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Top Secret

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The secret is out! Steve Rogers has put together a bunch of heroes to do what no hero team can do, go where no hero team can go. These are just the type of stories that Ed Brubaker masters in.

If you are facing a threat from Kang or Galactus or the Masters of Evil, villains who usually operate all in the open, the Avengers will be there for you. They’ll be there to take on all challengers and make a statement—the world is safe in their hands.

But what if you have those more shadowy threats? You have the kind of threats that take a long time to develop and are constantly bubbling up behind closed doors. How do you take down the bad guys who work in the shadows, who work in secret? You call in the Secret Avengers. 

At least that is what it appears that this new series will be about. And if the Secret Avengers are a brand new covert ops team that is part James Bond and part, well, Avengers, then they have the perfect writer for it in Ed Brubaker.

Brubaker excels in the shadowy tale of people working under the radar. His break through miniseries, Sleeper, details a federal agent who infiltrated a superpowered villainous organization. His Criminal series’ have dealt with shadowy underworlds and people who are not what they seem. So if anyone can make the Secret Avengers work, its Brubaker.

Of course, those two series I mentioned above were drawn by Sean Phillips. Phillips isn’t around for this one. Instead Brubaker is paired with Mike Deodato, fresh from Dark Avengers. While Brubaker and Phillips have developed an almost symbiotic relationship which seems to create great stories every time they get together, Deodato is a master at shadow and darkness as well, so it should be interesting to see what knid of dynamic Brubaker develops with him.

Brubaker does not have access to Captain America, Thor or Iron Man—all of them are in the Avengers—but he still has the patriot/Asgardian/armored hero dynamic to work with.

The patriot is Steve Rogers, the newly resurrected former Captain America who has passed his former identity over to his sidekick, Bucky, who assumed the identity while Rogers was dead. He is now known as the Super Soldier, and he is the leader of the team. The Asgardian is Valkyrie, an Asgardian demi-god who has hung out with the Defenders and was part of the Initiative. There have been several different versions of Valkyrie, so we don’t really know which one we are going to get. And the Iron Man stand-in is a man who once stood in as Iron Man—fresh from his coming to cinematic life in Iron Man 2, James Rhodes, now known as War Machine.

This trio is joined by the star-spanning hero Nova, the anti-hero Ant-Man, another character fresh from an appearance in Iron Man 2, Black Widow, Beast, after Marvel’s X-editors apparently eased their refusal to have him be used by the Avengers franchise, and the quite psychotic former Avenger known as Moon Knight.

It is quite a diverse line up, and one that doesn’t seem to lend itself to covert operations (I mean, a human rocket doesn’t seem to be someone who knows how to be subtle). But I’m sure Brubaker will be able to make them all work together.

A covert, more proactive superhero team doesn’t really seem all that original on the face of things, but I trust Brubaker to bring something new to the concept. As a life-long Avengers fan, I am looking forward to this new chapter in the series. I hope that soon everyone will know about this secret.

Also out this week:

The Darkness/Darkchylde/Witchblade: Kingdom of Pain:
 
Finally, the team-up you have been waiting for----since 2009!!!!

Okay, maybe that isn’t fair. After all, this book was supposed to come out Christmas week of 2009. But still, that makes it five months late. And that is a pretty long time to wait.

The one-shot marks the return of Darkchylde, one of the highest-selling characters of the 1990s comic book boom. Creator Randy Queen is back and has teamed his creation with Top Cow’s big two—The Darkness and Witchblade. This should get the reintroduction off to a good foot, but who knows where this will take the character. Queen has already commited to his next project, Starfall, but has not ruled out a return to Darkchylde if sales of this one shot are good.

Randy Queen (W/A), Top Cow/Image Comics, $4.99. One-Shot.

Scalped #38:

Jason Aaron’s first comic book work was The Other Side, a Vertigo miniseries set during the Vietnam War that told the war experiences of people on either side of the conflict. It was reportedly inspired by a relative of his who was in the war. Aaron has returned to the Vietnam War as a setting a number of times, and he returns there again this week.

This issue focuses on the Vietnam experiences of a character that had affected the series from the get go. This is the backstory readers have been waiting for. Who is the character? Well, if I told you that would be cheating. But fans of the series will find answers they were looking for.

