Review time...let's go!
SHIELD continues its strong start in its second issue. This is not your typical comic book. Instead of being superheroes in flashy comics, the reader instead deals with historical figures and hidden cities. Instead of lengthy monologues about good triumphing over evil, the characters discuss the philosophy of human growth and betterment. While some of the figures of the book have real counterparts, in SHIELD, they are more than real. In the Marvel universe, Nostradamus is still a precog and Leonardo da Vinci is still an architect; however, they are more fantastic and mysterious than their historical counterparts.
In this issue, we learn of Leonid’s origin and da Vinci’s purpose for journeying to the modern time. Meanwhile, Agents Stark and Richards continue their battle with the Dark Man, with explosive results. Jonathan Hickman does a fine job of moving his plot forward while building the secret history of the Marvel universe. He moves quickly from scene to scene without becoming bogged down in some of the heavier aspects to his story. While the philosophy that da Vinci spouts adds to the story, it isn’t necessary to understand what is going on. We also get the sense that Leonid and the Dark Man are part of the secret history that Hickman promised to uncover when he began his story. Hickman’s one weakness is characterization; his characters seem one-dimensional compared to da Vinci, who is a character that Hickman obviously enjoys writing.
Dustin Weaver’s art, while still strong, doesn’t shine as brightly as last issue. Some of his pencils lack a sense of seriousness and grandeur that a book like this is supposed to reflect. While Weaver’s full page spreads are supposed to invoke a feeling of awe, they instead fall a little flat. However, Weaver’s action sequences are outstanding, capturing the tone of the book perfectly. His art is also detailed without becoming overwhelming, making the second and third reads as enjoyable as the first.
SHIELD is an exceptionally strong book, but I worry about its longevity. It lacks a true antagonist and relies on heavier, more philosophical themes to draw the reader in. Obviously, revealing the secret history of the Marvel universe takes time, but I worry that if Hickman doesn’t come up with a stronger draw than new, unheard of characters battling in the 1950’s, this book may soon lose the strong head of steam it’s gained from its first two issues.