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Waiting for the Trade – Secret Avengers

Waiting for the Trade

Secret Avengers (2):
Eyes of the Dragon

Written by Ed
Brubaker, Illustrated by Mike Deodato & Will Conrad

Collects Secret
Avengers #6-12

 

Why I Bought This: It
was $6 at BAM. Given the quality of Bru’s Cap run, I was interested to see what
he would do with an Avengers title, particularly one with Cap in the lead and
an espionage-based concept.

 

The Plot: Shang
Chi’s father (Fu Manchu) has returned from the dead and it is up to the
Avengers to stop him.
 

(spoilers below)

 

Chapter 1 – Shang Chi is sleeping when he is awoken by a
ninja attack. He recognizes them as his father’s ninjas, even though his father
is supposed to be dead. Shang Chi has the fight well in hand, when another
Asian hero “Prince of Orphans,” who can transform into green mist arrives to
help. We learn the Prince was sent in by Cap to retrieve Shang Chi. We
flashback to two days ago when the Prince found a temple of slaughtered monks
and a missing magic scroll that can raise the dead. Back in the present Cap and
Shang Chi come up with a plan of attack to stop Fu Manchu from being
resurrected. This leads to Cap, Widow and Shang Chi breaking into a museum to
preemptively steal some other magic artifact only to be attacked by more
ninjas. Cut to the Shadow Council, where we see Fu Manchu is indeed walking
about though he is only ‘half-alive” and we get a close up of his undead face.

Chapter 2  – ThenNinjas
overrun the heroes and manage to teleport away with Shang Chi. Cap is
surprisingly okay with this as we learn Ant Man (v3.0) is hidden in Shang Chi’s
robe and Ant Man’s helmet is linked to the Hellicarrier. The plan was to track
the ninjas but when they want to behead Shang the heroes are forced to escape.
Meanwhile Valkyrie and Orphan Prince are in China looking for more magic items
and they too get ambushed by a few ninjas. The heroes easily win and bring back
a prisoner for Cap and Widow to interrogate. Meanwhile the Shadow Council is
unhappy so they decide to unleash John Steele on Cap, whom the narration tells
us was America’s
first super soldier.

Chapter 3 – We get a little back-story on Steele and Cap in
WWII as Steele plans a distraction so he can kidnap Shang Chi. Meanwhile Beast
researches and discovers Shang Chi’s father is centuries old and his original
name is Zheng Zu (because Marvel lost the license to Fu Manchu decades ago).
Also the secret to his immortality is to drain the life of family members. Sharon alerts Steve that Zheng Zu is committing a major
terrorist attack in broad daylight in Hong Kong.
The heroes respond and once engaged Shang is suspicious if this is really the
work of his father. Cut to the Hellicarrier where Steel and Max Fury (a rogue
Nick Fury LMD) break in to attack Sharon.
Zheng Zhu blows up Steve’s plane so the heroes cannot go back to aid her. Shang
Chi fights his way to dad only to discover he is a hologram. Beast and Sharon lose their fight.
War Machine and Steve fly in to make the save but its too late Steele has
escaped with Sharon.
He’s left Steve a video offering a hostage exchange of Sharon for Shang Chi.

 Chapter 4 – We get
Cap’s take on Steele’s origin: he dates back to the Civil War and while he
doesn’t have Steve’s fighting skill he does have super strength and
invulnerability similar to Luke Cage. He’s been MIA since 1943. Meanwhile Max
Fury tries to recruit Sharon
to the Shadow Council. Meanwhile Shang tells Steve he is willing to make the
exchange. Cap & Shang meet with Steele on a rooftop. He turns over Sharon and shoots Shang
in the head. That leads to Cap and Steele going one on one and surprisingly
Steele wins, at which point the rest of the team shows up to make the save.
Steele manages to escape while the heroes are occupied with generic thugs. Back
at villain HQ Shang and his father have a moment with Fu Manchu promising to
sacrifice his boy at nightfall. In the cliffhanger we see Moon Knight managed
to sneak into the villains’ hideout disguised as one of the thugs.

Chapter 5 – The heroes crash the sacrificial ceremony. This
time Cap leaves Steele to Valkyrie while he takes on Max. Orphans materializes
and disrupts Fu Manchu’s spell causing him to self combust. Max escapes. Steele
manages to fight Valkyrie to a stalemate but when War Machine lends a hand the
heroes overwhelm him. In the epilogue the door is left open for Shang Chi to join
the team, while Cap visits Steele in prison to ask why he switched sides.

Chapter 6 – Cap uses VR to access Steele’s memories. This
leads to the usual Marvel WWII flashback tale of Nazis in castles. This time
they were trying to summon monsters. Steele becomes aware of Rogers in his brain and breaks free of his
chains in real life.

Chapter 7 – Cap and Orphan Prince subdue Steele with ease.
We return to the VR simulation and see how the Shadow Council captured Steele
and then with an occult ritual summoned the Abyss, who took possession of his
body. At the conclusion of the flashback Steele is himself again and agrees to
join the team.

 

Critical Thoughts:
This is a fairly mundane comic. It’s not bad per se, but it is rather run of
the mill in both action and characterization. There are not any major plot
twists. The threat never seems all that serious. Even the few new characters we
are given are not interesting at all. Furthermore on the latter point Prince of
Orphans is a terrible name for a superhero, while Steele is a yet another
heretofore unknown Super Soldier for Cap to deal with. I’ve complained about
this once before but the point still stands: Cap has way too many foes that are
variations of his powers and origin; one of these is fine, nearly a dozen is
ridiculous especially since no one stays dead in the Marvel Universe so you can
just use the existing ones if this point if you need to tell this story yet
again.

Also on the continuity police front,  why is Fu Manchu dead?
I’m assuming he died when Shang Chi’s 70s book ended (which I never read). But
he was alive and running his empire in the excellent 2000 era team book Marvel Knights. And since Marvel doesn’t
really own the name to the character and Shang Chi doesn’t appear very often I
find it doubtful that he died since that series’ premature cancellation. (Also
an interesting footnote is that series also had a rogue Nick Fury LMD as one of
its recurring villains, so that makes it twice as unforgiveable for an editor
not to catch this point since one could argue Max Fury first appeared in that
series too).

The only positive thing I have to say about this book is the
art in the two fight scenes with Steele is very dynamic.

 

Grade C-. Again
not a terrible comic but there is no reason to go out of your way to read this
either.