"Secret Avengers" is becoming a deeply frustrating book, because as of late it keeps feeling like it's almost all the way down the path to succeeding, but then at the last second makes a misstep or two.
The book best works when it comes to the big picture, with Steve Rogers's secret team of Avengers going up against the mysterious Shadow Council. It's hard to not feel like in many ways this is a successor to the soon-to-conclude "Secret Warriors," complete with Nick Fury's team going up against Hydra. The little glimpses of the Shadow Council and their plans are interesting, and it feels like it's genuinely leading towards a big confrontation down the line.
It's ultimately the smaller pieces of the puzzle that aren't quite shaping up, though, and it's there that the book falters. Brubaker's large cast regularly has almost nothing to do, with this issue serving as a prime example. Several members of the team end up with no dialogue or even purpose but to stand around, and having multiple guest-stars in this story isn't helping matters as even more attention is drawn away from the actual cast. The conceit of this book being a team of characters is one that perhaps needs to be re-examined; this feels more like it should just be a "Steve Rogers, Super-Soldier" title so that there's no need to keep characters like Ant-Man, Black Widow, and Valkyrie standing around and twiddling their thumbs. Their do-nothing presence actually ends up distracting from the book overall.
Mike Deodato's art remains variable in this latest issue. Some scenes look great, like John Steele's page of flashbacks, or Max Fury's pained expression when he asks if it has to be them. Other pages look jumbled, though, too much getting packed onto a single page. Steve's landing after jumping through the window just looks awkward, for instance, and the sudden speed lines around Steve on the last page feel a bit too much like a time-saving measure.
"Secret Avengers" still has the potential to be great, but right now (in both story and art) it feels like there are too many things being pushed onto the page to make it work. A little less all around, in this case, could be more.