The focus in “Secret Avengers” on the Shadow Council becomes a little more dominant in this issue with Steve Rogers and company aware that such a group exists, and that John Steele and Max Fury are working for them. For Rogers, the revelation of Steele’s involvement in this group and his willingness to kidnap Sharon Carter to further his ends (resurrecting Shang-Chi’s villainous father) is shocking. What could make this former ally and ‘original super-soldier’ seemingly turn against what he used to fight for? The slow build of Rogers and his forces on one side and the Shadow Council on the other becomes more interesting each month.
The conflict between Rogers and Steele, two super-soldiers on opposite sides, is what this issue revolves around, the best part coming when the two finally fight one another. Mike Deodato’s art shines on those pages, making an effort to present the action in an organic and visually dynamic manner. On one page, he drops the panel borders and uses a variety of angles, allowing for both an easy flow between the different images and a jarring cutting effect. The best panel of the fight has to be Rogers, seemingly defeated, face bloody, giving a strange grin, revealing that he ‘cheated’ by breaking the terms of the swap of Sharon for Shang-Chi. It’s a surprisingly cool moment and drawing.
It also adds to Brubaker’s continued evolution of Rogers from squeaky clean superhero to more a tactical wonder that will do what it takes to win. With his new position, he seems more and more willing to do things that ‘Captain America’ would not. He’s becoming a version of himself that wouldn’t have needed a partner in World War II to do espionage, used to doing it himself now.
While this issue ups the ante with the Shadow Council taking Shang-Chi and the conflict between them and Rogers growing, there’s not a whole lot that actually happens. The issue is so centered around one scene that surrounding scenes come off as filler. Sharon and Max Fury having a conversation doesn’t do much except remind the reader of things previously revealed. The pacing of the series is so lax, so designed to only reveal one, maybe two things per issue that it’s a little frustrating.
Still, “Secret Avengers” #9 does deliver some great action scenes and a tease of future fights between Rogers and Steele. The purpose and role of the Shadow Council continues to unfold and their claim of looking at the bigger picture is interesting. Are they the bad guys or not? That question hasn’t been answered and, I imagine, when it is, it won’t be quite so simple.