bethbethbeth: Solo image of Agent Phil Coulson (Avengers Coulson (gazgraphics))
[personal profile] bethbethbeth posting in [community profile] comics_reviews_etc
As a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (the movies are what brought me back into comics after decades away), I couldn't help but feel just a bit excited about the new run of Secret Avengers (by Nick Spencer, art by Luke Ross). After all, its sensibilities were going to be grounded in a fusion of the comics world and the movie!verse, and would feature - at least initially - all characters familiar to viewers of The Avengers movie.

There's been grumbling from some comics-only fans, that the insertion of so many movie characters (including Agent Phil Coulson) is just pandering, but I've got to say that anybody who was expecting this series to feel like a coda to the film is going to have a bit of surprise waiting for them.

It's clear to see that the comic is borrowing quite a lot from the movie!verse, especially in terms of appearance, but here we have a Hawkeye and Black Widow who seem to be just meeting Agent Coulson for the first time. They do, in fact, work with S.H.I.E.L.D. on occasion, but they are not agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: they are most definitely Avengers.

What's the premise of the comic? Simply put, there are missions so sensitive, that not even the participants can be allowed to take memories of the missions away with them after their work is done, so they've agreed to have mind wipes upon completion of their tasks (this is meant to be so all-encompassing, by the way, that the characters working on behalf of S.H.I.E.L.D. will not even remember agreeing to go on these missions or to having their memory wiped). Why, you might ask, would either Hawkeye or Black Widow (especially Black Widow, with her particular history) agree to such a thing? Well...keep wondering, because the answer (for Clint and Natasha, something to do with a trade that's important to both of them) has been REDACTED.

And that's where we start: in a version of S.H.I.E.L.D. where Maria Hill is Acting Director, Fury is a Field Agent, Coulson is - apparently - in charge of recruitment (with the secret power of a plateful of scones), and Hawkeye and the Widow are...ABOUT TO GO ON A MISSION TO BUDAPEST (which I'm guessing they will both remember very differently)

The comic is interesting and engaging and sometimes quite funny, but...there's a really uncomfortable undercurrent. it's not surprising, really, that S.H.I.E.L.D. is manipulative and shifty - they're an international spy organization, after all - but it seems a lot less easy to forgive this S.H.I.E.L.D. and the people who work for it than it ever was to forgive even the worst of the actions taken by the spies of the movie!verse.

Am I going to keep reading it? Yes, for the time being, at least. I've been looking forward to seeing these characters featured and to get that, I'm willing to give the writer, Nick Spencer, a chance. But there's a pretty creepy subtext to this storyline, and it may be that this world - like Avengers Arena before it - isn't one I want to live in full-time.

A few extra comments about the characters who are featured in this first issue

Phil Coulson: With this title, Coulson is firmly established in the comics!verse (and looking mighty like Clark Gregg). Clearly, everybody but me checked out the panel spoilers early on because scones feature in his first meeting with Hawkeye and the Black Widow, and those same scones have ended up in over a dozen recent Clint/Coulson stories. By the way, this Coulson - while competent and apparently self-effacing and lowkey - is clearly someone with a ruthless streak beneath the surface (I suspect he'd call it "practical").

Clint: his appearance is a fusion of Ultimates!Hawkeye with Fraction's Hawkeye, his "quipping" is old school Hawkeye, and the way he relates to "Nat" feels very movie!verse to me (none of this is a critique, by the's just what I see)

Natasha: looks vaguely movie!verse at times, but in this issue, she was underused, so it was hard to get a real sense of who she's shaping up to be here (she does kick ass though, so...there's that)

Nick Fury: Mostly the Samuel L. Jackson Fury in appearance, but here he's a field agent, not the director. He's clearly a different guy in this comic than the traditional white Nick Fury (there's a backstory where his name was Marcus, and now he's assumed Fury's identity, which is commented on directly in the comic by Clint (Note: it's also mentioned in the comments of various Secret Avengers reviews, which...I'd suggest you don't go read them? You know, just like I'd suggest you shouldn't read YouTube comments)

Maria Hill: Movie!Hill and Comics!Hill already look pretty similar, so there's that. This Hill is the acting Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and she's either bad ass or cold and manipulative, depending on how you expect spies to behave.

Date: 2013-02-19 01:51 am (UTC)
fox1013: Natasha telling Clint a joke (Avengers - Spy Bros)
From: [personal profile] fox1013
I kind of can't get over the non-consensual brainwashing part. I expected that shit from Fury and Hill, but Coulson doing that is giving me so many incredibly bad feelings. Like, everything Fury pulls in this I can handle, but Coulson, that is NOT OKAY.

I'm still going to keep reading it, because I need to see Natasha and Clint win this one, but it is squicking me SO bad.

