Secret Warriors #25 - 'Wheels Within Wheels' - Hickman, Vitti & IFS
Story - Everybody knows about the Hicklash that is sweeping the comics community, the sudden realisation that "Indie Sensation" Jonathan Hickman isn't actually the greatest comic book mind since Alan Moore, and that SHIELD is a confusing mess and that his Fantastic Four hasn't even been about the actual Fantastic Four. It's sweeping the nation. The Hicklash. HICKLASH! TALK ABOUT IT!
But strangely, Secret Warriors has largely escaped the Hicklash, mainly because it's really good, but also because it hasn't fallen into the holes of Hickman's other work. Until now. In this 25th issue of Secret Warriors, Hickman makes the odd decision to step away from his main story, which is rapidly ramping up towards an epic conclusion. Most of the Secret Warriors are dead, Nick Fury's son is dead, and Nick himself has given himself up to Hydra. Do we get more of that in this issue? Nope, we jump back into the 1950s for an issue of back-story that whilst attempting to answer questions, really ends up posing more. It reminds me, if anything of the episode of LOST from the show's last season, "Across The Sea" which went back and gave us the story of Jacob and the Man In Black. Which was fine, except at that point, the tension involved in the ongoing narrative of Jack, Kate, Locke etc was so high that it wasn't what I wanted. Info-dump chapters like that episode and this issue never really work, the revelations in this issue would be best served parcelled out gradually throughout the series' run, rather than all at once. These mega-reveal issues serve only to overwhelm the reader, and rob each individual surprise of their own space in which to be surprising.
But what exactly are the surprises in this issue? In this issue Hickman expands on the shocking revelation way back in issue 1, that SHIELD had been a subsidiary of Hydra all along. This issue ties all that together and more, as Leonardo Da Vinci (yes, Leonardo Da Vinci) calls all the top Spymasters in the world together to further his purpose on 'The Great Wheel', whatever that is. Nick Fury's there, Dum Dum Dugan's there, Baron Von Strucker is there, a bunch of random Russians are there. What follows is some of the usual Hickman speak about 'architecture of human morality' and all that stuff, and then weird scene after weird scene, all in order for The Great Wheel to get some weird tubes, which some how mutate people. The Russians betray everyone else and form Leviathan, and then a Russian Soldier turns into a Gremlin. There's a joke about Kremlins/Gremlins there, go crazy. Oh yeah, and Nick Fury gets shot in the head, but doesn't die, or something. As I said, it's over-whelming. I thought at one point that the identity of Kraken had been revealed, but then I remembered that the original Kraken was dead. So yeah... Hydra, SHIELD and Leviathan all came out of this Great Wheel, and so did ZODIAC. Who knows what that all means, as we've only got about two issues left.
This issue was probably the first chapter of Secret Warriors that didn't satisfy me, the decision to tie the book to SHIELD in this way alienated me, and the way Hickman decided to reveal all his big secrets in one go had little impact. I've often complained that Hickman could write amazing plots but not characters, and he let his plots overwhelm his characters. The exception was Secret Warriors, where Daisy, Alex, JT, Sebastian and especially Nick Fury were all strong characters. But now this issue drops all these characters (except Nick) at a crucial juncture and got too wrapped up in his conspiracy plots. It's disappointing, hopefully when the story jumps back to the present, things will improve, and the ensuing events will be strengthened by the context of this issue, but until then... this issue was a bust.
Art - At least Alessandro Vitti was on his A-game here. I was disappointed when Caselli left this book in order to do Spider-Man, but Vitti has been an able replacement, and does provide the art in this issue a similarity to Dustin Weaver's on SHIELD. It was strange how his Flashback Nick Fury looked older than the present Nick. Maybe that's a clue! This is the problem with Hickman, if there's a mistake, you tend not to notice it and think instead that's a piece of a massive jigsaw, but in all probability it's just an error.
Best Line - 'Some advice: It's time you stopped playin' games. It's over'