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Friday, September 2, 2011

DAMN Good Comics -- SECRET AVENGERS #16


You know, for a guy who supposedly thinks superheroes are silly, Warren Ellis seems to be really good at writing them.

In a week dominated by the ending of the Post-Crisis DC Universe and the launch of the new Post-Flashpoint DC Universe, it's interesting that Marvel managed to sneak in and release such an attention-grabbing issue of Secret Avengers by Ellis and artist Jamie McKelvie.  This thankfully self-contained story, "Subland Empire," comes off like the illegitimate offspring of The Avengers and Ellis and John Cassaday's Planetary and we're all better off for it.

With a scaled-down team consisting of Steve Rogers, the Black Widow, the Beast and Moon Knight, Ellis throws out an insane amount of big ideas like he just reached into a bag of Lay's potato chips and casually flung them all over the floor.  This issue features nothing less than a secret city over a mile under Cincinnati, Ohio, time-travel emissions named Von Doom radiation after Doctor Doom's time platform, atomic-powered Cadillacs, guns that fire flechettes that dissolve within a few minutes to become untraceable, using a city-sized time platform to turn Cincinnati into a bomb that can be dropped onto other cities, and turning said atomic-powered Cadillac into a neutron bomb to destroy said city-sized time platform.  As ridiculous and impossible as such concepts may be, they're exactly what makes for great superhero comics.

One of my favorite things about this issue had to be the Beast's explanation that a time machine also has to be a space machine.  Ellis, through the Beast, very astutely points out that as we move forward through time, we also move forward in space as Earth revolves and orbits around the sun.  Therefore, in order to go back in time, you also have to calculate where your target will be positioned at that time in the past or the future.  Otherwise, as the Beast remarks, "you would materialize in deep space and be dead in thirty seconds."  A lot of time-travel writers, especially in comics, never seem to think about this rather obvious necessity and after reading this, you're probably going to be very annoyed whenever some other writer drops the ball in this regard.  Welcome to my wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey world.

As for the art, Jamie McKelvie produces some clean, distinct artwork that complements Ellis' script nicely in a way very similar to John Cassaday.  The two-page spread of Moon Knight soaring above the underground cityscape is particularly stunning and McKelvie's action sequences are very stylish and cinematic.  I was a bit disappointed to learn that McKelvie is only one of a rotating series of artists, but if the talented scheduled roster can keep up the high standard set here then Ellis' Secret Avengers run, however long it turns out to be, should be a genuine highlight every month.

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