're funding the "anarchistic red light nation" as a gathering spot for a new iteration of the Masters of Evil with a roster of hundreds. The SAs have a mole in the Shadow Council by the name of John Steele, and their goal is to extract him for information on why and how Fury is gathering three mystical crowns. Whatever the reason, it can't be good.
Again, it's a small squad heading into Bagalia, with Hawkeye leading Valkyrie and Venom (who seem to have some kind of secret thing going on – which is semi-understandable now that Betty Brant has kicked Flash Thompson out of her life over in Venom #21) as well as the formerly irredeemable Ant-Man, who himself has been converted to being a mole for the evil otherdimensional robot people called The Descendants. So the clock is ticking down to that eventual betrayal – although which group he's going to betray remains a mystery.
Things don't turn out very well – they rarely do under Remender's watch – when Steele is uncovered and subjected to The Circus of Crime's Circle of Snuff, and by the time the team reaches him, the only intel Steele can give them before expiring is stuff they already know. Weep-wonk. They get more out of smacking around the clown, before Hawkeye and Venom butt heads once more, this time about whether or not it's okay to murder jerks who've murdered your friends.
The trail leads them to a nasty supervillain club called The Hole, where they have to stop the notorious Taskmaster before he delivers the third crown of evilness to Fury. The Hole is another great idea that needs to stick around. There must needs be a regular supervillain hangout that's not going to get routinely busted up by the good guys. Where the Wrecking Crew can show up and pick fights and NOT always get punked out. Where Batroc the Leaper can hit on strippers. Where Taskmaster and Venom can casually fight to the death.
Remender always serves up intricate plots with a darkness pervading them – making one wonder if he'll have to lighten things up a little in his upcoming Uncanny Avengers – and his stories are often compelling journeys through the murkiness of moral quandaries. Matteo Scalera's art in this issue leaves some to be desired, feeling rushed in spots while excelling in others. But Secret Avengers is just cool, and promises to get cooler the more it trucks in supervillain society.