The twist behind Brian Michael Bendis and Jonathan Hickman's Secret Warriors is one that I am not sure I like or not.
(Slight spoilers ahead for those who haven't read the first issue…)
The idea that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been under Hydra control since its creation is one that leaves me with mixed feelings. On one level, it screams of one awesome conspiracy story, especially since this development comes completely out of left field considering all of the events from "Secret Invasion" and the current running storyline, "Dark Reign."
However, all the setup for the Secret Warriors team during the Skrull invasion made it seem like the direction of the team would be one that was set to take on Norman Osborn and his super-hero villains.
So despite that slight disappointment that the Nick Fury versus Norman Osborn clash hasn't already begun, this series has my interest and should easily peak the interest of any reader as it is hard to tell where this series is going to go from here, and that's a good thing. I can't remember the last time I was that surprised from a comic book. The Hydra angle makes this organization as terrifying as it has ever been, and that's something I didn't really think was possible.
While we get some background from Nick Fury on Hydra, Bendis and Hickman also bring a large portion of this story from Hydra's point of view, showing the reader why Hydra is no joke in the Marvel Universe.
I was also left empty at the conclusion of this issue, as a Marvel villain is brought back to the land of the living, only I am not quite sure I know who this is. I am sure I will find out in the next issue though.
Also, Caselli's art is solid and kinetic. His line work is fantastic, bringing a lot of emotion and detail both to this gritty story and to the characters' faces.
Hickman started his career at Marvel last month with one hell of a cliff-hanger (yes, there will be spoilers for Issue #1 in this review). Of course I am talking about the Alias-like bombshell that HYDRA has been running/controlling S.H.I.E.L.D. all these years, literally since the beginning, in fact. The first issue did a nice job of setting up the team dynamic and the characters. We also got some excellent Hickman designed back matter, which I think justified the $3.99 price tag. Here we saw Hickman's design sensibilities ported over to the Marvel Universe. Diagrams, personnel files, graphs, etc., all rendered in that oh-so-aesthetically-pleasing Hickman style.
So, my first thought when I got to the end of this issue was "Where's the back matter?." I realise that this isn't integral to the story itself, but it's a part of the package that I enjoy. Of course, it might just be my copy and when the comic comes out I'll have egg on my face, so I'm going to refrain from heading down that road.
With issue #2 Hickman takes the first five pages to re-introduce a classic foe of S.H.I.E.L.D: Baron Strucker. In these five pages Hickman establishes what Strucker was up to during "Secret Invasion," how dangerous he is (despite his age), and just how down right ruthless Strucker is in pursuit of his cause. It's a great little sequence culminating in a nice splash page. The look on Strucker's face says it all.
From here on in Hickman switches between present day events concerning the Secret Warriors and what Strucker has been up to three months prior. We're also given a glimpse of the team's potential futures and individual fates as told by Phobos (who is turning out to be a great character). Hickman words the scene nicely, the hints being tantalising but open enough to be interpreted several ways.
Caselli continues the great work he did in the first issue, and I really like how he renders Fury. His art is greatly enhanced by the work of colourist Daniele Rudoni. The pair have worked together before on Avengers: The Initiative, and it's obvious the pair have a good understanding of each other's work. There does seem to be a colour scheme of sorts being established in the title. Strucker's scenes all take on an earthy hue, all greens and browns which are obviously tied in with the groups costume and background. Meanwhile, back at the Secret Warriors HQ the scenes are painted in an almost metallic blue (reminiscent of Heat and more recently Dark Knight). It might not be noticeable by all, but it's a nice touch by the art team.
I'll admit the ending fell a little flat for me. It wasn't anything to do with a lack of ability on Hickman's part but simply my lack of knowledge. I haven't read Wolverine in literally years (it was one of the titles I was reading back when I "fell out" of comics for a while). So the fact that the cliff-hanger in this issue has to do with someone introduced in the pages of Wolverine left me a bit befuddled (along with a quick trip to Wikipedia). However this is only a small grievance. Hickman is sowing enough plot threads here to keep me interested and along for the ride.
After two issues, it looks like Hickman is going to be able to continue to weave the magic that got him this opportunity in the first place. The book has the promise to be a great, and quite unique (compared to the more traditional super-hero comic anyway) addition to the Marvel universe.