By Ed Brubaker (writer), Mike Deodato (artist), Rain Beredo (colorist)

“Our world is out of control… But the things I worry about most are the threats we don’t know about.”

As the Marvel Universe breaks free from the dark reign of Norman Osborn to bask in the light of a new age, Steve Rogers has remained skeptical. Cautious, even. He and his compatriots have endured many hardships over the years, responding to threats that have threatened to destroy them and only barely emerging victorious each time. Captain Steve Rogers has had enough. Ever the steadfast soldier, he is tired of holding ground and waiting for the problems to come to him. He has put together a new strategy, one that will proactively hunt the threats that plague the world before they have a chance to destroy it. To aid in his mission, Rogers has assembled a covert team of specialized operatives to help him save the world, but only this time from the shadows.

After months of speculation and eager anticipation, Secret Avengers has finally arrived, and I’m relieved to find that it was a comic well worth the wait. There’s simply a lot to like here!

Marvel has flirted with this idea of a preemptive superhero strikeforce before (anybody ever read Abnett’s short-lived Force Works?) but I’m glad they dusted it off and polished it up for The Heroic Age, because I think it’s an idea Marvel needs to keep around and address often. Why aren’t there more superheroes in the Marvel Universe that prevent problems instead of simply stopping them after they’ve already happened? Why do so many teams stand idly by and wait for shit to land on their doorstep when they should be relentlessly taking the fights to the villains until they are crushed once and for all? Hell if I know, but Secret Avengers seems ready to defy those conventions and offer us a new perspective on what heroes can and should do, and for that alone I’m ready to see where Brubaker, Deodadto, and Beredo take this comic.

As for the issue itself, it’s rather slow and something of a deliberate pot boiler concerning Evil Roxxon Executives (a generic Evil Corporation I’m sure Brubaker had no idea would be so timely in the wake of BP’s recent snafu, but I digress…) alien artifacts, and the emergence of a covert organization that had me disbelieving what I was seeing on the final page. Cut between these moments are scenes of Rogers recruiting his team, an intriguing blend of old Avengers and new faces. The dynamics of this team are incredibly interesting, as they seem less like an assembly of superheroes and more like a squad of special forces commandos. It’s a radically different vision of what the Avengers can be from what we saw last week (and I’m still yawning when I think about Bendis’s underwhelming relaunch), combining the brazen, epic grandeur of old school Avengers stories with the kind of suave, spy swagger of Steranko’s Nick Fury issues. This is absolutely not the team of Avengers I was expecting to like, but they’re such an oddly effective team that I can’t help but admire them and their new mandate.

I have a rule when it comes to new comics: If it can’t impress me in three issues, it’s not worth collecting. And I’ll stick to that with this comic, but between you and me I don’t think I’ll need it. With its deft blend of superhero action and espionage intrigue, Brubaker has found a new direction for the Avengers franchise that will have readers coming back month after month to see what happens next. Secret Avengers is the comic I never knew I always wanted!

Grade: B+

-Tony Rakittke