Gabriel Hardman's unorthodox panel work magnifies the tension in "Secret Avengers" #24. Divided and leaderless, the Avengers have plunged into the Core searching for Ant-Man. Instead, the members of the team find themselves scattered and divided, fighting against Super-Adaptoids, Reavers, Sentinaughts, Machine People, Life Model Decoys, Ultravisions and Doombots.
Rick Remender forms this collection of mechanized creatures into a league of worthy adversaries genuinely concerned with the threat posed by the Avengers invading their home. The mysterious Father leads the band of mechanical beings and attempts to unify them against the Avengers. In their discussions of the viability of the Avengers being a true menace, each line of Descendant is freed to voice its analysis of the situation. The range of opinions is quite amazing for this collection of unnaturally powered folk and it also provides a nice cross-section of the vast array of mechanical life forms present in the Marvel Universe. Remender balances out the issue with interesting pairings of members of the Secret Avengers squad. Captain Britain and Human Torch (the Jim Hammond version) team up and debate the relevance of magic against science in a bout of bickering. Valkyrie and Black Widow attempt to liberate the child that spurred on the recent Descendant uprising, illustrating their ability to work together. Hawkeye and Hank McCoy take on a pair of re-animated allies and wind up outgunned, while Venom ponders how he can possibly help the team.
Hardman is spot on with all of this. As expected with Gabe Hardman on "Secret Avengers," there is a fair amount of gritty detail and dense shadow. He hits every sect of the Descendants perfectly, giving each a visual distinction to coordinate with the voices Remender plants. Hardman also wonderfully choreographs the fight scenes between Avengers and Descendants, utilizing unorthodox page construction and disturbing amounts of white space around and between many of the severely angled panels.
"Secret Avengers" #24 is full of splendid comic book moments, with nods to the David Michelinie-era Avengers, the satellite Justice League and various stories between and since. The end result is a story that feels like an homage to the great comics of yesteryear, but carries a modern sensibility in pacing, plot and action. "Secret Avengers" shouldn't be a secret to anyone: it's a fun, daring Avengers title that is chock-full of surprising moments and fun characters.