by Ales Kot, Michael Walsh, Matt Wilson, and Clayton Cowles; Marvel Comics
Secret Avengers is such a good time, with it's slow burning tale of betrayal and love and dire extra-dimensional threats to reality. And hijinks! So many hijinks! It is a comic that balances compelling, warped espionage stories with delightfully absurd humour and rending sincerity to create really enjoyable comics.
Secret Avengers is also a comic that often features some really interesting layouts and splash pages that use unconventional story-telling in interesting ways. And I'd like to show you some.
There will be *SPOILERS* for Secret Avengers #10 and #11 below.
This sequence from SA #11 I find endlessly fascinating. It's a very simple seeming sequence that manages to convey a lot of overlapping information in an effortless manner. The story of this row of panels is very straightforward: Spider-Woman mauls her way through a group of henchmen while racing to the aid of the captured Maria Hill. What's really cool about this sequence is how fast and impactful the sequence feels. Often speed and impact feel somewhat at odds with each other: fast sequences are usually about ease of navigation while impact often plays with techniques meant to slow the moment of impact and make it feel weightier. This sequence manages to do both at the same time.
The sequence manages to feel very quick because it has an obvious, simple reader guide shape: all of the action on the page and Spider-Woman's motion make a very clear V-shaped down and up path that can be quickly navigated. Add to that the focus of the composition: the action is pared down to the key moments without any distracting background details. This helps the reader navigate the sequence faster. What's particularly cool about this sequence is that without background the forward motion is completely due to how the characters move across the page and the trail of injured goons acting as horizontal distance markers. This provides all the needed spatial information without adding extra details. This sequence is a lesson in comics efficiency.
The impact of each blow in the sequence, meanwhile, is enhanced by the fact the motion of Spider-Woman doesn't quite sync up between panels. While the overall flow of her progress through the page is very clear, the way she goes from leap to kick to shock to knee-to-the-face is just a little vague and disjointed, which makes every moment in the composition stand out and each blow feel weighty despite the speed of the sequence. This aspect of the page is enhanced by the way Spider-Woman is partially clipped by each preceding panel which helps break up the details of her movement. The impact of this sequence is also emphasized by the colouring. Everything in this row of panels is coloured bright, dangerous red while the rest of the page this sequence resides in is in normal full colour. It makes this sequence stand out and feel more important and violent regardless of the action depicted. Combined these aspects of the sequence manage to really hammer home the ferocity of the action without greatly slowing down the speed of the composition. Which is great stuff.
Another thing that Secret Avengers really hammers home for me is just how *sincere* a comic it is. For being a comic filled with absurdity, comedy, lies, and hijinks it's also a comic that absolutely bleeds sincerity. Characters absolutely, ruthlessly believe and unrepentantly have feelings. For a while now I've been trying to pin down what exactly it is about Secret Avengers that I like so much, and I think it's this sincerity that elevates the whole comic above its remarkable constituent parts. I believe.
And sucks to irony and snark.
Post by Michael Bround
Secret Avengers #9: Interlocking stories
Secret Avengers #7: Labyrinthine panelling
Secret Avengers #4: Colour as character symbols.
Secret Avengers #2-3: Smart layouts.