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It’s been a good couple weeks in comics and I thought I’d talk about a few of the more interesting issues. A couple of awesome Ed Brubaker books have hit that deserve some mention so we’ll start with those.
Secret Avengers #1
First on the docket is the brand new (and much hyped) Secret Avengers #1. While I haven’t been keeping real close tabs on the whole Secret Invasion or it’s Siege-based aftermath, I have noticed that the Avengers sure have been getting some love from Marvel as of late. With a new movie in the works, the team being the centerpiece of both the Civil War and Secret Invasion story lines, and now a bunch of new books, it seems that the Avengers are once again the team of choice at Marvel.
The most interesting thing of this convoluted mess of a universe shake up is how Ed Brubaker has managed to make part of it cool by working in a few of his own storylines. When he killed off Steve Rogers in 2005, we all wondered how he was going to be brought back. While we all knew it was going to happen we can at least thank the comic gods that he held off a good 4 years before bringing him back. While the method in which Steve Rogers was returned to the Marvel Universe was typically cheesy and far-fetched, what I can’t complain about is how they’ve positioned him in the post-Siege world. Deciding to leave the shield and Captain America persona in the hands of his old parter Bucky Barnes, Steve Rogers is simply being himself and leading the charge of rebuilding the mess that has been left in the wake of recent Bendis inspired events.
Enter Secret Avengers. The premise of this book has Steve Rogers leading a team of covert heroes that only band together when needed on a mission. The idea is to stay off the grid, in the shadows and take care of business in a more clandestine and old school manner. This type of team really draws from the old days when Steve Rogers ran the Invaders and super heroes did secret government work. I’ve always thought he idea of a small team turning the tide of war in the background was always a cool idea and one that is very “Marvel-esque”. It’s also a premise that Brubaker has explored numerous times in his Captain America books and more recently in the Marvels Project mini-series. To have him create a brand new team with a covert and old school emphasis is a breath of fresh air for the Avengers canon. With pencils by Mike Deodato, this first issue is a very strong start to the series and I can’t wait to see where it goes in the future.
Captain America #606
This one really makes me excited. This is the start of a new storyline that features Baron Zemo as the villain. I’ve always loved Zemo and I’m not sure why. Could be the bad ass looking costume (thanks Jack Kirby!) the asshole attitude or his strong connection to the WWII Cap days. Either way, he’s one of my favorites and in the hands of Brubaker, this can only be the start to a fantastic run with this villain.
The story starts off with Barnes (aka Captain America) feeling the aftermath of his run in with Bad Cap. Shaken and angry over having to kill someone who looks so much like Steve Rogers, Barnes begins to lose it by being more aggressive and dangerous in the field. His friends confront him on the issue and Barnes does his best to tell them he’s fine, all the while admitting to himself that he is not. While this is going on, Baron Zemo has returned and begins to gather his forces. When he discovers that Bucky Barnes is alive and now wearing the Captain America costume, he begins to plan his destruction.
One of my favorite parts of this story is when Zemo recruits “Iron Hand” Hauptmann. This little used character was part of my favorite small-time villain teams, the Exiles. This group of megalomaniacs used to run with the Red Skull in WWII, and the Skull brought them back a number of times to deal with Captain America. Full of crazy and oddly designed villains (such as a guy who uses a “Murder Chair” and another who wields a scarf as a weapon) these little used characters make up my favorite WTF portion of Captain America lore. I’m so glad that Brubaker seems to be pulling at least one of these guys out of the closet. I’m hoping against all hope that we see the return of all the Exiles. Thinking of this wacky set of characters in Brubaker’s hands makes me giddy.
Some new artists grace the book this week, which usually makes me nervous. The set of artists that tha Captain America books have had really set a high bar. However, newcomer Butch Guice really does a bang up job. Can’t recommend this book highly enough.
I hate to say this but I’m running out of steam with this Daredevil creative team. I really wanted to give Andy Diggle the benefit of the doubt. He was handed a very interesting set of circumstances from Brubaker and I was really hoping he would continue the dark and tragic tale of Matt Murdock. However, this has really started to become some sort of huge arc that deals with the soul of New York and involves the political shenanigans of the Red Hand to a degree that is really losing my interest. I’m interested in the character of Matt Murdock and how he deals with being Daredevil. I’m into the small time hero keeping Hell’s Kitchen clean. I’m interested in the aftermath of a former lawyer dealing with life as a full time vigilante.
The last four issues or so has Matt dealing with a group of Red Hand leaders who are trying to manipulate him for some higher purpose. We haven’t seen the city in awhile and Diggle has chosen to write Matt even more distant than usual. As a result, we feel less connected to this now murderous leader of the Red Hand. While this should provide drama and some serious character moments, we’re sadly given only a few action scenes and plenty of panels showing Matt Murdock angrily “sticking to his guns”.
The bigger problem here is that Diggle has chosen to write Daredevil completely out of character in order to shake things up. That can work if you’ve got a steady hand and a really creative mind that can fundamentally change a character without losing the audience. It’s not an easy thing to do and quite frankly, it’s not working here. While the huge turn Matt Murdock has made is and was shocking, it’s beginning to lose steam and now I just feel like he’s not the character I want to read about anymore. When you add in the over the top gangster plot, it’s just too much. Diggle might even have gotten away with it as it stands if Bendis and Brubaker hadn’t already written a damn textbook on how to cleverly change a character over the last ten years of DD. Please, man. Read a back issue or something.
Bottom line is I’m bored and on the verge of not caring and that’s a sad thing to come to. I’ve collected every Daredevil issue for the last nine years or so. I’m going to give it a chance just for loyalty but that can only last so long. With a history of some of the best writers and artists behind it, Diggle has a lot to live up to and so far it’s not happening.