Secret Avengers by Rick Remender Volume 3
– By Rick Remender (Writer), Andy Kuhn, Matteo Scalera (Artists), Matthew Wilson (Colour Artist), Chris Eliopoulos (Letterer); 2013
As Father launches his invasion, a terrible new Avengers foe is born: beware the bite of the Black Ant! Can the Marvel Universe survive the plague of contagious robotic evolution, merging the Descendants with all humanity? And how do you stop a plague that has already begun to spread? Torch, Venom, and Valkyrie infiltrate the rebel robot base — but are Lord UltraVision and Monarch Machine Man friend or foe? And when Torch must choose between mankind and the perfect future Father will create for all automatons, which will he pick? As Black Ant and Hawkeye face off in the ultimate showdown, the Master Mold rises over New York — and the only way to stop it is to kill the Torch!
Secret Avengers by Rick Remender is the third and final volume in Remender’s run on the series, collecting issues #33-37, originally released from 2012-2013.
Something particularly baffling about this volume is how inaccurate details in the summary are. For example, at no point are Hawkeye and Black Ant in the same place, let alone facing off “in an ultimate showdown,” needing to kill the original Human Torch is not a plot point, and Lord UltraVision and Monarch Machine don’t factor into the story in any meaningful way whatsoever — I’m not even sure I could actually identify them. There are references to these factions of synthetics working against Father, but its not remotely a big enough detail to warrant inclusion in the summary. Don’t really know what to say about this other than how bizarre it is.
This volume concludes the plotline with the Descendants that began in volume one. The story picks up shortly after where volume two left off with the reveal of Black Ant, the cybernetic double of Eric O’Grady, who double-crosses the team by allowing Descendants onto the Lighthouse Station — their orbital base of operations — and taking the injured Human Torch and the child Parvez with him, leaving Venom and Valkyrie for dead. Captain Britain, Hawkeye, and Beast (running late) travel to Earth-666, the Universe of the Undead, to retrieve the orb of Necromancy. This orb provided the spark that gives the Descendants true life. Captain Britain placed it in this universe for safe-keeping. Venom, Valkyrie, and Black Widow follow Black Ant back to the Descendants’ subterranean city to rescue Parvez.
The story is divided between these fronts, as well as the machinations of Father, and each vary up the story in a way that’s keeps you engaged. They’re all important to what’s going in, but each is so distinct that it keeps things continuously fun and interesting. Though a strange addition to the story, the romp in Earth-666 is particularly amusing inclusion. Unlike the Marvel Zombies Universe, this Undead Universe is populated by more varied Horror genre creatures. Each member of the Avengers of the Undead represents one of these groups: Captain America is a werewolf, Wolverine is a vampire, and Thor is a mummy, to name a few. While ludicrous on paper it was marvelous to behold, creating a corner of the multiverse unfortunately left untapped since.
This book ramps up the moral dilemma of what defines life, which was touched upon in the previous volumes. The Descendants aren’t entirely evil, they just want to live their lives without persecution, and even attempt to become legally recognized by the United Nations. This fails and they initiate their contagious nanobot plague meant to bring about a singularity between humans and machines, which they see as their final option for peace. I love this kind of moral dilemma. What they’re doing is forceful and wrong, but they don’t do it maliciously, and I can’t help sympathizing in spite of themselves.
They legitimately seem to believe their ends justify their means. To them singularity is a blessing: the gigantic sentinel Master Mold even making a point of saying he only wants to contain the Avengers fighting against him in New York City, not kill them, so they cannot interfere with the transition. It’s also only a small number of them enacting this plan, but for the Avengers to stop them all Descendants must pay the price. It’s not a cut and dry situation, with success coming at the heaviest of costs.
I really wish this storyline could have been fleshed out into a full-scale event. It has a lot of potential to go into more depth, but at its length it still works really well. With all its sillier, over-the-top moments, in the end it’s a very poignant story, where you don’t really feel like anybody wins.
Scalera returns to do the art for the majority of the book and it maintained the quality of the work he did in the previous volume. In this book we’re treated to a couple of lovely two-page spreads as well, including Hawkeye and Captain Britain facing off against the Avenger of the Undead, and a deathlok’d Giant-Man punching a giant sentinel in the face. His depictions of the undead Avengers look especially good as well, forgoing Kuhn’s more cartoony style and making them look more vicious.
Kuhn does the art of issue #33, the first of this volume. The style is distinct, but consistent enough with the rest of the book so it doesn’t look too divergent. The illustrations do look a tad inkier though, and like I said, more cartoony. I found this to be especially the case with characters’ eyes. It was by no means poor, but I was happier returning to Scalera’s art all the same.
After this Secret Avengers restarts, starting at new issue #1 with the team apparently disassembled, Hawkeye and Black Widow being recruited into a new Secret Avengers team affiliated with S.H.I.E.L.D., along with Phil Coulson and Nick Fury, Jr. I was quite disgruntled by this change at the time, Marvel taking what I thought was an original, compelling team and cynically turning it into something that closely reflected their movie franchise. It’s something they do often that I’ve never been fond of.
From the beginning, before Remender started on the title, it felt like a wholly unique approach that got to tell some weirder stories than typical Avengers fare. If you’ve never read any Secret Avengers, I would recommend starting with Ed Brubaker’s work back at Secret Avengers: Mission to Mars to get the most context for this series. If you are familiar enough with the team members, however, I’d say you can start with Remender’s run, accompanied perhaps by some research into the previous volumes as a primer.