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Secret Warriors #14

Posted: Tuesday, March 23, 2010
By: Paul Brian McCoy

Jonathan Hickman
Stefano Caselli, Sunny Gho of IFS (colors)
Marvel Comics
Editor's Note: Secret Warriors #14 arrives in stores tomorrow, March 24.

Things just keep getting more and more interesting.

As we saw at the end of the previous issue, Fury cut Druid loose, deciding that Sebastian doesn't have what it takes. Daisy is furious at having her decision to keep him superseded, and this allows J.T. to step up and show a little more depth than we've seen from him so far.

Of course, as fluid as things are in this book, I don't expect Druid to be gone for good, and I'm not so sure J.T. isn't just playing Daisy.

Meanwhile, this issue provides the never-before-revealed secret history of Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. We knew she was undercover in HYDRA, having assumed the identity of Madame Hydra, but it seems, as we saw last time, that Contessa is playing an even more dangerous game of double-cross. Can you guess who she's really working for? And has been for all these years?

I'm really not sure why readers can't follow this story. It's not like it is overly obtuse. It's complex, sure. But not to the point of being unintelligible. Secret Warriors is an example of excellent plotting, although I admit, sometimes the plot seems more important than the characters.

But honestly, with this many characters in play, I don't see any way around that, especially given that most of comics' (in general) readership doesn't want anything that isn't spoon-fed.

Personally, I think that while the character work has been sparse for some of the newer characters, it hasn't been so sparse as to justify the complaints. Each of the Secret Warriors team is distinctly designed with a clear power set. But because they don't wear funny costumes and don't go by their super hero code-names, people can't be bothered to remember anything about them from issue to issue.

Okay. Rant over.

This issue gives us some very interesting, and threatening, insights into the Leviathan organization. We're also introduced to their leader, who, for the life of me, I can find nothing about on-line, so I'm forced to assume that he's a new character created by Hickman. If I'm wrong, someone please fill me in.

Regardless, his arrival is as mysterious as his organization and I'm looking forward to finding out more about him.

Visually, Caselli continues to bring his A Game. Even in an issue like this one, where there really isn't a lot of action, he is still able to provide energetic and clearly-defined narrative movement. He's even able to almost casually throw in a full-page callback to a classic Steranko page from Strange Tales #168, spotlighting Contessa.

Sunny Gho's work takes an interesting approach to laying down shades of color in a way that recalls oil paint, with each shade distinct and alongside the next rather than blended to create a smooth sense of depth. It's very distinctive and engaging, particularly when combined with Caselli's weighty characters and inventive design work.

I've heard it said that this book doesn't really read as well in single issues as it probably does when collected or read a few issues at a time. That's a bit harsh, I think. It reads just fine in single issues, but it does demand that you pay attention and remember things more than some comics might. It doesn't help you along with reminders, and it doesn't seem to care if you're lost. If you're lost, you've just not read carefully enough.

This is, if you ask me, one of Marvel's best titles at the moment. The demands it makes on the reader are part of what makes this so.






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