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.
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