I picked up Secret Warriors for one reason and one reason only: Jonathan Hickman. The visionary (and actually visionary, I don’t mean this as a throwaway word) mind behind The Nightly News, Pax Romana, A Red Mass for Mars, and Transhuman. While all of his former titles were creator owned, it was only a matter of time before one of the major publishers picked him up and it seems like Marvel Comics is the first to do so. Secret Warriors is a joint writing project between Brian Michael Bendis and Hickman focusing on Nick Fury, former head of S.H.I.E.L.D and super-spy, and what he is up to now that S.H.I.E.L.D has been replaced by H.A.M.M.E.R in the wake of Secret Invasion and the new Marvel Comics event, Dark Reign. Nick Fury has assembled a team of off-the-record superheroes willing to trust him and do what’s necessary to keep the world safe and turning.
If this sounds like the plot from any movie and especially any Marvel Comics comic series of the past few years, that’s because it is. So does Secret Warriors fill a niche in the Marvel universe or continue along with many other books? I would have to argue this book is not doing anything original, a secret team no one technically knows about applies to so many teams, X-Force immediately comes to mind, especially after Civil War a couple of years ago and now with Secret Invasion officially over with. But one thing this book does do differently is this book does it well. The comic book feels like a Marvel book, how could it not? Brian Michael Bendis has his hand in its creation, but the book is good despite its lack of innovation or originality. Seeing Hickman work in the confines of Marvel was something I was very anxious about. For a writer to go from such amazing works based solely on what he wants to do to a major publisher who controls many aspects of the work, there is a lot of room for failure. While this does not compare to Hickman’s previous works, it does have his fingerprints all over it (especially the eleven page supplement in the back) and a good story is brought forward. The characters are interesting and Fury remains completely cryptic, suspicious, and existing completely within the grey areas of the world. So while he has a team, Nick Fury is the focus and I enjoy a protagonist with this amount of ambiguity. The team itself is given a fairly little amount of time in the opening issue, with the field leader “Daisy” getting the most amount of focus. However, the adolescent god of fear Fury has on the team really takes the cake. He’s a spoiled brat essential to Fury’s plan, and keeping the kid happy with video games and general submissiveness is really funny to see. Secret Warriors, despite nothing original, is still worth picking up if you just want a book that reads well.
As for the art, I am not convinced Stefano Caselli is the right person for the job. I understand the “Young Guns” promotion going on with some of Marvel Comics newest finds, but Caselli is just too conventional for me in this title. His characters all look stereotypical of the big American comics. They are expressive and his action sequences certainly have a lot going on, but I feel there may be another artist out there who could help on a title which is playing the espionage game. Everything is too polished and neat, not reflecting what is boiling just underneath. The scenes are all well done, but I think there are some whose style is a little more gritty that could have worked better. Salvador Larocca immediately comes to mind, but I am sure there are many others as well. But the book does look fairly good for the style. Overall, it doesn’t add to the story, but does not take away either.
7.5/10 Nothing original, but does everything very well. Art is not right for this title.