Under Maria Hill’s leadership, the Secret Avengers have been through a lot. Many of them have undergone some sort of a crisis of faith, while others have continued to do their duty to the best of their abilities, though their actions haven’t always borne fruit, and they’ve been faced on all sides by deception and betrayal and schemes and counter-schemes, all of which has really messed up their cohesion as a unit. Ales Kot and Michael Walsh and the others have done some brilliant work on the last few issues, keeping this book one of the most consistent out there, and it looks like things are headed towards something bigger still.
In Secret Avengers #11 we see some really momentous events happening. Hawkeye has finally found Modok and Phil Coulson both, Nick Fury Jr. is still in a coma-state, Maria is at the mercy of Snapper and his band of henchies who have infiltrated Maria’s command Helicarrier, Jessica is still dealing with Ivan, and so on. In all of this, Black Widow’s absence kind of makes me sad, but the good thing is that Ales Kot writes another awesome issue with the characters he has to hand, and the art team outdoes itself yet again, delivering one of the best books to date.
Life has been pretty damn complicated for everyone on the Secret Avengers cast of late, and surprisingly, one of the most conflicted characters has been Modok, who has been absolutely brilliant under Ales Kot’s pen. He has added a whole new level of nuance to all the other characters and his scenes with Maria sometime back were jaw-droppingly good in that we really got to see who he is behind his villain’s mask. And that kind of repeats itself in this issue, though this time he is confronted by Hawkeye and Phil Coulson, who are themselves trying to deal with something… terrible.
In his typical way where everything is connected and flows from one to the next, Modok’s inner conflict matches that of Phil’s in that the SHIELD agent has been suffering from acute PTSD, given everything he faced up to in the first few issues of this series, and Ales has made him one of the best characters in comics this year. The big scene between the Avenger and the SHIELD agent was pretty powerful in its message and I liked that it was also a healing scene for the latter, and he desperately needs some healing of his own, though he isn’t the only one.
Which brings me back to Nick Fury Jr. and Maria and Jessica. When Ivan the sentient bomb finally cracks the meaning of Fury’s gibberish (the alien Fury, not the human Fury Jr.), the story takes on an altogether different dimension. Suddenly, what you thought you knew about where the story was going turns out to be false and there is a whole new status quo in place for everybody. Of course, Snapper having his own bloody agents infiltrate the Iliad and hold Maria and Jessica hostage is a thing of beauty in this issue, but we see how he has healed himself too, from a lifetime of bullying and insensitive behaviour. Ales has given rise to an absolute monster in this little guy, which is pretty damn surprising, I’ll tell you that.
Mostly, this was just a perfect little issue, story-wise. Ales Kot goes all-out on everything, whether that be the situations the characters are in or their dialogue, or everything else, and he doesn’t hold back at all. I like that. He started off this series on a high, and it looks like he is ending the calendar year on a high too.
Michael Walsh is on the art, with Matthew Wilson on the colours, VC’s Clayton Cowles on the letters and Tradd Moore on the cover with Matthew. This art team, which has stayed on without changes (that I recall) since the first issue, also goes all-out with this issue. Differences in camera angles in the panels, the soft muted colours, the rain scenes, Snapper being a smug villain genius, Modok being all repentant about all he’s done, Maria and Jess’ defiance, the Fury, everything is perfect in this issue, no negatives anywhere. I loved the artwork here, without any kind of reservations.
This is another Marvel series ending the 2014 calendar year on a high, and I’m pretty pleased to see that happening. This issue is also the start of a new arc on the series, though the story carries on from what has happened before very directly, so keep that in mind if this is your first issue!