With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.
Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!
Artists: Alessandro Vitti, Mirko Colak
Issues: Secret Warriors (2008) #17-28, Siege: Secret Warriors
Secret Warriors had a really fun start as one of the best new comics to come out of Marvel’s Dark Reign period. Nick Fury’s clandestine team of second generation sleeper agent superheroes battling Hydra forces felt very GI Joe-ish in all the right ways.
The second half of the series is nicely compiled into another collected volume. Unfortunately it almost completely drops the titular team in favor of focusing on Nick Fury.
Jonathan Hickman dives head first into Fury’s convoluted past and present. It’s filled with silly twists, gotchas, and “oh he was a just a Life Model Decoy” – all gimmicks that I’ve grown to resent. I much prefer reading about the team’s inner-drama and action set-pieces rather than the Nick Fury Files, but apparently Hickman and Marvel saw otherwise.
For example, the first story arc, “The Last Ride of the Howling Commandos” (#17-19) is just one big backstory on Fury’s World War 2 team. The actual pacing and editing is neat, weaving together three different scenes: Dugan at a UN meeting spilling the beans on a recent Hydra attack, Fury and Steve Rogers at a reunion of Commandos, and the WW2 flashbacks.
There’s a complete lack of the actual Secret Warriors team for an entire three issues, despite the previous collected volume leaving us at a startling cliffhanger involving the betrayal of one of the team. While the actual dialogue is compelling, I’m just not a fan of the direction this series has ended up. There is a pretty great conversation between Steve Rogers and Nick Fury, which comes around again to close the series out later.
“Night” (#20-24) is a return to form, with Fury and his team infiltrating a Hydra base. Things go terribly wrong thanks to J.T.’s betrayal, and they’re immediately under fire, losing their teleporter and forcing a high stakes, action-packed retreat.
Mirko Colak takes over an issue and a half of art, and pales compared to Alessandro Vitti’s work, which in turn is a small step down from Stefano Casselli’s. While the overall art has steadily declined, it still remains consistently good, and I enjoy the vibrant colors and excessive lines on every haggard face.
Phobos, son of Ares, dies in a brutal one-on-one sword fight with Gorgon, while the rest of the team helplessly looks on. It’s definitely an Obi-Wan – Darth Vader moment. This time however Phobos doesn’t become more powerful, he simply dies and goes to Elysium, where he’s reunited with his father Ares. It’s an abrupt ending for the character that doesn’t feel very satisfying.
As the team makes their dramatic bomb-is-ticking escape, Fury finally gets J.T. in a vulnerable position. He reveals he knows of his betrayal (Fury knows everything, it’s incredibly annoying) and lets J.T. die for it. Daisy is understandably upset, and Fury later explains everything to her, which I was admittedly impressed by.
The specific scene where Fury drops J.T. is also absolutely fantastic. Hickman seems to excel at these individual dramatic moments, and they’re definitely the highlights of the series.
In “Wheels Within Wheels” (#25-28) we come to the ultimate “Nick Fury can do anything and is always on top of everything” plot device that annoys me to no end. It’s a long, drawn out con wherein we learn that the Kraken, one of the major Hydra villains we’ve been battling, is really Nick Fury’s not-so-dead younger brother Jake. Yep.
Baron Strucker has the tables turned as it was really Nick in control of Hydra, not the other way around as he suspected in Dark Reign, Which doesn’t really make any sense, but whatever, it’s Nick Fury I guess.
The pacing feels really off in this final arc, like they were just kind of spinning their wheels to get a few more issues out before closing the series. It’s also mostly told in flashbacks, including an incredibly convoluted backstory involving Fury, Strucker and other big players all involved in yet another clandestine group.
There’s a whole issue devoted to exploring what happened to The Druid after he was kicked out way back in Secret Warriors #13. Apparently he goes through a rigorous training montage with Howling Commando John Garrett, and returns to seal the team’s escape at the end of “Night.” Ultimately it doesn’t really matter because their team and story is pretty much over, making his whole issue rather pointless.
Despite some oddities, the series does wrap up nicely, with another great conversation between Steve Rogers and Nick Fury. My primary issues with the series are more exemplified in this second collection, as the actual young team is present in less than half the issues. I found Fury’s complex backstory and silly machinations annoying and trite, even by comic standards. Hickman, however, is an excellent writer that does some great stuff with what he’s given. Secret Warriors wasn’t quite the new-team series I wanted it to be, but it’s still an enjoyable ride.