And if you were a fan of The Other Side, then this issue will provide an excellent jumping on point to one of the best series published today.

Jason Aaron (W), RM Guera (A), DC/Vertigo Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Dazzler #1:

She was born of a cross-promotional venture than never came into being. She went from being modeled after Grace Jones to being modeled after Bo Derek. She is the character that came to typify the disco era, but who arrived after disco had already died. She made her debut in one of the best selling series of the time and had a solo series that was not only the first series that was sold directly to the direct market but also lasted longer than many other female driven comics. Yet she is still viewed as a subject of ridicule.

Dazzler has a pretty interesting history, and I have to confess, I’m kind of a fan. I bought many issues of her series off the newsstand when I was a kid (to be honest, the Bill Sienkiewicz covers were what brought me in). So, it is good to see Marvel bringing her back in honor of the “Women of Marvel” event.

Jim McCann (W), Kalman Andrasofszky (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. One-Shot.

G.I. Joe: Hearts and Minds #1:

Max Brooks knows zombies. We know that from his The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z. But does he know Joe? That is something we are going to find out this week as he writes a special miniseries set in the G.I. Joe universe.

He might be proving his Joe geek cred from the onset as the series will focus on two of the lesser known G.I. Joe characters—Spirit and Major Blood. Apparently, there is a mission that will set the two against one another, a mission where we will learn a lot about these two men and what makes them tick. And Brooks is lucky enough to have comic legend Howard Chaykin to help him out on the job. 

Max Brooks (W), Howard Chaykin & Antonio Fuso (A), IDW Publishing, $3.99. Five-Issue Miniseries.

Boondock Saints: In Nomine Patris #1:

Boondock Saints was one of those movies that didn’t do well at the box office but became a cult classic on home video. I know more than one person in my circle of friends who loves the film. One of my best friends even got a tattoo of one of the prison number of one of the film’s characters on his chest. How is that for being an over-the-top fan?

With that type of fervor, it is astounding that it has taken this long for the franchise to reach comic books. But that wait is over this week, as a miniseries based on the films hits store shelves. Better yet, it is written by the writer-director of the films, Troy Duffy. If you love the films, you’ll need to pick up this expansion of the film’s universe.
 
Troy Duffy & J.B. Love (W), Guss Floor (A), 12-Gauge Comics, $3.99. Two-Issue Miniseries.

7 Psychopaths #1:

Plots to kill Hitler have become a popular story for all kinds of popular fiction. Whether they be recounting true events (like Bryan Singer’s Valkyrie) or flights of creative fiction (like Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds), it seems there are no end to the film possibilities behind the concept.

Now, the concept is making its way into comic books this week with this series. They say you’d have to be crazy to risk your life to try and kill Hitler. And that’s what they got for this plot. And, as we all know, if you are crazy and willing to kill, you are a psychopath. The question is not whether or not they will succeed, but how will they ever be able to control one psychopath, let alone seven.

Fabien Vehlmann (W), Sean Phillips (A), BOOM! Studios, $3.99. Three-Issue Miniseries.

Mystery Society #1:

If I were to describe this series as “Nick and Nora from The Thin Man meets The X-Files, I am sure I will get a lot of fans salivating at the prospect of that match up. But I am not the one making that comparison. Series co-creators Steve Niles and Ashley Wood are making that connection. How does that news make you feel about the book?

The Mystery Society are a pair of vigilantes whose self-appointed job is to investigate the things that go bump in the night and restore the karmic balances when a wrong is done on that playing field. Whether it be a rescue mission to Area 51, or an exploration of a haunted graveyard at midnight, this pair will be there.

Steve Niles (W), Fiona Staples (A), IDW Publishing, $3.99. Five-Issue Miniseries.

Earp: Saints for Sinners  #0:

Wyatt Earp is one of the most legendary figures of the Old West. His story has been told a million times before and in a million ways. His legend has changed and grown with every retelling, so much so that the real man is often lost in the fantasy. How do you make a person whose story has been told as many times as Earp’s has an interesting subject of a new work of fiction? You throw out everything that came before and change everything that you knew about the character.

Instead of prowling the old west, Earp is now living in a dystopian future. The current financial woes have plunged the United States to levels not seen since the Great Depression. Lawlessness abounds and it’s hard for an honest man to get ahead. Wyatt Earp is one of those honest men, and he’s made his way to Las Vegas, the only city not in chaos over the financial difficulties. It still stands that everything that has happened in Vegas still stays in Vegas, but it is not a place where you can escape your past. And Earp’s past is coming at him guns blazing.

