We are 4 to 5 issues into The Heroic Age of Marvel, and there’s no better time than now to gauge how the new Avengers inductees are doing as part of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. These are Valkyrie, Ant-Man and Nova, the three superheroes hand-picked by Commander Steve Rogers to be part of the Secret Avengers. I had originally planned to analyse how the other “new” Avengers were doing in the other titles, including Iron Fist and Jessica Jones, but then discovered that they had all been part of the first New Avengers run, making them ineligible.
Two of these three were relatively big controversies – especially for a premise like the Secret Avengers, that is, a black ops team of superheroes. The Asgardian origins of Valkyrie seemed inappropriate for the espionage facet of the team, and even writer Ed Brubaker’s explanation that she had a “military” background seemed far-fetched. In a similar way, the cosmic nature of Nova’s powers, especially after becoming the last surviving member of the Xandarian Nova Corps, felt rather overkill for a team like this one.
So, after one mission, on Mars no less, how did they fare?
Created by Roy Thomas and John Buscema back in 1970, Valkyrie never did quite rise up the superhero ranks, staying inexplicably in the Defenders team – i.e. the decidedly anti-thesis of the Avengers. No longer. Though fellow Geek Alvin believes that she was only included because her Ultimate counterpart gained an unprecedented amount of infamy, I choose to believe that her inclusion simply underscores the need for any team bearing the name Avengers to have the power of Thor on their side. Valkyrie is the female equivalent of any Asgardian god save Odin, and she is a welcome addition to the Secret Avengers.
Kudos goes to scribe Ed Brubaker for demonstrating Valkyrie’s usefulness as an undercover agent early on in the debut story arc. Though still uncomfortable playing the role of a seductress, the need to include Valkyrie in the mission became readily apparent when she later took out a horde of henchmen on her own. While the purpose of a black ops team is stealth, the value of Valkyrie’s Asgardian powers is undeniable. Valkyrie gets an A- as an Avenger – it’s about time someone recognised her worth.
As a former New Warrior, Nova’s experience in a superhero team is a huge advantage. Yet, he had little to no success as a solo hero until he was given the complete powers of the Worldmind, during the Annihilation storyline. The subsequent upgrading of his abilities made him a genuine cosmic A-lister, rubbing shoulders with the likes of the Silver Surfer and Quasar.
Brubaker has not quite made his case for Nova’s presence in the Secret Avengers. Indeed, it does seem like Richard Rider’s place on the roster is somewhat unclarified at best. During the Secret Avengers’ first mission to Mars, Nova played the unsuspecting villain, possessed by the Serpent Crown. When he was finally defeated by Steve Rogers, he immediately disappeared off-screen to resolve yet another cosmic conflict. During the mission’s debriefing, Rogers and Black Widow expressed their concern, with Widow going so far as to suggest searching for another cosmic hero for the team. Nova’s current score would be a C+ – though I wouldn’t put it past Brubaker to be pulling the wool over our eyes, and revealing Nova’s purpose in a future story arc.
Last but definitely not least, we have Eric O’Grady, the latest Ant-Man. I had my doubts about this character since his conception, but I will once again credit Brubaker for endearing this incarnation to me. For a superhero that was once tagged as “Irredemable”, this Ant-Man proved to be responsible for the team’s crucial turning point during the Mars mission, single-handedly taking out the suicide bombers that would’ve caused irreparable consequences. Though I’m not entirely sold on the fact that he is wearing Pym’s original Ant-Man armour, nor am I too happy about the inclusion of Wasp’s stingers to his suit, I am resigned to the fact that Eric O’Grady is clearly here to stay and for better or for worse, he is an Avenger. Solid B.
So there you have it – mad props to Valkyrie for playing the Thor role, here’s hoping Ant-Man grows on me quick (pun totally intended), and as much as I hate to admit it, Nova might not be an Avenger for long. Check back with me after the next story arc – and see if Commander Rogers be inducting any new faces to the team.