By Ales Kot, Michael Walsh, and Matthew Wilson
Fraction and Aja created something fantastic with the new Hawkeye. It’s witty, fun, smart, and made a character not typically chosen for a solo series extremely worthy of one. It’s also quite clear that Marvel has paid very close attention to Hawkeye’s success given the tone of a lot of comics under the All-New Marvel NOW banner. Secret Avengers takes this emulation one step further: it doesn’t want to be like Hawkeye, it wants to be an exact replica. The tone, sense of humor, minimalist art with heavy line work, every aspect of this comic wants to copy a different comic and makes no pretenses about telling its own story, or even being its unique property. All of this is truly unfortunate given the premise and characters pooled for an Avengers covert ops team.
It all plays out like an episode of a TV show. There’s an overwhelming threat that only the combined team can handle, each character gets a witty intro sequence, tension builds, and it ends on a cliffhanger leading to the next episode. The biggest issue is that the whole comic doesn’t feel like the introductory chapter, it feels like a mid-chapter entry into the series. The whole issue lacks any kind of lasting impact, and the introductions even feels shallow.
On the visuals side, Walsh does his best to establish a hybrid style between Aja and Samnee, to completely round out the Hawkeye look. In a lot of panels he succeeds, his line work is clean; the balance between simplicity and fine detail is well struck. In others the figures and movement in the panel feel awkward, and the style Walsh is seeking to emulate dissolves a bit and something different squeaks through.
Combined these elements deliver a pretty mediocre read. The jumpstart beginning and severely derivative construction quickly squelch any sort of distinction or uniqueness that could have been. Just because Hawkeye is on the team doesn’t mean the comic has to feel like his solo series. And that’s what you get with Secret Avengers: a comic entirely hedging its bets on readers flocking over from another title, and presenting them with something unchallenging and familiar.