Secret Avengers #16 review

Deep under Cincinnati, something stirs. It's a hidden city established, and abandoned, by the Secret Empire, and the Secret Avengers are investigating particles of Von Doom radiation, the telltale sign of the bad doctor's time technology. The place seems deserted, but the heroes - Super-Soldier Steve Rogers, the Beast, Black Widow and Moon Knight - are soon under attack by agents of the Shadow Council.

And it turns out that one of Doom's time platforms is present - one the width of the city. That's two miles long, and capable of sending a time field up to Cincinatti and banishing it anywhere in time and space. That accomplished, the Shadow Council could make follow-up demands that no government would dare refuse. The Beast has an idea as to how to stop the plot, but to save hundreds of thousands of lives the Secret Avengers may have to sacrifice themselves . . .

Now this is how to produce an accessible comic (>cough< Justice League #1 >cough<). Writer Warren Ellis provides a tight, done-in-one plot with room for all the heroes to show off their personalities and abilities. He adds in such cute touches as customised non-lethal Avengers bullets and an atomic Cadillac to steal Black Widow's heart ('Oh my God. Push-button ignition. So decadent.'). Steve is magnificently calm due to the confidence he has in his colleagues ('Henry, you know more about this than any of us. Give me a plan'). Moon Knight is a tad left of centre, but far from barking mad ('I'm far too borderline psychotic to feel pain'). And the Beast actually does come off as the super-smart guy he's meant to be ('People always forget that a time machine is also a space machine').

The threat is credible, and smartly dealt with. There's snappy dialogue but plenty of room for artist Jamie McKelvie to take point occasionally with silent panels and a beautiful spread of Moon Knight gliding over the city. Matthew Wilson colours intelligently, his choices making McKelvie's art pop. And Dave Lanphear's letters are neat and readable without being huge, as some Marvel calligraphy's been of late (click to enlarge image).
I like the idea behind John Cassaday's cover - outsize logo, big figures - but sideways designs aren't my favourite (I've turned the image around to save you getting a crick in your neck). An understandably stumpy Steve aside, though, it's well done, and will hopefully attract attention on the stands. 

This is the first of Ellis's six issues on the title, and if the other five are as strong as this 
- the excellent Kev Walker is next month's artist - this book may become the breakout hit of the Avengers franchise.


  1. Loved this issue. It had everything I want in a superhero comic, with none of the bloat and cruft that weighs down 99% of the superhero fare that's released these days.

  2. Sounds like this could be a trade paperback I should keep an eye out for, down the line.

  3. only 6 issues for Ellis huh. Bummer. He's always interesting. Beast actually seems to be a stand in for Ellis on this title. the "tech know it all" guy. I still don't get why the Secret Avengers wear their bright ridiculous easily identifiable costumes, but hey, people like to see the costumes. This issue was fun, borderline silly and inconsequential, but fun. Thanks for the review Martin!

  4. The only way you could have improved this gem is to have revealed on the last page that the city on the surface had become alive and genocidal and the bad guys were actually trying to stop its mad killing spree!

  5. Rob, the trade should be a hoot, this book is tailored to Ellis' strengths, even if superheroes aren't his favourite.

    You're welcome, Brynocki. I suppose that so far as the internal logic of the story is concerned, the costumes stay because the team aren't on an undercover op.

    That's the start of next issue, Steve ...

  6. Hear, hear! It's a lovely little comic book. Whatever minor quibbles I have with it are very much minor ones. And it's got one of the few wordless double-page spreads in modern-era books which works; that lovely shot of Moon Knight soaring over the city really is evocative.


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