Secret Warriors #6
Fury continues to prove he's most grizzled, as Daisy and the kids step in to save his ass from the heathen hordes of Hydra and H.A.M.M.E.R. (gotta love alliteration). This issue's mostly fight scene at the Dock, as the new Commandoes and the SW Caterpillars take on both sides. Meanwhile, the two distaff members of Hydra's new inner circle (Madame Hydra and the Viper) complete "negotiations" in Japan with Clan Yashida for an ancient, veritable Pandora's Box of mysterious evil. The Caterpillars turn the tide, Hydra retreats, the Commandoes commandeer the helicarriers, Fury recruits some H.A.M.M.E.R. guys back into the fold, Sitwell's alive, Gabe apologizes, and Nick gives Dum Dum one month to raise a new army. And just as the smoke clears and the kids get back "home" to a new secret base, Nick gets a call from Val, who is revealed to be the mole in Hydra, as she is posing as the new Madame Hydra, and has the mysterious box.
The first arc of this book ends as it began, with a bit of a cliffhanger and tremendously fun. My one complaint is that Hickman still doesn't do a lot to get us into who the kids are (barely ever even calling them by name), but since I'm really reading this book for the grown-ups anyway, that ain't much of a complaint. The action scenes are crisp, the dialogue is a hoot (only Fury can get away with the old "Son, you've got 5 seconds to stand down before I take that gun away from you and beat you to death with it."), and the characterization of the Commandoes is letter-perfect. Caselli's art remains gorgeous, and while it's superheero-ey, it somehow still fits an espionage and dirty ops book perfectly. Another rousing good time; I loved it.
Wonder Woman #34
Gail continues to write probably my favorite WW ever. Fresh off the status quo changes of last issue, we see Wondy trying to move forward and figure out where to go next. Simone uses a Fortress-of-Solitude homage scene to cleverly show some of the differences between a much-loved princess who grew up with hundreds of sisters, and an only child "last son", and deftly shows multiple facets of Diana's character throughout the book: her regret, her resolve, her compassion, her faith, and even her humor. Gail also returns to the character she made her own in her first DC work, Black Canary, and in one issue writes Dinah better than she's been written by anyone since Gail left Birds of Prey. The "makeover" she gives Diana is classic Simone, and a very entertaining scene.
As to plot, Diana is informed by Nemesis and T.O. Morrow that Genocide is still alive and being regenerated by Dr. Psycho (still in Sarge Steel's body) at one of Roulette's meta-fight clubs somewhere in Asia. Needing to infiltrate, Diana turns to Dinah, whose connections can find the club, and the two don new identities to join the brawl. They win their first "tag team" match, although Diana's not sure how due to a power surge she didn't initiate, and we see her next opponent, apparently a new daughter of Ares who wants revenge for his death. Elsewhere on Themyscira, we see Achilles's first day as king, and learn his choice for a new queen, one that will not sit well with the Amazon princess once she finds out.
The plot and action are pretty standard, but it's the characterization and dialogue that carry this one. There's real heart in the small solo moments, and real humor in the interactions between our two heroines. And Lopresti's art, as always, is a joy to behold. A fine interim story to help catch the reader's breath after Rise of the Olympian. I loved it.
This will sound like heresy to some, but after one issue, I already think I like the new direction better than what Johns was doing with this volume of the book. In this issue, we get early introductions to All-American Kid and King Chimera, a mysterious "darkness egg" which turns out to be Obsidian, and Robin-foe Tapeworm challenges Wildcat to a public brawl. When the whole JSA (minus Terrific and the 2 new kids) show up, Tapeworm breaks out his backup as well, and things do not go well for the Society. A team of D-listers specifically prepared for the JSA's powers (except apparently Stargirl for some reason...) begins wiping the floor with them, and back at the brownstone, All-American Kid gets mind-controlled and does a hack/slash job on Terrific apparently mortally wounding him in the process.
Sturgingham come out guns blazing here, and give us everything but the kitchen sink. Multiple plot threads, strong characterization, multiple new characters (although man, I could do without that for a little while in this book), elements of mystery, and holy cow...actual battles against super-villains! Merino (a very talented Pacheco-lite) brings a strong, classic superhero-ey flair to the art, and the book reads like a throwback to volume 1 of this book (I'm particularly reminded of the Injustice Society arc from early on), which is in my opinion a very good thing. I really liked it.
Yep, now that Ellis (and Venom and Bullseye and Penance) are long gone from this title, I've decided to start picking it back up again, and I gotta tell you, Diggle's made me love it again. Now that we've got some of the old-schoolers hanging around again side-by-side with mystery characters and double-agents and issues ending with "oh &%#+" revelations, it feels like old T'bolts again, while still maintaining the current Marvel Dark Reign sensibilities too.
So Norman's black ops squad is out to kill Songbird, Melissa drops in to recruit two old friends (one of whom drops a nice reference to one of my all-time 5 favorite movies; kudos, Diggle!), Mr. X wipes the floor with Headsman, Yelena learns that Fury needs Songbird alive and he plans to extract her after this last mission, Norman ticks Yelena off by naming new recruit and mystery-man Scourge team leader for the Songbird mission, the 'bolts find and attack Songbird, who wipes out heir jet with one of their own missiles which causes everybody to hit the dirt, and Yelena finds her first and offers to help her, but only after a shocking revelation in true T'bolts-worthy fashion.
Diggle hits all the right notes for me with Melissa, Abe, and Norbert, actually makes me interested in the black ops 'bolts, provides nice pace to the book, and brings all the double-dealing, back-stabbing, questionable motives, mystery and surprise that this book should have. And while I also stayed away from this book previously due to a dislike of de la Torre's art, I have no such misgivings about Sepulveda here, who provides a nice mix of clean and gritty, putting some really pretty stuff on the page for brighter characters like Songbird and some equally pretty, yet darker stuff for the 'bolts. I know I'm coming in late as Diggle's about to leave for DD, but I'm sure glad to be on-board for now; I really liked it