by Nick Spencer, Ales Kot (Writers), Butch Guice, Joe Rubinstein (Artists), Matthew Wilson (Colorist)
The Story: Mockingbird ”learns” a bit more about herself as the rest of the team are brought to their destination after being captured.
The Review: It’s always rather sad to see something that you can personally admit that it’s smartly made, yet cannot really enjoy to its fullest. You may see the quality behind the work, yet some elements present are in the way of your personal enjoyment. It may be the characters, it may be the style, perhaps even the general tone of the whole thing, yet something doesn’t connect to allow you to make the most of the book.
It is unfortunately what this issue of Secret Avengers amounts to for me, on a personal level. I can certainly see what’s good about the issue, yet there is something that simply doesn’t make this issue as good as some of the previous ones for me.
Something that I can see that is rather ingenious is the way in which Ales Kot and Nick Spencer manage to mix a certain exploration of Andrew Forson through the brainwashing scenes with Mockingbird. Pushing forth the philosophy of the character through the learning process of the manipulated agent, the nihilistic views of Forson becomes rather intriguing, as some of the previous events and some of A.I.M.’s plans becomes that much more threatening in prospect.
Another scene which is done rather well is the short scene with Mentallo, a character that has been the subject of a certain introspection, his boredom and his questioning of why he is here being rather mysterious in the general direction of the book. In this issue, though, it amounts to a rather touching scene, with him being rather sad at the death of Taskmaster (a sentiment I also share). With their interactions being friendly through the entire series, it was rather interesting to see how Mentallo reacted at this new, with a certain development that both writers leave in the open in the issue that tease something with the character that might be interesting down the line.
Where the book seems to fail a bit for me, though, is in how much it seems to jump around, giving a lot more gravitas and importance to other scenes as it almost delay the others in favour of certain key developments. While it is a staple of ensemble book that not every character can be focused upon in each issues, it seems that some characters receive but a page or two, with others receiving a couple of panels at the most. Those interested in the dialogue between M.O.D.O.K. and Maria Hill might be potentially disappointed in this issue. Other characters do receive a better treatment, like Marcus Johnson, Hawkeye and Black Widow, yet it is nothing when compared with Bobbi Morse and Andrew Forson. Most issues must focus on certain themes, yet it seems almost nonsensical to give but the minimal spotlight on other characters when they are as important to the book as others.
Still, the book would not be really satisfying without a good artist to back it up, which is why it’s fortunate that Butch Guice and Joe Rubinstein participates in this book. The general roughness of the lines, combined with the excellent handle on emotions and expressions makes this issue rather splendid in terms of art, with an excellent range on display. The impact desired by the script are generally delivered very well thanks to a heavy focus on faces and characters through the panels. Using empty space with a certain restriction, Guice is able to push forth the right expression very well to have the maximum impact, which he also does through the right visual rhythm, switching the focus from characters to objects to characters in a way that manage to keep things fresh visually throughout the entire issue.
Perhaps the best aspect of the art, though, is Matthew Wilson, who is absurdly great here. Using very cold colors for the flashbacks and for the more emotional moments, the general feeling of calculation and manipulation is aptly put on the page. Minimizing the appearance of warm colors in some scenes, Wilson maximise their effects as the introspective and nihilistic views of some characters is permeating the scenes and the issue rightfully, making ambiance an important aspect of the issue. Still, the colorization does manage to jolts a bit of diversity down the line with some scenes that gives a certain amount of warmth, specifically the action scene near the end. Contrasting sharply in the intent and the tone, it is a rather intriguing feat of the colorist, which does enhance the visuals of the book as a whole.
The Conclusion: There are some problems with the division of certain scenes and spotlight sharing in the cast of characters, yet most of the ideas on display, the art and the colorization makes this book a solid read despite this.
-Hugo Robberts Larivière