M. Zachary Sherman  (W), Mack Chater (A), Radical Publishing, $1.00. Four-Issue Miniseries.

The Amory Wars: In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth:3 #1:

When BOOM! Studios published Claudio Sanchez’s Kill Audio miniseries, you had to know his Amory Wars saga would soon be leaving Image to join him here. That journey happens now, as the third comic book volume of the epic story begins this week at its new home.

But the publisher is not the only thing different about the series. Sanchez is now joined on writing the series by comic book legendary master Peter David. David has excelled in taking another person’s vision and adapting it for another medium, as shown in his work on various Star Trek properties, numerous film novelizations, and the Dark Tower comics over at Marvel. I’m sure with him helping out, the Amory Wars saga will be better than ever.

Claudio Sanchez & Peter David (W), Chris Burnham (A), BOOM! Studios, $3.99. Twelve-Issue Miniseries.

Star Wars: Invasion—Rescues #1:

The Yuuzhan Vong found a little hitch in its plans for universal domination. That was their invasion of Artorias. They expected the planet to fall like every other they came upon in their path. But the ruling Galifridian family are fighters. Each is tough on their own. But Finn is tougher than any foe the Yuuzhan Vong has ever faced. He is training in the ways of the Jedi with Master Luke Skywalker and children of Han Solo and Princess Leia. Add his resilient nature with the power of the force and he should be enough to turn the tide.
 
But until his training is complete, his family must now fight the invaders individually. His mother Nina and sister Kaye have captured a Yuuzhan Vong slave ship and have turned it on the invader. And his father Caled is gathering a resistance force on the planet to mount an offensive. But there might be a traitor in his inner circle that could end the rebellion even before it starts.

Tom Taylor (W), Colin Wilson (A), Dark Horse Comics, $2.99. Six-Issue Miniseries.

Rob Zombie Presents: Whatever Happened to Baron Von Shock? #1:

Say whatever you want about Rob Zombie, he has a unique viewpoint. It’s a viewpoint fueled by Famous Monsters of Filmland, Rat Fink hot rod culture, and classic horror. So when he has something to say about the nature of celebrity, you can tell it will be a take on the subject no one would ever think of.

His avatar into the world of celebrity is a TV horror host by the name of Baron Von Shock (and would Zombie use any other celebrity?). He was on his way to Elvira-like national fame when he flamed out and self-destructed in the most spectacular fashion. This series relates his unexpected rise and his inevitable fall. If there is only one thing more horrible than the films Von Shock used to show, it would be the story of his career. 

Rob Zombie (W), Donny Hadiwidjaja (A), Image Comics, $3.99. Eight-Issue Miniseries.

Fathom: Blue Descent #0:

If you have a character with a past hidden in shadow, the one sure way to keep fans interested is to slowly reveal information about said past. That is what Aspen is doing with its Fathom character, and that trend continues with this series. Of course, series creator Michael Turner is not alive to see it, but the big, slow reveal is in good hands.

This series details the lives of Aspen Matthew’s true parents and the hardships they endured when she was a little girl. This time in Aspen’s life made her the woman she is today, and is a must for any Fathom fan and an excellent starting point for those new to Michael Turner’s legacy.

David Schwartz (W), Scott Clark (A), Aspen Comics, $2.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.


Thunderbolts #144:

If there is one person in the Marvel universe who knows about redemption, it’s Luke Cage. He was an ex-convict (imprisoned for a crime he did not commit) who agreed to be a test subject for a new experimental treatment which bestowed upon him diamond hard skin and superhuman strength. He rose from these hard beginnings to become a great hero and father. But can he use what he learned from these struggles to rehabilitate the most dangerous villains of the Marvel Universe?

Well, we are going to find out as that is what he is charged with in this latest revamp of the Thunderbolts title. He must lead Ghost, Juggernaut, Crossbones, Moonstone and Man-Thing down the straight and narrow path. Good luck.

Jeff Parker (W), Kev Walker (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

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William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer and daughter Vanessa. He also is a comic reviewer for PopMatters, has written for Comic Foundry magazine and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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