I'm still not really into "Fear Itself" (although depending on if storms ruin my plans for Memorial Day, I might get some time to catch up shortly), but I do like Nick Spencer, so his "Secret Avengers" issue ended up in my list of books to read this week. As an added bonus, it's set in Washington DC, where I've lived in or next to almost my entire life. So clearly, it was meant to be, right?
As it turns out, yes. Spencer sets his script amidst the bad guys attacking Washington DC, which is a simple enough idea that you don't need to have read "Fear Itself" to follow along. Most of the issue is devoted to the Beast talking to a Congressman friend of his that looks suspiciously like Charles S. Dutton, in one of those relationships that we've never heard of before now but of course has existed for dozens of years. And what do they talk about? Well, about serving in Congress, mainly.
This might not sound like the most riveting of material, but Spencer makes it work. There's more to the story than just that, of course; War Machine and Ant Man are fighting off the attackers outside of the Capitol, and it all culminates in a nice one-two punch of a group of secret defenders rising to the foreground, and a particularly famous speech being broadcast to help rally the troops. Spencer can't actively change the course of "Fear Itself" in his tie-in, so instead we get a comic around the ideas and themes of the crossover. It's a good opportunity seized, and this different take on a tie-in issue is just the sort of lateral thinking that I expect from Spencer.
The only part of the script I wasn't crazy about is that it relies a lot on coincidence. Beast just happening to respond to the attack that Congressman Leonard Gary is at—and actively asking for the Beast—is an awfully big longshot to begin with, and then having Gary's bill just happening to be on the floor when the attack began, plus Gary's connections to the defense of the city? I'd have been happier with one less coincidence here, but it's a minor problem in an otherwise entertaining story.
Scot Eaton is penciling the issue, and I like it. His take on Beast is more of a cross between the simian-Beast and the (current) cat-Beast, but there are some aspects about the character that Eaton nails. I love how Beast doesn't so much run as he pounces from one spot to the next, and the heavy bulk of Beast's muscles looks strong and formidable under Eaton's pencil. Eaton's good with the fight scenes too, making Sin's forces look somehow old-fashioned and new at the same time. (It would have been nice had someone informed cover artist Adi Granov that most of the characters he drew here weren't in the script at all, though.)
It's nice to see a tie-in issue that doesn't demand the reader have first checked out a different title. Spencer's script gives us just what we need to do, and then hits the ground running. I know Spencer's run is short so that Warren Ellis can come on board for a story arc, but I hope that down the line Spencer gets another crack at the characters. Based on this issue alone, I'm more than willing to read more Spencer-written "Secret Avengers."