Comic Book Review: Secret Warriors #1: Dark Reign

The Revolution has been looking forward to Secret Warriors #1. Bendis’ handling of Nick Fury was one of the few bright spots in the Secret Invasion tie-in issues that we got on the Avengers titles. It is nice to have Nick Fury back in a monthly title. The Marvel Universe is just that much more interesting with Nick Fury active and doing his thing once again.

I am not familiar at all with Jonathan Hickman. Hopefully, Hickman’s strengths will fill in for Bendis’ weaknesses on team titles. I have a good feeling that Secret Warriors will be an enjoyable action adventure title. Let’s go ahead and hit this review for Secret Warriors #1.

Creative Team

Plot: Brian Michael Bendis & Jonathan Hickman
Script: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Stefano Caselli

Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with Quake and Hellfire staking out a deep storage containment SHIELD facility in Odessa, Texas. Hellfire complains about working for an old school hard-ass like Nick Fury. Hellfire says that this is not what he signed up for. That this is not the glamorous spy life full of hot women and cool tech that you see in the movies. Suddenly, Yo-Yo radios from inside the facility that they are under attack.

We cut inside the SHIELD facility and see Yo-Yo, Stonewall and Druid battling with Hydra agents who have appeared on the scene. Quake and Hellfire jump into the fight. Suddenly, we see the Dark Avengers and a bunch of HAMMER agents arrive on the scene and join the battle. During the battle Quake thinks about how Nick Fury used to be the top cop in the world and that Nick broke the law because privileged people were hiding behind it. Nick Fury lost his job as Director of SHIELD.

Quake thinks how now HAMMER has replaced SHIELD and that HAMMER is being run by a criminal. Quake thinks how the good guys have become the bad guys and the bad guys are even worse. Quake says that her team now finds themselves operating in an environment that allows them zero margin of error.

Quake yells for her teammates to exit the scene immediately since the Dark Avengers and HAMMER have now joined the battle. The Secret Warriors then teleport away from the scene. We also see six Hydra agents carrying “the package.” Those Hydra agents and the “package” are then teleported away from the scene. Quake thinks how she trusts Nick Fury and has to keep the faith that Nick is always right.

We shift back to the Cocoon where Nick addresses the Secret Warriors. Quake thinks how she has to tolerate how arrogant, demanding and insufferable Nick can be. Quake thinks how she has to remember that Nick walks around with the weight of the world on his shoulders. That she has to understand that she is working for the oldest active clandestine agent in the world. Quake thinks that this is the burden working for a badass.

Nick barks at the Secret Warriors for making their presence known in what was supposed to be a recon mission. The Secret Warriors repeat Nick’s mantras about gathering information without being seen. Because if you know all you can about your enemies and they know nothing about you then there is no situation that you cannot control. Nick barks for them not to let themselves get seen again on a recon mission.

Hellfire grumbles that Nick could at least congratulate then for doing a good job of getting away when they were stuck in a fight between two different forces. Nick asks Hellfire what lesson is that? Hellfire sighs and responds that with only fortune or discipline can catastrophe be avoided. And of the two the only one you can never run out of is discipline. Nick nods in approval.

Hellfire spits that he looked that quote up and that it is from General William Westmoreland and not Nick Fury. Nick quips “Who do you think he stole it from, kid?” Nick then dismisses the team.

Nick and Quake then walk into a room where Phobos is playing Call of Duty on his X-Box. Nick cannot believe that Phobos has been playing video games this entire time. Phobos replies that the game got too easy so now he is playing online. Nick replies that there is no wireless internet in the base and no Ethernet connection in this room. Phobos replies that he knows that and it seemed wrong so he fixed that.

Nick asks if anything is wrong that needs fixing. Phobos replies that they are out of pop-tarts. Nick says he will have someone take care of that. Nick and Quake walk out of the room. Nick tells Quake to keep a close eye on Phobos. Quake replies that he is just a twelve year old kid. Nick replies that Phobos is a god. And that Nick does not want an adolescent god throwing a hissy fit over being dumped by a girl or something like that.

