There's no denying it at this stage; a better title for "Secret Avengers" #6 probably would have been "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." #6. (Even with the upcoming television series, though, it probably also would have resulted in lower sales.) This is ultimately a comic about S.H.I.E.L.D. and their particular attempts to bring about order and peace, just with a handful of Avengers thrown in for good measure.
That's not to say that it's a bad thing. Nick Spencer, Butch Guice and Rick Magyar have created a fun, espionage-filled comic that involves a delicate balance of dealing with governmental figures and infiltrating enemy locations. Add in a distinctly Marvel plot point -- in this case an army of sentient Iron Man suits -- and it's hard to not view "Secret Avengers" as anything but a S.H.I.E.L.D. series.
There's as much backdoor politics and dealing with higher-ups as there is action in "Secret Avengers." As an Avengers title, one would naturally expect there to be more of the latter. The bits that are set on A.I.M. Island are exciting and fun, but they're also few and far between. Maria Hill's never been that interesting a character to me, and Spencer having her back in temporary charge of S.H.I.E.L.D. ends up with a story that strictly from the script feels a little undynamic. Add in an always-boring Agent Coulson and the story part of "Secret Avengers" (in what's the first part of Spencer's final storyline) ends up a bit sluggish.
Guice's art is as strong as ever, and it's always nice to see him on a comic. His drawings of Coulson look so remarkably like Clark Gregg that it's another reminder that Guice has always been good with likenesses. Unlike some artists, though, they never come across stiff or obviously posed; they're still expressive and energetic. When Dalton and Hill are practically nose to nose in their confrontation, for instance, you can feel them leaning into one another as they both try to up the intimidation factor. It's a sharp moment of physical storytelling, one where the art uses body language to bring Spencer's script to life. In the end, it feels like Guice performs the heavy lifting this issue.
"Secret Avengers" is a strange title, and with Spencer departing shortly, it could end up transforming greatly with a new writer at the helm. For now, though, this is a book in desperate need of a new name, and perhaps a bit of a tap on the accelerator to get the final storyline moving a bit faster. It's not bad, but it could be a bit more fun, too.