By Darryl Ayo
Secret Avengers, no. 09
Nick Spencer, Butch Guice with Matthew Wilson & Clayton Cowles
Marvel, September, 2013
There’s only two real characters in this comic, Daisy Johnson and Maria Hill, and they both look the same. In other installments of the series, they nearly act the same. Daisy Johnson is essentially Maria Hill but younger. We know that she is younger because the dialogue indicates this to be the case. Who in their right mind would put a nineteen-year-old in charge of the most powerful international police and espionage organization in the world? That is asinine. I’m not really complaining, just lobbing a truth grenade in your direction. That’s how I do, homie.
My personal favorite part of “Lexington,” the ninth issue of Secret Avengers, is the fact that the story title is “Lexington.” What does that even mean? Sounds ominous in the way that spy operations must sound. “Everything was going well until the Lexington mission.” Heh, spies.
Before reading this comic book, my eyes spied a subway ad for ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D television program. This comic is the comic book equivalent of that show. My favorite television critic Alyssa Rosenberg says the tv show is kind of wack. Well so is this comic book. Nothing against Spencer or Guice as far as talent goes but they’re both totally wasting my time. Also money. Did you know that I pay money for comic books? True story.
The first issue of Secret Avengers that I read was number 5, “Barbuda,” by Spencer & Luke Ross. That’s the one where Samuel L. Jackson assassinates a bad guy. It’s now issue 9 and the S.H.I.E.L.D. dudes still haven’t gotten off of that island. What’s taking so long? This comic book is about memory, specifically lost memory. The issues themselves are repetitive and recursive. I have to do a little memory check on myself to make certain that I haven’t bought an issue before. Each issue is familiar. It’s that “Lost” thing with flashbacks interspersed with current action that has been adopted by all television action dramas. It works well on a 45-minute television serial. Not as well on a 15-minute comic book serial. Each issue only focuses on one aspect of the overall story. I skipped issue 6 and issue 7 (Spencer, Guice, Steve Epting & Brian Theis) actually picked up at the moment directly after issue 5. Why?!
I understand what the storytellers are trying to do. I get it. But weeks have elapsed between each issue and we don’t even touch base with all of the characters. Might be that Secret Avengers is telling a story too big for 20-page comic book serialization. Well not “might be,” actually the storytellers “definitely are.” But right now I feel like they have one hand in my pocket and the other hand outstretched.
All I’m saying is: Tell Me A Story.
This isn’t a story. This is part of a story. A fragment. A piece of something that shouldn’t be divided. This isn’t a multipart serial, this is one proper story cut into pieces. The first installment that I read, “Barbuda,” may or may not have been the beginning. But four issues later, it’s feels less focused than when when I started.
Is this just because of the spy genre?
Perhaps. But genre convention or no, it’s disjointed and I’m losing interest. The artwork is muddy but otherwise attractive. I like the draftsmanship very much. Spoiler: Bucky Barnes shows up. I like Bucky as a character. Maria Hill and Daisy Johnson still look identical.
I have a really dumb question: is being shot in the face genetic? This isn’t Spencer, Guice or Ross’ fault, I’m not even calling this a “fault.” But how is it that Nick Fury and Nick Fury Jr both have the same eye missing? That’s a bit silly, isn’t it? Anyway, it’s funny.
Funny like the interplay between Maria Hill and Maria-Hill-In-A-White-Suit, Daisy Johnson. Though they look alike and have similar personalities, the characters have a decent enough interplay on the page. The box of chocolates is a nice touch.
Eden or Gateway Junior, I guess. I appreciate that Marvel is trying to get me to take Gateway’s nephew seriously as a superhero but it’s kind of funny to see him appear in comics with other characters treating him like he’s a real person. I thought Gateway was interesting because he was an old man and never spoke. It’s subtly imperialist to relegate the only Aboriginal comics character to such a passive role–he was just a human doorway–but at least his motives were different from every other character (although shrouded in the veil of “inscrutability”). Anyway, Gateway’s grandson is just some schmo with a goofy-looking outfit. All the personality of Roberto DaCosta (none).
If you buy this comic book in paper form, open it up to the exact middle, where the staples are. Those are the most interesting two pages, in my opinion. Not only do we see a variety of visual points of view but we also are treated to two minor jokes. In addition, a character is briefly running, making this the second most action-packed scene in the entire comic.
Perhaps the most awesome thing about “Lexington,” Secret Avengers number 9 is that there is exactly one page of fighting in this ostensibly “action” comic. And that occurs in the back, an actual afterthought. The fight is even in silhouette. That’s okay, this is literally my week off of work, I was taking it easy anyway. No need to get me heated up for nothing.