Quake then tells Nick that she takes responsibility for the team getting spotted during the mission. Nick replies that the problem is not the mission going bad. The problem is what the mission meant. Quake asks Nick what has him so spooked.

We cut to one month ago and see Nick on a building top near a SHIELD datacore facility. Nick uses his rocket boots to jump through the sky and land on the roof of the SHIELD datacore facility. Nick mows down the HAMMER agents guarding the roof. Nick then enters the facility and approaches the main computer. Nick gives it a verbal override command that gets him past the security code.

Nick instructs the computer to give him the makeup of all previous and current SHIELD command structures, any related primary or subsidy organizations, a list of all remaining active agents and the locations of all rogue or deactivated agents. The computer then makes a copy of that information for Nick.

We shift to two days ago at the White House. We see the President in the Oval Office dismissing one of his aides. Suddenly, Nick Fury appears in the Oval Office and sits down in one of the chairs. Nick says “How you doin’?” The President is stunned and asks Nick who he is. Nick barks that the President knows who he is. Nick says that he wants to know the real reason that SHIELD was dismantled.

The President answers that his predecessor thought it would be a good idea to replace SHIELD with something more controllable and more accountable. The President says that he completely agrees with his predecessor and that SHIELD is no more. Nick looks at his watch that is monitoring the President’s heartbeat and states that the President is telling the truth.

Nick then stands up and says that one month ago he destroyed a SHIELD facility in Chicago. Nick continues that he is leaving a list of the remaining covert domestic SHIELD bases for the President. Nick tells the President to go lock down those bases before Nick Fury or someone like him is forced to handle it for the President. Nick then starts to leave.

The President remarks that most people have the humility to respect the Office, if not the man, when they enter this room. The President asks if Fury has forgotten that. Nick spits back that he has been in this room with Eisenhower, Truman, Kennedy, Reagan, Johnson and Nixon. Nick then says “That shit has lost its luster.” (Oh, Mr. President, I believe you have just been burned.) Nick then disappears.

We cut back to present time at the Cocoon. Nick tells Quake that there are nine SHIELD facilities that don’t show up on any government intelligence records. Quake asks if those are like the Cocoon. Nick answers that the Cocoon is different since it was contracted and constructed off the books of both SHIELD and the government. That nobody knows about the Cocoon except Nick.

Nick continues that he only gave the President a partial list that had two of the SHIELD facilities on it. Nick says that the facility he sent the team to today was one of those nine facilities. Nick says that he wanted it to be a recon mission only because he did not want the risk of getting his team exposed. Quake realizes that since Nick told the President about the facility that HAMMER would be sent to the facility and that Nick did not want HAMMER to have knowledge of the Secret Warriors. Quake then says that she is curious about how Hydra showed up at the facility.

Nick replies that they have always known that Hydra was huge. That Hydra’s influence reached through all levels of political and military power in the world. However, they never really knew how far their influence reached or how large they were. Nick continues that either someone screwed up or they did not feel the need to hide it anymore. Nick states that he found out the answer to that question in the Chicago facility.

Nick states that Hydra was always going to show up at the SHIELD facility in Texas. That Nick had to know if Hydra’s control reached the highest levels of the current administration of the United States government. If HAMMER showed up then Nick would know that it does not and that the current administration was clean.

Nick continues that Hydra’s mission was not a snatch-and-grab. That it was a recovery mission. That Hydra was not stealing anything. That Hydra was just taking back what was already theirs. Nick then shows Quake his computer screen that has the data from the SHIELD facility in Chicago. The data reveals that Hydra owns SHIELD. Nick says “I’ve been working for the bad guys the whole damn time.” End of issue.

Commentary

The Good: Secret Warriors #1 was a great read. Bendis and Hickman surprise me with an issue that was better than what I expected. Secret Warriors #1 was a well plotted issue. Bendis and Hickman remain focused and move the story along with a purpose. It is evident from this first issue that Bendis and Hickman have a detailed game plan in mind for this title and a clear direction in which they want to proceed.

Hickman cranks out some solid dialogue. The dialogue has a good flow and makes this an enjoyable issue to read. Nick Fury easily gets all of the good lines in this issue. Hickman limits the character work to only Nick Fury. And that makes sense since Nick takes the spotlight in this issue as the rest of the Secret Warriors, outside of Quake, get very limited panel time.

