Wednesday, August 31, 2011

COMICS: Secret Avengers #16

Leave it to Warren Ellis to kick off a run on a superhero comic with a massive underground city that no one knew about.

Ellis began his run on Secret Avengers with artist Jamie McKelvie this week, and his first issue is full of promise. The Secret Avengers team of Captain Steve Rogers (Super-Soldier), The Beast (Mutant Genius), Black Widow (Super Spy) and Moon Knight (Crazy Person) are descending a mile beneath Cincinnati (because that's really where anyone would go in Cincinnati, I guess) to investigate a hidden, seemingly deserted city where the Shadow Council has evidently been planning something big and very explosive. They run into trouble and have to make a few tough choices about how to deal with said trouble. That's the story, but the way it's told is where it gets fun.

Ellis has an infatuation with breaking the skin of the world and peeling it back to reveal something new. You see it in Planetary most obviously, but it's everywhere in his work, and it makes its way into Secret Avengers as well, in a dynamic and compelling way. It's all, of course, helped along by the often nightmarishly intricate pencils McKelvie has to pull off as the Secret Avengers zip and fly through a city that's all angular buildings and looping highways. It's a story about secrets, and the secret heroes that have to dig them up, and it's the start of something big (or bigger, anyway) on this title.

But it's more than just a conceptual victory. Ellis is full of those. It's also some of the best dialogue I've seen in a comic all year, filled with humor and technological gobbledegook (mostly from Beast, of course). And yes, we get to play up Moon Knight's inherent madness, because Ellis loves slightly mad characters (and, perhaps, is a slightly mad character).

It's bad luck that this title dropped the same week that DC launched its "New 52," because this is the kind of quality comic that rises above the inherent publicity stunt quality of companywide events. Great storytelling, great art, superheroes doing what they do best.

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