by Ed Brubaker (writer), Mike Deodato & Will Conrad (art), Rain Beredo (colors), and Dave Lanphear (letters)

The Story: Steve Rogers and his Secret Avengers rush to save Shiang-Chi and halt Zheng Zu’s plans for resurrection.

The Review:  Secret Avengers #10 is one of those difficult issues to review in that while it does nothing wrong, it also doesn’t do anything terribly right.

There’s nothing really emotionally powerful, compelling, or witty about this issue.  Frankly, there’s also not a lot here that you’ve not seen before.  It’s ultimately just a giant action scene resolving exactly as you most likely thought it would.  In this sense, it may even be accused of being phoned in a bit.

But once you lower your expectations and realize that you’re getting your average superhero comic, there is stuff to like here.  For starters, the art by Mike Deodato and Will Conrad is very, very strong and truly one of Deodato’s better outings.  The action is superb, feeling incredibly fast and fluid.  Movements are smooth and dynamic and the fights are acrobatic, all-encompassing, and quite a lot of fun.

Valkyrie fans will also get a real kick out of this issue, as she goes one on one with John Steele.  The resulting fight is a real “hell yeah” where Valkyrie is concerned and shows her for the badass that she really is.  She’s a character that doesn’t often get the love she deserves, so this was pretty awesome.  It also showed some interesting development in Steve Rogers’ place as team leader; unlike last time in his dealings with Steele, Rogers delegates a fight that he has a personal stake in, letting Valkyrie take Steele instead, what with her being more capable of handling the super-soldier than Rogers himself.  It’s a point that’s dwelt on a bit by Brubaker towards issue’s end, and it shows a maturity to Rogers’ character that is probably the smartest part of the issue.

What’s strange though, is that despite being central to the plot, Shiang-Chi and Zheng Zu feel sort of like afterthoughts here, or at least little more than plot devices to center the conflict between Rogers and the Shadow Council around.  The awesome pulpiness is hence diminished and despite the entire fight’s surrounding Zheng Zu’s attempted resurrection, that same event doesn’t seem as critical as it should.  It’s quite odd, but I think that it’s because regardless of what Steve and Steele are fighting over, the bottom-line is that Brubaker is more invested in Max Fury, Thorndrake, and Steele than he is Zheng Zu.  The result is that the main conflict actually seems secondary.

On the plus side, Max Fury is as cool as ever and I continue to love the character.  His “fight” with Steve Rogers shows a gritty resolve that is hard not to love.  The guy’s such a hard-assed bad guy that he truly does leap off the page.  He may not be the main bad guy, but he functions very well as Thorndrake’s pitbull.

Conclusion: Not at all bad, but by no means fantastic.  Still, it’s an enjoyable experience that is completely inoffensive.

Grade: B-

-Alex Evans