I have no problem with Bendis and Hickman’s decision to focus mainly on Nick Fury with this debut issue. Fury is the engine that is going to drive this title. Therefore, it is vitally important that Bendis and Hickman take the time to properly assert Nick’s character first before working their way down to the members of the Secret Warriors. Nick has been underground and out of the general comic book public for a while so there are probably many newer readers who are unfamiliar with Nick and is old role within the Marvel Universe.

Hickman does a fine job impressing upon the reader the stature and ability of Nick Fury and his powerful presence in the 616 Universe. But, more importantly, Hickman makes Nick Fury cool. Nick has a bit of Clint Eastwood in him as he shows that the age means nothing and he is still a bigger badass than all the other Marvel heroes who are half his age.

The scene with Fury and the President was spot on perfect. This scene did an excellent job emphasizing that Fury has been around for a long time and has dealt with global security issues that go beyond even the President of the United States. This scene was important to show that Nick is beyond the pomp and circumstance of the Oval Office. Presidents come and go, but Nick Fury is always there ready to protect America and the world. This scene shows that Nick is his own man and that he is going to do what he must even if that means crossing paths with the President and HAMMER.

Secret Warriors presents to the reader what appears to be a good roster. We still do not know that much about the various members. However, what I do like is that the roster has a nice diverse collection of power sets. Unlike some of Marvel’s other super teams where we have numerous duplicative characters on the same roster, it seems that the members of Secret Warriors all compliment each other and form a sum total that is greater than the individual parts.

Phobos is really the only member of the team outside of Quake and Fury who got any real panel time. I like that Bendis and Hickman emphasis Phobos’ age. This is what really sets him apart from the rest of the team. Combine that with him being a god and it is understandable why Nick is treating Phobos with kid gloves compared to how he treats the other members of the team. I am curious to see what Bendis and Hickman have in store for Phobos. I think that Phobos is an curious character that has the potential to generate some interesting plotlines.

Secret Warriors #1 does not offer that much in the way of action. However, we did get just enough to keep this issue from being nothing but a massive dose of unending dialogue. My favorite part of this issue was getting to see Nick Fury back in action once again in the scene in Chicago. Nick jumping across several rooftops thanks to his rocket boots and then quickly blowing away a bunch of HAMMER agents was a nice reminder of how cool Nick Fury is.

Bendis and Hickman do an excellent job with the structure of Secret Warriors #1. This was a technically sound debut issue that has all the necessary ingredients of a successful first issue. Bendis and Hickman start Secret Warriors #1 off with a nice short action scene that grabs the reader’s attention. It also gives a convenient way for Hickman to introduce the members of the team in an interesting manner. Then Bendis and Hickman settle down the issue in order to perform the necessary, and not always exciting, task of performing the set-up work on this new title. Set-up work is a necessary evil of all debut issues.

The use of Quake’s narration to form the spine to the first half of this issue as a smart move. This enabled Hickman to give the reader plenty of background information on Nick Fury without interrupting the flow of the story. It also let Hickman properly fill in the reader about the roster of the team as well as the background of the team and why Nick Fury assembled them.

Bendis and Hickman also clearly lay out the mission statement for the team. That is vitally important for a new title. The reader must clearly know what the philosophical reasons are behind the creation of the team. Every super team has their own unique mission statement and if it cannot be properly conveyed at the start then the team will end up flailing about without a clear identity. Bendis and Hickman also give this team a definite purpose as well. The reader knows what to expect in the future from this title.

Of course, the biggest task for the first issue of a new title is to end the issue with a compelling enough ending that gets the reader wanting to come back for more. Ideally, the ending is so good that it gets the reader to place this new title on their permanent pull list at their local comic book store. Well, Bendis and Hickman certainly succeed at this most critical task by serving up an absolutely stunning hook ending that makes me eager for the next issue of Secret Warriors.

The ending to Secret Warriors #1 had my jaw on the ground. The revelation that Hydra has always been in control of SHIELD was certainly shocking to me. This was a huge bomb to drop on the reader. This revelation also has a massive impact on the history of SHIELD in the 616 universe. I loved it. This is such a neat idea that offers up plenty of exciting and potential story lines.

