lj_prime's Secret Avengers #6 - Eyes of the Dragon, Part 1 of 5 review

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My favorite Avengers book

Secret Avengers has been one of the most interesting books to come out of Marvel's big Avengers brand relaunch. The creative team is a match made in heaven, as Mike Deodato's dynamic action sequences and shadowy figures are a perfect fit for Ed Brubaker's high-concept conspiracy storylines. The book also spotlights a lot of quality under-used Marvel characters (Nova, Moon Knight, Valkyrie, War Machine, etc.) and gives them a chance to shine in massive Avengers-sized stories. "Secret Histories", Brubaker's first arc on the book recently wrapped up and established a secret organization known as the Shadow Council as an important threat to Steve Rogers' Black Ops version of the Avengers.

Leaving behind the more sci-fi-driven space mayhem of the previous issues, this new story arc is set within the "mystical kung-fu" section of the Marvel universe, a place Ed Brubaker has visited recently during his run on Iron Fist with Matt Fraction. The first few pages of the issue set the tone right away as Deodato illustrates a spectacular fight scene where martial-arts master Shang Chi takes out an army of evil ninjas. The more violent death scenes are enhanced brillantly by depicting the fighting characters as black silhouettes on white backgrounds. Shang Chi plays a key part in this story as the Secret Avengers recruit him to stop the Shadow Council from reviving his father, the evil Fu Manchu. Much like Brubaker did with the Serpent Crown in his first arc, this new story focuses on another mysterious artifact: the Eyes of the Dragon, and ties it neatly into  the Shadow Council/Fu Manchu mystery.

As the first issue of a 5-part story arc, Secret Avengers #6 succeeds completely in pulling in the reader. The action is frenetic but the plot remains very easy to follow thanks to concise dialogue and brief bits of exposition. Ed Brubaker really is the anti-Bendis in some way as he's a real master of economical writing (as opposed to Bendis' dialogue-heavy stories). He gets solid characterization out of the briefest bits of dialogue (Ant-Man only gets one line in the whole story but it perfectly captures his character) and always focuses on moving the story forward, which is a winning formula. Despite the noir-ish mystery mood, everyone's motivations are/seem clear and even the character of Shang Chi is explained away perfectly well within the first few pages for readers who might not be familiar with him.

Great writing, great artwork and a great jumping-on point for new readers. Secret Avengers remains one of my favorite new books at Marvel right now and this new arc is hugely promising.

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