Superhero teams like the Avengers are usually synonymous with competence. Minor disagreements aside, when superheroes team up problems tend to get solved quickly and effectively. This is not one of those teams.
Secret Avengers Volume 1: Let’s Have a Problem focuses on a titular team containing Black Widow, Spider Woman, Nick Fury Jr., and Agent Coulson led by Maria Hill. Yes, both Hawkeye and M.O.D.O.K. are on the cover, but both aren’t technically on the team. With this colorful group of “heroes” fighting a covert war against evil, writer Ales Kot and artist Michael Walsh take readers on a wild journey.
Maria Hill forms a new Secret Avengers team to coordinate with S.H.I.E.L.D. on covert missions that require delicacy. Things begin with Fury and Coulson heading to a satellite to fix malfunctioning machinery, only for them to come into contact with a monstrous saboteur. Hill dispatches the rest of the team (and Hawkeye) to save them, but they’re currently dealing with A.I.M. goons. More missions follow as the team takes on an “extreme” poet, a suicidal sentient bomb named Vladimir, and the reappearance of a Chinese city that was destroyed in 1993.
Furthermore, in a backup tale, Fury and Coulson deal with a man who has discovered the source code of reality. As it turns out, Fury’s “Original Sin” involves allowing the man to live years ago, and now he is causing no end to problems as he threatens to unwind the space-time continuum.
If that plot sounds ridiculous and difficult to follow, that’s because it is. Kot’s wacky writing style is both a boon and a detriment in Let’s Have a Problem. On the one hand, there are numerous hilarious moments and clever gags, many of which are supported by Walsh’s stylized pencil work.
Nevertheless, there are significant moments when I found myself getting lost in the plot. One of the key issues is that there are multiple quick cuts from story to story within the overall issue. Having multiple balls in the air is not an issue for most comics, but the hasty shifts between scenes cause problems in this case.
Furthermore, Kot’s dialogue is often jumbled and difficult to understand. The characters sometimes speak using slang that makes no sense (for instance, the American Spider Woman referring to a vacation as a “holiday”) and in sentence fragments that make their point incoherent. This is further exacerbated by letterer Clayton Cowles placing of word balloons which in some key instances make it unclear in which order characters are speaking; this may be more of Walsh’s or Kot’s fault than Cowles’s, since there are some pages that contained tiny panels packed with dialogue.
Though I’ve harped on some of the negative aspects of the writing and art, I must say that I did enjoy the majority of the story. Watching these characters thrown together to do wild missions with technology that is highly creative made me smile and chuckle. I really think this series has some exceptionally great elements and character interactions. Furthermore, colorist Matthew Wilson does exceptional work with a palette that helps set the scenes.
Secret Avengers Volume 1: Let’s Have a Problem is an enjoyable, if unpolished, comic. There are definite moments of incredible artwork and story ideas within, but they are sadly mired with some poor choices on both fronts. It’s really a shame I didn’t absolutely adore this trade, as there are numerous elements that I thoroughly enjoyed. Still, I think this volume is worth reading, though I’d suggest staying away from buying it unless you’re highly interested. Oh, and when you read it, skip the Original Sin story in the back; it’s just plain bad and brought the score down half a grade.
-interesting character interactions
-excellent coloring work
-creative ideas for technology and missions
-artwork quality notoriously worse in several scenes
-poor lettering work in a significant number of panels
-narrative structure difficult to follow because of numerous cuts
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