Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Secret Warriors #1 Review

Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Stefano Caselli

Easily my pick for Book of the Week, Secret Warriors just plain does everything right.

In a time when it's common practice to spend an entire issue introducing a new team of heroes, even if we've already met them before, Hickman manages to casually introduce us to everyone in such a way that it just feels natural and never breaks up the flow of the story.

For instance, the book opened up with an espionage sequence where our Secret Warriors are infiltrating an abandoned SHIELD safehouse. The first page focuses on Quake and Hellfire and sets the scene. We are instantly shown, through the dialogue, exactly what type of character each person is and it doesn't consist of two big text boxes full of narration nor does it break up the flow of the scene.

Later, we see the same thing as we transition between Fury and Quake going to check in on their youngest member, Phobos, who's been busy playing some Call of Duty on his Xbox. Not only is it one of the funnier moments this week, but the scene just felt right, as if it was completely natural for this type of scene to take place between them. To me, that's a sign of great writing and I find it very hard to explain just how natural and spot on this all felt as I was reading it, even with relatively new characters like most of these are.

As for the actual plot of this issue, while primarily an introduction to the team for new readers, it also does an excellent job setting the tone and pace of the series. While investigating some remaining ties to SHIELD before HAMMER takes over, Nick Fury discovers some disconcerting evidence that he had to confirm, which lead to the operation that opened the book. That opening operation ended up being botched as both Hydra and HAMMER troops showed up on scene.

Fury reveals, later, that he had leaked the information about this SHIELD safehouse to the President of the United States and it was designed to confirm his suspicions, as he reveals to his second in command, Quake, and us, that SHIELD and the US government has been so comprimised that Hydra literally has seats in power high enough to be in contact with the president and that Fury has been basically working for the bad guys the entire time.

While some jaded fans point to the Skrulls and other signs of corruption in SHIELD and other government agencies in the Marvel Universe as ways of underselling this revelation, I thought it was handled extremely well and was quite taken aback by the reveal, moreso than I should have been.

Finally, the mountain of extras included in this issue only served to heighten my enjoyment of it. While some fans might ignore these dossiers, documents and other Hydra or Caterpillar file extras, I ate them up like candy and going the extra mile on such "minor" things as these really helped swallowing the high price tag of this issue that much easier.

Verdict - Must Read. I didn't care much for this ragtag squad of heroes during Secret Invasion, but Hickman has my full attention with this debut outing. One of the best debut issues for a series I've seen in a long time. Highly recommended.

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