Spun out of Secret Invasion, this is the former SHIELD chief’s personal strike force, originally dedicated to take down the Skrulls, now keen to smash Norman Osborn’s SHIELD replacement, HAMMER. They didn’t actually do much in the SI crossover, they were mainly just faces in Central Park’s superheroic crowd. The young heroes don’t do much here either – we’re briefly reintroduced to the team members during a battle between HAMMER and HYDRA, before the issue gets bogged down in Fury flashbacks.
One of these involves a visit to the White House where Fury talks trash to Barack Obama, who is as irritatingly submerged in shadow as he was in last month’s Thunderbolts. What is it with Marvel’s coyness? We know who the president is, and Stefano Caselli does a fine job of letting us know he knows too, so why not just show the guy? If not, make up a president, or have the Marvel heroes deal with subordinates.
The book closes with a Shocking Revelation which no reader will believe, and it’s certainly not enough to bring me back next issue.
Jonathan Hickman’s script is OK, it reads pretty much like the work of his co-plotter, Brian Michael Bendis, which is no doubt the idea. People talk tough, everyone is enigmatic and it seems there’s a long-term plan in store. Well, good luck to the comic, but I’m bailing. I can’t see a single reason for it to exist – the campaign against Norman Osborn can be handled in the Avengers titles, while none of the Warriors – the children of mostly very obscure Marvel villains, though you aren’t actually told that here – offer anything not already covered by new mutants, young avengers or runaways. It’s as if Marvel can’t commission an event book without pencilling in a new team title.
Fury, long a favourite, is a stranger to me here. His hair can’t decide whether it’s the traditional Reed Richards brown with grey temples or all-grey, he likes his young charges to spout grasshopperisms and he doesn’t have his trademark cigar. And i just can’t believe that a man who has always worked in organisations that give proper training to recruits before sending them on to the battlefield would let a ragtag bunch of untested teens go out and do his dirty work.
The art is OK. Caselli covers the story beats, while ‘color artist’ Daniele Rudoni turns to that odd, depressing palette Marvel favours these days – washed out skin tones, lots of browns, greys and blues. Who says this isn’t the mighty Marvel age of murkiness?
Jim Cheung’s cover illo is attractive, but subordinate to the trade dress – half the cover goes to Civil War style wasted space.
This is a $3.99 book, but don’t expect an extra-length story. Nope, Marvel give us 12 pages of ‘Autofac’ – lists of SHIELD bases, agents, protocols, an extract from the secret diary of Secret Warrior Yo-Yo (as opposed to New Mutant Boom-Boom), a Hydra timeline . . . I can see someone put work into this, but if I want to buy a Marvel Handbook, I’ll buy a Marvel Handbook. And I haven’t yet. Seriously, any relevant information should be contained in the story (click on image to see how exciting these pages are). There are also three pages of Caselli art designs for the book; call me old fashioned but I’d quite like to see how the characters look in an actual story, not have story pages sacrificed to show us how they might look.
So there you go. Nice try but, as I said, no cigar.