Review by Karl Verhoven
It’s not immediately apparent from the opening section of Secrets and Lies, but Spider-Woman is core to this collection. It’s been established from the start of this Avengers series that she has a shared role as one of the Avengers and as an agent of super-spy organisation S.H.I.E.L.D. Conflicts of interest have previously been adroitly sidestepped, but here it’s revealed that her situation is considerably more complicated than previously assumed.
The focus does highlight, though, that these may have been new Avengers when introduced in 2005, but there’s an element of tokenism about Spider-Woman. That’s rectified by the reintroduction of previous Avenger Carol Danvers, Ms Marvel, back for the final chapter.
Simmering in the background is the plot of the Avengers attempting to locate and re-incarcerate all the villains who escaped in Breakout, and target of the sequence is the Silver Samurai. He’s uniquely able to unite warring factions of Japanese gangsters the Yakuza, and this would escalate their overall threat in a period of uncertainty. It leads Captain America to have another try at persuading Daredevil to join the team, and the conversation as to whether he will or not (and he’s extremely reluctant to start with) is spliced with a previously unknown, but very capable character setting about some Yakuza ninjas. Daredevil, his adventures at that time also written by Brian Michael Bendis, has considerable problems of his own: “Do you understand? I have a target on my back. I’ve been outed in the tabloids. Everyone knows I’m Daredevil”.
Questions introduced have no resolution here as Bendis twists his plots well. How well only becomes apparent a few volumes down the line, when you’ll be able to return to Secrets and Lies with an alternative perspective on what plays out.
The best section of the book is near the end as the new team of the Avengers announce themselves to the world via an exclusive interview granted to Daily Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson prior to a public unveiling. Bendis plays up Spider-Man’s concerns about his press cuttings very well: “Spider-Man: Menace. Spider-Man: Murderer. Every day since I was a junior in high school. Green Day made a song out of it”. “It’s not a bad song”, sympathises Spider-Woman.
Breakout artist David Finch is back for what will be his valedictory sequence introducing Ronin, his well-designed action sequences a complete contrast to the horribly cluttered symbolic team picture covers he was providing. The final two chapters are the work of Frank Cho, always an excellent artist, and toning down the more exploitative aspects his depictions of women. Both main artists are several rungs higher up the skills ladder than Rick Mays, whose static and distorted figures on a brief strip don’t impress at all.