Date: 2013-02-19 01:59 am (UTC)
fox1013: Natasha looking at Clint's file on the computer (Avengers - Tech Savvy)
From: [personal profile] fox1013
I wouldn't actually mind if they'd forgotten agreeing after they did it; what bugs me is where Clint is like "Okay, where do we sign?" and Coulson is like "LOL jk you already did! With the handshake! SURPRISE!"

I feel like this would have upset me less if I wasn't conditioned to think of Coulson as ON CLINT AND TASHA'S TEAM.

Date: 2013-02-19 04:13 am (UTC)
fox1013: Natasha telling Clint a joke (Avengers - Spy Bros)
From: [personal profile] fox1013
Oh, I can almost 100% point to fic as the reason it's bothering me so much. In the less-than-a-year since Avengers came out, there have been very few things that I haven't seen multiple sides of in fic, but one is that Clint and Coulson and Natasha are all close. Sometimes some combination of them is sleeping together, sometimes not, but there's always at least trust and reliance.

Canon is getting in the way of my fanon >>>:(

Date: 2013-02-19 03:11 am (UTC)
lunaris1013: (Secret Agent Man)
From: [personal profile] lunaris1013
The comic is interesting and engaging and sometimes quite funny, but...there's a really uncomfortable undercurrent.

This sums up the entire thing for me. I liked the way the characters were written, enjoyed the dialogue, and absolutely expected SHIELD-level fuckery - otherwise there'd be no point to the book. And though I prefer to think of Coulson as the man Clint makes pancakes for on Sunday morning, nothing in the movies or previous comics presents him as anything but the paragon of calm badassery that's presented here, and I am fine with that. That's who I want Phil to be when he's on the job - he's the Agent's Agent because he'll do what's necessary.

But I'm having a difficult time with the handwavey way we're asked to accept Natasha's willingness to a mind wipe. I also don't like the way it feels like the objective is to fuck over your teammates. I felt very uneasy after the first read, and only slightly better after the second.

I want to love this book a lot. With this cast of characters and the covert ops, it's almost as though Marvel wanted to send me a personal 'Welcome to the 616' gift. Because of that, I'm willing to go along for the ride for a few more issues to see where Spencer is taking us.

(Also, I have a recipe for pineapple coconut scones that I'm trying out.)

Date: 2013-02-19 04:56 pm (UTC)
lunaris1013: (Phil Coulson BAMF)
From: [personal profile] lunaris1013
I noticed a couple of things on the re-read I'd initially missed that made it feel less skeevy, so at least for me it wasn't just getting used to the idea. I think if Spencer doesn't give us a proper explanation (which he's said in interviews will be forthcoming) that I won't be accepting of that particular plot device.

And yeah, there's plenty in the world of comics that's worse yet accepted as normal. But those aren't the books I'm buying every month. I want to buy this and love it and call it George. If I didn't I wouldn't have such a strong opinion.

Date: 2013-02-19 04:00 pm (UTC)
salinea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] salinea
I liked it a lot! But I like spy stories with twisty plots relying on reveals that all you thought you knew was a lie. :3 I was wary of the title based on premise because of the nasty undercurrent but the story dealt with it in a way I could appreciate - it's obviously not justified by the narrative and will be the major focus of the plot and the characters who had the memory twists in place have agency (and are their awesome self).
I also liked the snappy dialogues and the way it acknowledged the MCU additions to 616-verse by having Clint make fun of them. Makes them a less abrupt change.

616!Coulson and MCU!Coulson are obviously very different people - different continuities!! If comics fan can roll with adaptations to the characters they know in movieverse, surely movieverse fans can do the same.

Date: 2013-02-19 04:22 pm (UTC)
salinea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] salinea
well beyond the fanon, I do agree that movie!Coulson wouldn't be so glib about memory manipulation. The fanon probably makes it more painful, yeah.

That, err, well if we see Fury jr as an adaptation of movie!Fury, it is a departure, but if we see movie!Fury as an adaptation of Ultimate!Fury himself an adaptation of 616!Fury snr then Fury Jr is a brand new character and that totally works and I think my head hurts now.

Date: 2013-02-21 02:55 am (UTC)
umbo: (clark gregg frown)
From: [personal profile] umbo
I'm wondering (and hoping, TBH) if there's some sort of explanation that covers, like, a huge swath of this--like maybe Coulson and Fury and Hill are also being mind-wiped or something, and that's why they're in different roles than we would expect and being more skeevy. And might explain Clint thinking of Fury by another name, and he and Nat not being affiliated with SHIELD at all but only with the Avengers? Maybe?

I admit I'm hoping for that bec. I don't want Coulson to be that evil. Because I love Coulson, as you well know. And also Nat + mind control = SUPER SKEEVY.


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