Comic Book Review: Secret Warriors #4

The Revolution has fallen in love with Secret Warriors. This title has quickly become one of our favorite Marvel titles. What has impressed me the most is the writing by Jonathan Hickman. I was unfamiliar with his work prior to this title. And Hickman is doing all the heavy lifting on this title. I am curious to see when Hickman takes over this title all by himself. There is no doubt that we are going to get another strong read with Secret Warriors #4. Let’s hit this review.

Creative Team
Plot: Jonathan Hickman and Brian Michael Bendis
Script: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Stefano Caselli

Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with Daisy and Sebastian in the outback of Australia. They are searching for an aborigine named Eden Fesi. They talk about how Nick no longer trusts the Secret Warriors and that he does not think they are ready and has benched them. Suddenly, Eden and Gateway appear in front of our heroes and offer them water.

We cut to Juba, Sudan, where Nick Fury is arriving at the headquarters of the HCPMC (Howling Commandos). Nick enters the facility and is greeted by Agent Sitwell. Sitwell tells Nick that he is no longer Agent Sitwell. That he is just Jasper. That there are no designations here. Just brothers looking out for each other. Sitwell directs Fury to the back where Gabe and Dum Dum Dugan are waiting for Nick.

Nick walks over to the table where Dum Dum and Gabe are sitting. Nick snorts “How the mighty have fallen.” Dum Dum asks if this is how it is going to be. Nick asks if Dum Dum was expecting something different. Dum Dum then laughs and hugs Nick and says that Nick is the same old bastard as always. Dum Dum says that he has missed Nick. Nick answers that he has missed Dum Dum, too.

Nick then shakes Gabe’s hand. Gabe is clearly more restrained in his enthusiasm to see Nick compared to the jovial Dum Dum.

We shift to the Secret Warriors’ headquarters and see Hellfire snooping around Nick Fury’s office. Phobos suddenly enters the room and busts Hellfire snooping. Phobos then asks if Hellfire wants some help. Hellfire smiles and comments that Phobos is easily his favorite super hero. The two then continue searching for information about what Nick has planned for them. Hellfire says that it is hard to fight for something if you do not actually know what it is.

Phobos then finds a hidden button that opens a secret chamber in Nick’s office. Inside we see a bunch of Nick Fury LMD’s. (Life Model Decoys). Both heroes find it quite creepy that Nick has so many LMD’s of himself. Hellfire wonders if it is gay if you make out with yourself.

Phobos just stares at Hellfire. Hellfire responds “What? Look at me. I’ve seen the effect all this (points to his face and body) has had on other people. No reason to think I’d be immune.”

We slide to the medical bay where Stonewall is reading the book “Angels with Monster Feet, Monsters with Angel Wings” to Yo-Yo who is still unconscious and on life-support.

We hop back to the headquarters of the Howling Commandos. Dum Dum and Nick are still reminiscing about various women that they have encountered during their missions. One of them was a kick boxer who had strong hands and gave a hell of a massage. Nick stares at his drink for a moment and then says “I love a good massage.”

Evidently, Nick has told Dum Dum and Gabe all about Hydra having been in control of SHIELD this entire time, because Gabe is still in stunned disbelief that Hydra was always in control of SHIELD. Dum Dum comments that he liked it better when they were just soldiers. Nick responds that the world is no place for ordinary men.

Gabe then says “You know what my problem is?” Nick says “Let me guess.” Gabe retorts “You, Nick. You’re the problem.” Gabe rants on that Nick left them and they crashed hard. And now Nick waltzes in just like it was old times. Gabe tells Nick to go screw himself.

Nick replies that people keep forgetting one thing. Nick says “I do what I do. It’s the world that’s changed…I haven’t. Not one bit.” Dum Dum exclaims that the old dog still has some fight left in him. Dum Dum tells Nick to come take a look at their little operation.

We shift back to Australia where Eden is complaining about his current situation in life. While Eden admits that it is cool to train with Gateway, that he has other dreams. And those dreams are to be a rock star and touring the world and playing guitar like he was Van Halen, Iommi or Page. (If you don’t know any of those three great guitarists then there is really nothing I can do to help you.)

Gateway says that he knows that Sebastian and Daisy are here to recruit Eden. Gateway says that Eden can go with Daisy and Sebastian. Gateway says that the one-eyed man wants Eden for his “other group” and not the one that Daisy is leading. Daisy narrows her eyes and asks “What other group?” Gateway stares at Daisy.

We cut to Gehenna, where the leaders of Hydra are meeting. It is Baron von Strucker, Madame Hydra, Gorgon, Kraken, The Hive and Viper. Strucker wants input on his plan for how they should proceed forward. Madame Hydra states that she does not like the over-aggressiveness of Strucker’s plan. That their enemy is quite formidable and that she would prefer a less proactive plan.

