"Espionage is always political, White Queen--"
Bad Samaritan (White Queen's Bishop). Checkmate #23.
One of the more interesting peculiarities of returning to comics was finding that a genre I had come to love while I wasn't reading comics had in fact come to comics. Actually, it seems to have been around for a while. It has come to pass that several high-profile writers have added elements of the crime and espionage genres (espionage is in a way just crime with higher stakes) into superhero comics, and as it stands there are quite a few books out that have incorporated these elements into the books thoroughly, as is the case with Ed Brubaker's run on Captain America
and Warren Ellis' and the Knaufs' runs on Iron Man: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.
, or into elements of books with more grandiose visions like the Avengers books, but even moreso in Avengers: The Initiative
Given my predilections towards Marvel, it's seemed to be in a way concurrent with their progressive move towards making the main universe more realistic in actions and consequences, but also a reflection of real-life events. One of the scenes that particularly struck me how things are in the 616 universe is when Captain America, Nick Fury and a team from S.H.I.E.L.D. storm into one of Kronas Corp's regional towers, taking on their fully legal military-trained security forces in order to arrest General Lukin only to have them be stopped chastized by the Vice President's Chief of Staff and an Assistant to the Secretary-General of the UN, who were meeting with Lukin at the time about a pipeline to Madripoor. That moment pretty much defined both the highest stakes for espionage in the Marvel universe, as well as established how thoroughly fucked the hero community is in dealing with some of the world's most dangerous threats head-on. And that is only on aspect of a world where Hydra is involving itself in anti-American terrorism in Iraq and in the U.S., and has engaged in its own surreptitious activities that have influenced events such as World War Hulk.
And then there are the Skrulls, who have presented an intelligence and espionage threat of the highest order (or so Marvel's Secret Invasion would have us believe). A threat that in some ways reflects the espionage threats which have plagued the Ultimates in their own universe. Meanwhile, the greatest spy in Marvel has been in hiding since Secret War. One of his contemporaries is now on the Mighty Avengers, and the former sidekick of his close friend is the new Captain America--a role he assumed after spending much of the Cold War and post-Soviet era as a KGB cyborg assassin.
It's a good time to be into espionage while reading comics. It's like James Bond with even crazier powers and toys. I've been a fan of the good old-fashioned Le Carre novels and the really "street-level" (excuse some of the terminology as it's been formed around my take on espionage and this stuff in RPGs I began playing after I stopped reading comics--specifically Shadowrun, a crime/espionage game described by one reviewer as about people [shadowrunners, eqv. generally to adventurers] "who shoot people in the face for money.") no-toys situations where it's two people at a table with one trying to get the other to become a traitor to their country or cause. But it's fun to read about the stealthy break-ins and covert collection and commando stuff as well. There isn't a lack of of this stuff to enjoy, from the aforementioned books to books and stories which involve S.H.I.E.L.D. or Checkmate or the various groups in the Wildstorm universe even to Devil's Due G.I. Joe run.
This is a thread for covering a lot of books and stories that can easily find their way to clutter up other threads. It was originally going to be a Captain America thread until I realized that somehow it doesn't seem to inspire the same level of discussion or enthusiasm as Iron Fist or the collection of X-books. So, this is for Cap. And Tony. And Checkmate.
Also, as a general matter I actually want this thread to discuss the politics in comics. Mainly so it doesn't clutter up other threads.
First issue comes up from another thread where I was commenting on the preview for Captain America #35. As it stands, the bad guys are winning and the heroes are fucked sideways. This is a situation where the heroes are expected and even forced to fight dirty and from the shadows. It's almost a classic thriller, where the bureaucrats and men and women on the ground are trying to do what they do best while faced with political leaders who are unwilling or outright hostile to their efforts for reasons ranging from being run by the bad guy to being influenced by money and world-view to not immediately see Kronas is acting in a more adverse way than just trying to boost its Q1 profits.
Recommended Books: Ongoing
Recommended Books: Minis/Complete Series TPB
Iron Man: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Queen and Country (Also, Q&C novels by Greg Rucka)
The Ultimates/The Ultimates 2
Captain Britain & MI:13
Invincible Iron Man
Punisher War Journal - Jigsaw Arc
Secret Invasion (Anything with Nick Fury or MI-13)
Individual OOP character minis/graphic novels (e.g., Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.; Black Widow, etc.)
("Espionage is crime with higher stakes")
Civil War: Underworld