By: Rick Remender (writer), Matteo Scalera (art), Matthew Wilson (colors), and Clayton Cowles (letters)

The Story: Only Venom and Ant-Man stand in the way of the Abyss’ plan to infect the world.

The Review: Comics like this are the worst to review.  I can honestly say that Secret Avengers #31 doesn’t do anything truly wrong.  The problem, however, is that it also did nothing to truly blow me away and, in many ways, just felt kind of “there.”

It’s difficult to pinpoint why I had this lackluster feeling about the issue but, honestly, that vague mediocrity has kind of attached itself to Remender’s Secret Avengers as a whole for me.  It’s a solid comic and yet, it could be so much  more than it is.  Looking at this issue specifically, I feel that perhaps it’s the fact that character-work seems to take a backseat in Secret Avengers, which is a pretty direct contrast to Remender’s other Marvel work.  It’s very much a plot-driven book and so, in some ways, it just feels like pieces being moved around on a board.  Take, for example, the Venom/Valkyrie relationship; it’s a solid idea and when Remender has given it page time, it shines…but it’s never really been given enough space to breathe and develop.

That being said, despite the characters taking a backseat, as is always the case with Remender’s run, this isn’t by any means a bad issue.  In fact, it’s actually a pretty fun read.  You get lots of action, hordes of bad guys, and the setting is still a really good one.  It’s a page-turning, genuinely exciting read.  There’s even a really awesome Ant-Man moment that’ll probably please fans of the character (well, assuming they’ve gotten over the fact that this is android O’Grady…which they likely haven’t).  The issue flies by and I really can’t say that it ever dragged.  It’s just action scene after action scene and the story flies by, which certainly gives you less time to think about its failings.

I will say, however, that at this point, I’m not really sold on the Abyss as a villain.  It just doesn’t feel like it’s been developed enough to fulfill the compelling, epic badguy role that Remender intends it to.  Max Fury’s motivations, the whole “nullification” thing, the army/Masters of Evil…there’s a sense in which the antagonists are just a ridiculous bevy of crazy ideas that Remender had, all of which he’s thrown at a wall.  The thing is, most of these ideas are good ones, they’re just all a little bit foggy because none of them have been explored enough.  The nullification angle is still not quite well explained enough, for example.  As a result, I don’t quite feel that we have a strong, engaging antagonist so far.

I also had mixed feelings about Matteo Scalera’s artwork.  On the one hand, there’s an undeniable kinetic energy to his work that suits this book perfectly and he also continues to draw some really cool, nicely lit urban backgrounds.  Yet sometimes the looseness of his style that lends his work that energy also detracts from it, making it seem a bit rushed and sloppy at some points.  I also can’t NOT mention his Black Widow; seriously, not only is her outfit unzipped, but her breasts look like they are literally about to EXPLODE out of her catsuit.  It looks completely stupid and I was taken out of the story anytime Natasha showed up on the page.

Conclusion: This issue was one that was just kind of….there.  Normally, I’m not this harsh on Secret Avengers but I guess I’m just wishing that it were more than it is.  It’s still fun, I just wish it had a little more depth and heart to it.

Grade: C+

– Alex Evans