Kraken spits “We are the spear. They are the shield.” That it has been this way from the beginning and it will end this way. Kraken says that they cannot escape their destinies. Viper mutters that Kraken is talking superstitious garbage.

Strucker says that their decision to put into place his plan that it must be by a unanimous vote. All the leaders then vote in favor of enacting Strucker’s plan. Madame Hydra states “Let it be war.”

We zip over to the main staging area at the Howling Commandos’ base. Dum Dum states that not everyone from SHIELD chose to come with them. Gabe says that they left some good men behind at HAMMER. Those men had families that they had to take care of and had no other choice but to stay.

Nick asks if the Howling Commandos are working for whoever pays the bills. Dum Dum replies that they are private military contractors. Dum Dum says that they try to be selective but that this is dirty work. That nobody is under any delusions about the work they do. Nick then comments that from here on out he will be footing the bill. Nick tells Dum Dum for the Howling Commandos to come work for him from now on.

Nick says that they will be going right after the bastards in HAMMER starting with The Dock. Dum Dum asks the men what they think about working for Nick Fury again. The men all cheer “WAH-HOO!” Nick then asks what kind of ordinance the Howling Commandos have. Dum Dum says that he will take Nick to the armory and show him.

We cut to the armory with Nick looking at the selection of weapons. Gabe comments that The Dock is a HAMMER base. Gabe asks what about the soldiers that they left behind who are now working for HAMMER? Gabe cannot believe that Nick is serious about fighting their ex-mates.

Nick asks Gabe if he remembers when Enron went out of business. Nick continues that everyone was pissed at the corporate officers and management of Enron and that you could not turn on the news without hearing some sob story about employees who lost their jobs. Nick continues “Like they were all oblivious to the fact that their company was built on screwing people over. Like because they weren’t in charge they didn’t have any responsibility for doing the right thing.”

Nick says that the guys who stayed with HAMMER to take HAMMER’s paycheck are in that position because they chose to be. That they are taking those paychecks with eyes closed. And there is a price for that. Nick continues “It sure ain’t sympathy.”

Gabe retorts that the world is not that simple. That those guys did what they had to do for their families. Gabe asks Nick “What are you going to feel when you put a bullet in one of those men, Nick?”

Nick cocks one of the assault rifles and replies “Recoil.”

Comments
The Good: “I do what I do. It’s the world that’s changed…I haven’t. Not one bit.” This line from Nick Fury encapsulates the main theme of Secret Warriors. This title, which ostensibly was to feature a new wave of metahumans, has actually become a character study on Nick Fury as he adjusts to being back in the spotlight. Not only has the world changed since Nick left SHIELD and went into hiding, but the world has changed massively since Nick was a soldier during World War II.

Hickman has been assigned to answer the question of how Nick Fury would fit into the modern 616 Universe and the current political climate. And Hickman’s answer is as blunt and direct as the man, Nick Fury, himself. Nick Fury will operate in the current 616 Universe just like he has ever since his beginning as a soldier in World War II. While the world may now be more complex and no longer black and white; Nick Fury is not.

The world’s new landscape, which consists only of shades of grey, matters not to Nick Fury. Nick still views life in very black and white terms. And he will do so till the day he dies. To Nick there is good and there is evil. There is no in-between. Men can make the hard decisions that are necessary in order to do good. Or men can come up with whatever excuse necessary in order to justify either actively helping or at least turning a blind eye to evil.

Hickman has been leading to this point in Secret Warriors #4 as we see that Nick Fury is a constant. He is more than just man. Nick Fury has become almost a force of nature. Nick does what he does regardless of the war, the enemy, the era or the political climate. And what Nick does is protect America and its citizens, as well as the innocents across the globe, from evil men who would look to use the world to instill terror and to advance their own wicked agendas.

Nick is a hard man. There is little compassion and pity in his heart. And this is exactly how Nick should be written. Hickman’s understanding and handling of Nick’s character has been quite impressive. Nick is a conservative old war horse who is a product of a bygone era and he refuses to change or compromise on his belief system.

Hickman deserves much praise for his ability to properly write Nicks’ character consistent with Nick’s history. I have no idea what Hickman’s political views are. Nor do I care. The fact is that all I expect from a professional writer is to write a character consistent with their own moral code and belief system and not that of the writer. And this is a seemingly impossible task for most modern day writers who cannot help but to insert their own political and societal beliefs into the characters that they write. Regardless if it is inconsistent with the character’s personality and history.

