Courtesy of writer Nick Spencer and artist Luke Ross, with coloring from Matthew Wilson and letters by Clayton Cowles, "Secret Avengers" #4 brings the Hulk in to join a team of secret operatives who voluntarily have mission intelligence wiped from their memories upon mission completion. What could possibly go wrong with that?
Midway through reading this comic book, I found myself wondering why this story wasn't contained in an issue of "Indestructible Hulk." After all, it had Bruce Banner working alongside S.H.I.E.L.D. to take down a menace. Maria Hill even mentions her working relationship with Banner. The Hulk is dispensed into action alone. Just past the staples, Spencer makes it quite clear how this all comes together -- Hulk and other "secret" Avengers -- and why it is best handled in the pages of this title, although there might certainly be fallout from this adventure in the Hulk's own book if it is not included in the next issue of this series.
Ross' art is solid and consistent throughout this issue. I had some trepidation of his ability to provide distinctions between Maria Hill and Daisy Johnson, but Ross proves to be more than capable of differentiating the two characters beyond simply snapping on dissimilar hairstyles. While Ross does predominantly use direct camera angles and panel construction, his storytelling decisions and detail choices fill those panels quite nicely. The covert team's underwater operations are clear and understandable, setting me to thinking about Ross handling a G. I. Joe comic. I'm certain "Secret Avengers" is filling his time, however, and Ross answers that call nicely. Wilson's colors are crisp and bright, adding a brilliance to a book that should be showcasing subterfuge and assassination attempts. Similarly, Cowles adds to the tapestry through lettering that adds depth to the story: giving voice to the liberated Iron Patriots, the remote controlled Iron Man and Maria Hill's email to Bruce Banner.
"Secret Avengers" #4 showcases the "Avengers" part of the brand moreso than the "secret" and gives S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives Hill, Johnson, Coulson and Fury a greater shot at paneltime. That said, Spencer does a nice job wrapping a story around a motive for including the Hulk. I'm pretty sure after the way Hulk's adventure closes out in this issue, we might not be seeing the green goliath in these pages as an ally too much in the near future. What is certain, however, is that Spencer ratchets up the intrigue at the end of this issue, giving Black Widow, Nick Fury, Hawkeye and Mockingbird a task that will change things more significantly for this team.