I am also glad and relieved to see that Hydra appears to be the main villain on this title. I appreciate that Bendis and Hickman are utilizing Hydra as the big threat rather than having the Secret Warriors simply going up against HAMMER and the Dark Avengers. We are already going to get a heaping helping of HAMMER and the Dark Avengers being the primary bad guys on so many other Marvel titles. It was not necessary to have that conflict play out in yet another title.

The reader also gets treated to plenty of neat extras at the end of this issue with the “computer files.” These “computer files” detail all of Hydra’s assets as well as the corporate, political and military structure of Hydra. And it is done in a creative and interesting fashion which makes it more enjoyable than your average extras that you get tucked in the back of a comic book. These are not just reprints from a Handbook to the Marvel Universe. Hickman puts in enough information in these extras to make even a neophyte reader to the world of Nick Fury, SHIELD and Hydra an expert.

Stefano Caselli provides the reader with some good artwork. I really liked Caselli’s style of art. It has a nice slick and dynamic look that makes this issue enjoyable to read.

The Bad: Secret Warriors #1 is a slow issue with little action. I suspect that as Bendis and Hickman wrap up the set-up work on this title that the amount of action will ramp up considerably. Debut issues are almost always slower paced as a result of the writers having to perform the dreaded set-up work on the title.

This issue is also a bit talky at times. Hickman clearly loves dialogue as we get overloaded with talking heads at certain parts of this issue. The character work was not what I would have hoped for. While Nick was nicely fleshed out, Quake was relatively generic. The rest of the characters did not get enough panel time in order to display much of a defined personality.

While I completely enjoyed the hook ending to Secret Warriors #1, I would imagine that some long-time SHIELD fans may not be overly thrilled with the idea that SHIELD has been to always been under the control of Hydra.

Overall: Secret Warriors #1 was a great debut issue. This title has plenty of potential and should appeal to comic book readers who like action adventure stories. This title will not be another standard super hero team nor will it be a military title. Instead, it will be a nice mix of the two genres.

Bendis and Hickman go to great lengths to make Secret Warriors #1 very new reader friendly. You do not need to know much about any of these characters in order to instantly pick up on everything going on in this issue. I would certainly recommend giving Secret Warriors #1 a try.

5 Comments

  1. I’m not sure I’ll buy that big reveal of SHIELD being an Hydra asset; especially with Fury being in charge for so long and with all the instances of either Fury giving orders alone or by following the political branches giving Fury orders.

    I’ll be waiting for the trade, but keep up the reviews!

  2. Haven’t they done the “SHIELD is corrupt” story every time they’ve felt like having Fury go off on his own? Then, Fury goes back and cleans out all the corruption. I remember some Fury vs. SHIELD mini-series from the 80’s or 90’s. I guess he didn’t get all the secret bad guys.

  3. First of all art is a 10. A bit cartoony but def in my top 5, others being Jim Lee, McNiven, Olivier Coipel & Mike Choi. I mean he can draw emotion and his art really blends with the inking. Damn.
    Anyhoo the issue was nice, would have been meh had it not been for the art though. I did hate the conventional 'I'm a bad ass cause I can just walk in and out of the White House. When Bats did it (and don't even get me started on how he could kick Fury's ass till next whatever), he was caught and there was a lot of mess. Plus the 'huh' I. HAVE. BEEN. WORKING. FOR. THE. ENEMY. Just kinda ruined a nicely plotted story.

  4. I’m sorry, but everything I’ve seen of Fury the last few years has shown him to be incredibly immoral and inept.

  5. Interesting concept on a few fronts. I agree with some that we’ve seen “corrupt SHIELD before”. This is the pattern Bendis took with Secret Invasion where we find some event has the makings of a huge retcon. So I’ll just wait and see with that. This would make Hydra even more powerful than we’ve seen before, so it is interesting that Norman Osborne disbanded SHIELD quickly and that Hydra allowed that to happen. Sets up some possibilities of Hydra vs. Osborne (ideal) or him even being in league with Hydra.

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