Not Hickman. When other writers were sycophantically slipping all over their own drool in their mad dash to have their various comic book characters fist dap and chest bump Obama, Hickman took a much different tact. While other writers were having their characters genuflect before the new President in a manner consistent with the writers’ personal feelings; Hickman had Nick appear in the Oval Office and pull Obama’s punk card.

The message was clear. Hickman was going to write Nick Fury consistent with his established personality. That Hickman was going to write how Nick would react to meeting the new President and not how Hickman personally might react to that situation. Hickman understood that Nick would not be impressed with slick speeches read from a teleprompter promising all the dreams and wishes that a hungry and disgruntled electorate wants to hear.

Nick has been through too many Presidents, both Republican and Democrat, to be impressed or suckered in by pretty words. Nick is a man of action who views talk as cheap and only believes in the currency of actions. Nick knows that politicians are scumbag liars who are more concerned with amassing political power than they are with actually doing their job of protecting America and its citizens. Not Nick. Protecting America and its citizens, as well as the citizens of the free world, is Nick’s only job.

And this hardcore and unsympathetic view on life is carried on in Secret Warriors #4 as Nick places blame on the employees of Enron, who have always been presented as the poor innocent victims of an evil corporation. I was surprised that Hickman went with this direction since it is not a popular view. But, it is consistent with Nick’s character.

Nick’s view on the employees of Enron may be harsh, but there is much truth to it. And Nick is not of the generation where the first instinct to blame others for your failures. Nick is of the generation that you take responsibility for your own decision and actions. And with that view, just like how Nick had no compassion for the Enron employees, Nick has no compassion for the ex-SHIELD agents who have chosen to turn a blind eye and take HAMMER’s paycheck.

This is exactly the type of Nick Fury that I was hoping we would get. Hickman is not going to give us a PC version of Nick. Instead, we are getting a hard as nails Nick Fury who is one mean old son of a bitch. The ending to Secret Warriors #4 features possibly the best final line to a comic book that I have read in a long time. Nick’s one word response of “Recoil” to Gabe’s question punches the reader in the neck. Nick is all business and there is no room for touchy feely debates in his line of work.

Hickman does a brilliant job conveying to the reader the heavy weight that is on Nick’s shoulders. In the scene where Nick is drinking with Dum Dum and Gabe, the reader can feel weight of the years of constant fighting that lean heavily on Nick’s old bones. Nick is allowed a moment of reflection and a wish for a moment of carefree relaxation. But, that moment is fleeting as the old soldier knows that it is not his role in life to rest and relax. This moment of introspection was necessary to give Nick some depth beyond just being a bad-assed old soldier.

It was great seeing Nick and Dum Dum back together. Hickman does a fine job handling these two old warhorses. The reminiscing between the two men was nicely done. The dialogue was natural and has a wonderful realistic flow to it. Hickman’s new version of the Howling Commandos is a great addition to the 616 Universe. It is going to be enjoyable to see Nick one again leading the Howling Commandos into battle. And I love the Howling Commandos’ motto of “Nunquam Obliti, Nunquam Victi.” (Never forgotten, Never defeated.)

Overall, the character work and dialogue in Secret Warriors #4 was fantastic. Even though Nick is the star of the title and has received the lion’s share of the character work, Hickman has also done a fine job with all of the other characters. Hickman is committed to making sure that character work is the strength of this title. Hickman delivers well developed characters who all possess unique external voices. The character work completely fascinates the reader and helps to pull the reader into the story.

Hickman moves Secret Warriors #4 along at a measured pace. Hickman has certainly been quite deliberate with the set-up work on this title over the course of the first four issues. At no point has Hickman rushed anything. The result of such a controlled pace has led to plenty of anticipation and excitement in the reader as we get ready for all hell to break loose in the war between the Secret Warriors and Hydra.

Secret Warriors #4 was a strongly plotted issue. Hickman has crafted a detailed and complex story that has many levels to it. There is plenty of substance for the reader to chew on and digest. And Hickman understands that the set-up work has to come to a close with this issue. The meeting between the leaders of Hydra where Lady Hydra comments “Let it be war” cues the reader into the fact that the action is right around the corner. And at the end of this issue, Hickman makes a point of thanking the reader for their patience and that the brawling between the Secret Warriors and Hydra is about to be kicked off in style.

I do not mind that Hickman has burned four issues to perform mostly set-up work on this title. Nick has been gone from the 616 Universe for quite some time and it was necessary to properly re-introduce him to the 616 Universe. Hickman also had the task of introducing a roster of new characters in the Secret Warriors as well. And on top of that, Hickman is dealing with many different factions in the Secret Warriors, Howling Commandos, HAMMER and Hydra. Therefore, it was imperative that a strong foundation was built before we could commence with the war between Nick Fury and Hydra.

