I bought that six issue stint Warren Ellis had on Secret Avengers during one of my back issue binges a few months ago. Generally speaking, it was pretty good. I liked most of the artists, and Ellis seemed to come up with the stories that worked to their strengths (the Maleev drawn issue was mostly the Black Widow manipulating people into place by talking, because the scant bits of action at the were not the best). I kind of like the fact that for all the might want to stop this Shadow Council (whatever that is), they're always running around playing catch-up, trying to shut down some plan after it's already well into motion.
I still don't agree with Steve Rogers utilizing torture, but we've been over that previously.
The one thing that did bother me as I read through the issues was most of the Avengers' solutions to their problems boiled down to "Kill it". Hank McCoy killed a bunch of people with a nuclear-powered car he turned into a bomb. Shang-Chi and probably Sharon Carter killed a bunch of people with their hands. Steve Rogers lit a dude doped up on otherworldly souls on fire so Moon Knight could kick him out a 5-story window. In most cases, Ellis presents them as facing something of a time issue. As I mentioned, they're always playing catch-up, so they don't have an unlimited amount of time to prepare, not that they always know what they're up against before they get there anyway. Even so, super-heroes have historically been reactive, and still tended to find ways to get by without constantly resorting to lethal force.
It's not I think these characters wouldn't kill. Well, seeing Hank McCoy do it was a bit strange, but I'm pretty sure that was the point Ellis had with that one. The Black Widow, Moon Knight, War Machine? Sure, if they felt the situation called for it, I can certainly see them killing. I don't know that it's their default state.
In #21, War Machine actually refuses to go directly to "kill". He doesn't know what he's facing yet, or if it's even a threat so he does not, as Steve Rogers yells at him, bring his biggest gun online. Naturally, it turns out to be people who are used as doorways for extra-dimensional beings and so Rhodey takes crap from Sharon Carter for not simply killing them on sight.
It reminded me of The Deadly Trackers, where the one character who is portrayed as believing in law and order, is also portrayed as a hapless dope. No matter how many times Richard Harris' Sheriff Kitzpatrick betrays Gutierrez, the Mexican policeman is always there to save Harris' bacon the next time his headstrong rush for vengeance gets him in trouble (about every 5 minutes). Even so, the movie never suggests being so intent on killing you treat everyone as at best, an asset, at worst, an enemy is a poor choice. No, the system is broken, and the people who follow it are suckers.
This comes to a head at the end when Harris turns over Rod Taylor to Gutierrez, only to learn the witness to the crime Gutierrez can legally prosecute Taylor for is dead. So he must go free, and Harris, unable to stand it, shoots Taylor, in front of a policeman and a half-dozen witnesses. Then he opts to ride off, and Gutierrez must kill him, since there is really no question of whether Harris just committed murder. I imagine we're meant to sympathize with Harris, but I wondered if they couldn't have arrested Taylor sooner if Harris wasn't always beating up Gutierrez and going off alone. Maybe he could have been put on trial before the witness died. There's no arguing things would go faster if Harris isn't getting beaten to a pulp because he didn't think ahead, or Gutierrez isn't constantly wasting time saving Harris, then having to regain consciousness after getting hit with his own rifle butt by the guy he just saved.
It isn't entirely the same thing, but I had that same feeling reading the issue, where those that won't kill take flack from those that do. Ultimately, Hank McCoy did come up with a way to kill the other-dimensional beings (his objections had strictly related to doing so if it would kill his teammates), but there it is. The ones who don't immediately go to lethal force, end up accepting it as a necessity, thus proving their teammates "right", whatever that means.
We could make something of that. Are personal beliefs any good if adhering to them results in the deaths of friends and allies, or innocent people? If Hank had refused to make a bomb of the car in issue 16, the city of Cincinnati was doomed, not to mention whatever place the Shadow Council dropped it. That's a lot of dead people. So he made the bomb, and killed some almost certainly smaller amount of people. How much smaller? Who knows? Would it make a difference if it was 3 dozen or 3 thousand? He saved more lives than he took, is it as simple as x > y?
At the same time, once he breaks whatever personal rules he had against killing, how effective are those rules? I don't mean once he kills he'll never stop. Certainly there are some people (and some fictional characters) that might apply to, but not everyone. So I don't expect Hank McCoy to start mindlessly slaughtering people like Carnage. But the next time lives are at stake, will Hank work as hard to devise plans that don't require lethal force, or will he turn to that response right off? Killing foes does have a certain appeal. It can be quicker to just hit them with maximum force because you don't have to worry about injuring them too much. There's a certain permanence, since a dead enemy is less likely to be trouble in the future. Where would Hank (or whoever we're talking about) draw the line? Does it depend on how many people are at risk, or the nature of the threat opposing them? If it's something the Avengers don't necessarily recognize as being alive, then it probably doesn't count to them? What if it's Skrulls, or the Phalanx, some alien race? How much consideration do they merit, compared to if the threat is an Earthling?