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

The Story: In the conclusion to “Secret Histories”, Commander Rogers hijacks the Nova Force in order to take out Richard Ryder, while Sharon Carter and Ant-Man make a disturbing discovery about one of the Shadow Council’s agents.

The Good: To its credit, this issue of “Secret Avengers” was a huge improvement over the previous three. It was a delight to see Deodato’s art firing on all cylinders here, and the intensity of the fight between Rogers and Ryder was so furious that I practically feel the heat from the impact of their collisions. That kind of raw energy is what I like to see in my Avengers comics and this issue certainly delivers the goods! The mystery of the Shadow Council, while not necessarily clarified, is at least hinted at enough that I’m seriously tempted to pick up next month’s issue if only to learn more about what the hell Fury has been up to lately. I was also pleasantly surprised with Ant-Man’s run in the spotlight this month; I really admired his intrepid efforts against the Shadow Council’s suicide bombers, and I suspect that watching his journey as he learns to become a hero under the tutelage of living legends will have the potential to to be a hugely satisfying storyline in the months to come.

The Not So Good: Despite being a lot more entertaining than previous issues, I don’t know, this comic isn’t quite doing it for me. More to the point, I didn’t find this inaugural storyline to be quite entertaining enough for me to continue wanting to spend four bucks a month on it. This issue, for example, amounted to little more than an extended fight scene between Rogers and Ryder which, while expertly rendered, still amounted to precious little story. I was hoping to see much more espionage out of this team of hand picked heroes, but instead got more superhero slugfests–and yes, I realize that sounds slightly hypocritical when I just got done praising Deodato’s ability to render the smackdown with epic efficiency, but that’s okay because from the get go this was a book that was marketed as walking the fine line between espionage and classic Avengers action; thus far though it’s been all action and not enough covert asskicking, and I’m disappointed that this balance wasn’t reached more effectively. In a world where the Heroic Age is in full swing and heroes are more abundant, prominent, and….heroish than ever, Rogers’s team of commandos aren’t Secret as much as they are obscure and inconsequential…especially when you consider how other, arguably far more superior heroes are out there *also* saving the universe in the excellent “Thanos Imperative” storyline currently running. As a paying reader, I wanted to see these heroes stalking the shadows of some nameless metropolis, pursuing Rogers’s agenda with ruthless efficiency, not running around Mars beating down faceless, nameless stormtroopers while Rogers fights for a Macguffin that inevitably is far less threatening or interesting than it’s made out to be. For my tastes, this storyline was a weird, anticlimatic way to begin the series and seemed to go against Brubaker’s descriptions which had far more potential, although it’s entirely possible this potential has yet to be tapped. Additionally, I continued to be slightly disappointed with Deodato’s art, which seems more dynamic, yet less refined than what he achieved on “Dark Avengers”, which remains a benchmark of his abilities in my opinion. Seeing what Deodato was capable of, I feel his work on this comic seems either rushed or not always as inspired as it could be, and that’s a hard pill to swallow coming from such a talented creator as he is.

Conclusion:There are qualities I liked about this issue, and about this storyline in general, but not enough of any one of them to create that drive and need and incentive for me to want to continue buying “Secret Avengers” month after month. This can be a good comic, but I don’t think I’ll stick around to find out. Until things improve, I’m going to wait for this to be released in graphic novels.

Grade: C+

-Tony Rakittke