Even though Nick continues to be the star of this title, Hickman does give some panel time to several of the members of the Secret Warriors. We see Hellfire and Phobos, both mischievous characters, snooping around in Nick’s office. The discovery of the secret stash of LMD’s is of no surprise to the reader, but it certainly is a stunner to our young heroes. The reader knows that Nick has long employed LMD’s instead of himself as a precaution to being killed or captured.

However, up until now, the reader has thought that we have been seeing the actual real Nick Fury in the pages of Secret Warriors. This scene now casts doubt in the reader’s mind if we have only been seeing a Nick Fury LMD during this entire story. It is possible that the real Nick Fury is still in hiding.

The scene in Nick’s office also makes the point that Nick does not fully trust anybody. And that he will keeps secrets from even his own teammates. And that includes the young heroes that he has assembled to be his Secret Warriors.

Hickman introduces a new character in Eden Fesi. I like Eden’s character in the small amount of panel time that he gets in this issue. The unexpected twist of having Eden wishing that he could be a rock star was certainly unexpected. I was not expecting that from this character.

Hickman deserves credit for taking a character and playing off the reader’s initial expectations for that character by throwing an unexpected wrinkle at the reader. Eden’s rock n’ roll dreams puts the reader on notice that Hickman is not going to deliver characters that are predictable or that can be judged by their cover. That is the sign of a talented writer who takes character work seriously.

Hickman also uses the scene with Eden and Gateway to introduce another wrinkle in the complex and strained relationship between Nick and the Secret Warriors. Gateway lets slip the fact that Nick is wants Eden for his other team and not for the Secret Warriors. Daisy is an assertive and strong-willed character who is not going to back down at all from Nick Fury. I am sure that we are in store for quite an explosive scene when Daisy returns back to base and meets with Nick.

I appreciate that Hickman is taking his time with the Secret Warriors. Seeing the Secret Warriors fail and suffer serious set-backs at the very start makes them more compelling characters. It is more realistic that this group of young heroes would fail more often than not when first starting out. And it also makes sense that Nick would not hesitate to bench the team until they gain more seasoning and experience.

This move by Hickman allows the Secret Warriors to grow organically and let the reader watch as they evolve as individuals and as teammates. The journey to becoming an elite fighting force is a hard road and Hickman is determined to make the Secret Warriors encounter plenty of obstacles on their way to maturing into a fighting force that Nick is proud of and will trust.

Hickman delivers a very touching scene with the one page scene involving Stonewall and Yo-Yo. The scene is short, to the point and quite effective. And the only dialogue is Stonewall reading the lines from the book. The brevity of this scene and the minimalist approach gives the scene so much more intensity and impact on the reader.

Many writers do not understand the power that a concise and focused scene can deliver. Hickman was able to convey to the reader Stonewall’s feelings for Yo-Yo as well as the sadness surrounding her horrible injury without needing to employ an endless amount of dialogue or narration.

Secret Warriors #4 does not just treat the reader to excellent writing. This issue also gives the reader plenty of absolutely gorgeous artwork from Stefano Caselli. I have completely fallen in love with Caselli’s artwork. There are moments when I am reading this issue where I simply stop and stare at his beautiful panels. Caselli has a wonderfully slick style of art. And the amount of detail that Caselli packs into each panel is amazing. Caselli certainly makes Secret Warriors #4 a lush looking comic book.

The Bad: I have no complaints with this issue.

Overall: Secret Warriors #4 was an excellent issue. This title delivers both strong writing and wonderful artwork. If you like stories that deliver excellent character work and well crafted dialogue then you should give Secret Warriors a try. Action fans might be bored with Secret Warriors #4, but have no fear; we should be in store for plenty of action with the next issue. Secret Warriors continues to be one of Marvel’s better reads. I would recommend giving this title a chance.

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4 Comments

  1. I love this book. Your review sums up my own opinions very well.

    Just a question of curiosity, are you going to pick up Hickman’s upcoming run on Fantastic Four? I am really excited about it.

  2. The only complaint that I have with this issue is that Hickman and Bendis display the usual disregard for continuity. Gateway was killed by the Marauders in the lead-up to Messiah CompleX a few years back. Also, I think that that “WAH-HOO” was supposed to be a “HOO-WAH”.

  3. This was a good review of a great issue. I do enjoy the way Hickman writes Nick Fury. He has positioned Nick as the Clint Eastwood of the Marvel universe, someone who has no patience for political correctness and BS and is focused on the task at hand.

    The last line when Nick says that he would feel only “Recoil” was badass. Dirty Harry would be proud.

  4. "Wah-hoo!" was the traditional battle cry of Fury's "Howling" Commandos. Bit of old nostalgia there. And without nostalgia, comic books would be a three dollar a year industry…

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