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

The Story: The Secret Avengers and Archon fight valiantly to oppose a possessed Nova, while Ant-Man spies the machinations of the Shadow Council.

The Good: Uhhhhhh, God, I don’t even know. I mean, there wasn’t anything glaringly wrong with this issue, but I didn’t think there was anything overwhelmingly good about it to justify the $3.99 price tag, either. It was so slightly above average that when I finished it I was almost too apathetic about the experience to summon the strength to shrug my indifference. Is it just me, or is it slightly unreasonable to charge so much money for a comic that delivers so little?! In terms of actual plot, we are treated to an extended fight scene in which a throw character gets killed, Nick Fury and the Big Bad Guy talk ominously of the three Serpent Crowns, and Nova encourages subtly encourages Valkyrie to go back into the kitchen and bake him a pie. But what the hell is happening?! We’re three issues in and the Secret Avengers are still on Mars, seemingly no closer to understanding why the hell they are there or what their objective is. They haven’t actually thrown down with any serious villains or than some minor cannon fodder types, and aren’t even really functioning as a team. This story is plodding along to a destination that I’m not sure I care to reach at this point, and that is a huge shame to speak of a comic created by such esteemed talents as Brubaker, Deodato, and Beredo, none of whom have quite seemed to be firing on all cylinders on this book.

The Not So Good: As I suggested earlier, the good and not so good qualities of this comic are so interchangeable that it makes reviewing it a logistical nightmare. The writing was average, but felt weak and uninspired compared to what we’ve seen from Brubaker in the past and know him to be otherwise capable of. Deodato turns in some reliable pages this month, but characters’ faces seemed ill-defined and obscured in shadow. And to set an inaugural story on Mars of all places, as lifeless vast and red as Deodato is making it, well, even the setting is proving to be not nearly as exotic and extraterrestrial as I’d hoped. And therein lies the crux of my complaints with this issue: it was decent as far as comics go, but simply not enough was happening to justify my continued investment of time and money in it. At the rate this comic is now going, I think it might stand a chance of holding up better in graphic novel format, but whether or not I stick around long enough to find out remains to be seen.

Conclusion: I thought this issue was a huge yawner, and after reading it I feel less confident that I’m going to continue collecting this series, which is a huge shame since I had such high hopes for it. The creative team is amazing, the premise of this book has all the makings of a beautiful summer blockbuster, and yet neither are delivering the entertainment value I expected them to. I’ll stick around for another issue or two…. Maybe.

Grade: C-

-Tony Rakittke