With the big news of Batman fictionally franchising last week, I started thinking of how Marvel is handling its multiply-named heroes.
Especially Captain America.
That’s because Bruce Wayne and Steve Rogers have striking similarities. Their sheer force of will is their strongest power, not their weapons or any enhanced physical skills or body armor or gadgets. They simply don’t accept defeat as an option. Though there are obvious differences, they’re both the moral compasses for their respective superhero universes.
They’re also kindred spirits, as one of my favorite scenes from JLA/Avengers shows:
Recently, they’ve gone through similar plotlines. They were both presumed dead, time lost while their former sidekicks inherited their role, and both eventually returned with a new place in their respective universes.
While Batman is content to be the financier (at least publicly) to Batman Inc., Steve Rogers went down a much a different path by collecting a special operations team, the Secret Avengers, a new series by Ed Brubaker and artist Mike Deodato.
Steve Rogers, still wearing the flag colors but no longer Captain America, has gathered a team: Beast, War Machine, Valkyrie, Moon Knight, Nova, Ant-Man and former SHIELD agent Sharon Carter. Their main purpose is to stop emergent threats before they can cause any damage. Brubaker is at his best writing espionage stories and he’s in his element in this series. Still, there’s some universe-spanning as Rogers’ team heads to Mars during their first adventure to stop a secret organization from obtaining a weapon that will be instantly recognized by longtime Marvel readers. Back on Earth, Sharon Carter has to deal with an attack that seems to be led by supposed ally Nick Fury.
My favorite issue so far ,#5, is a stand alone that plays to Brubaker’s strengths as a writer. It’s the secret life of the now-revealed antagonist, Max Fury. Max is a LMD (life model decoy) that was modeled after Nick Fury, given Fury’s memories and gained sentience along the way. For a while, Max though he was Nick Fury.
But the fact this is my favorite issue also points to a weakness in the series. While I get a good sense of Steve, Sharon, and know several other team members well, the lesser known cast members haven’t yet had a chance to shine or haven’t done enough for me to get a sense of who they are.
What Kids Will Like About It:
I left #5 out on my kitchen table and both my boys picked it up and read it and wanted to know more about it, as they’re only familiar with Nick Fury from the Iron Man movies and the recent Wolverine and the X-men television show. Brubaker has a way of making even the most difficult characters human and compelling and that’s something that drew my kids in. But they got a little lost with the unfamiliar characters in the other issues.
What Parents Will Like About It:
I have enjoyed almost everything Brubaker’s ever written, so trying this series was a must for me. Right now, I’d rate it as solid rather than spectacular but I suspect the upcoming confrontation will be worth the wait. For older Marvel readers, this book is absolutely full of cool but obscure characters, like the LMD Nick Fury or Commander Steele (originally a Timely character) or references to events that most readers and writers have forgotten.
The art is shadowy, as befits an espionage story, and has a great flow in the battle scenes. It’s not quite as eye-poppingly epic as in some superhero comics but Deodato does great work with faces and small moments.
Again from #5, as Nick tells Steve about his decision to destroy his LMD duplicate. Steve disagrees. “One of my best friends [the original Human Torch] was a synthetic human,” he points out.
About the Creators:
Brubaker is the man behind the revival of Steve Rogers and the handing of the mantle over to Bucky Barnes. While he’s done other work at Marvel, my favorite writing from him is at DC, with his runs on Catwoman and Gotham Central, and his even earlier writing on Batman and Detective Comics, when he was still a relative unknown. It’s not likely but I’d love to see him write Batman (in any form) again.
Deodato worked with William Messner-Loebs on an acclaimed run of Wonder Woman in the mid-1990s. He worked twice with Warren Ellis, on Thunderbolts and The Mighty Thor.