Written by: Jonathan Hickman
Illustrated by: Mirko Colak and Alessandro Vitti
In Night part two, predestined events come to pass as chaos reigns in the world of Nick Fury and his Secret Warriors! Join us as all the pieces begin to fall into place and we get one month closer to the concluding story arc of Secret Warriors, the book that has IGN.com saying: “As crazy as the war between Leviathan, HYDRA and Fury has become, it’s as enjoyable and engrossing as ever – a consistently great series.”
In our third battle review of the week, Matt and David go head to head to discuss Eagle Award winning writer Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Warriors #21. One writer loves it, and one writer not so much. In what is certainly the single most vicious battle two of our writers have ever had on this site, Matt and David fully pull out the claws with this one.
This is Multiversity Thunderdome! Two men enter, one man leaves!
Check out the debate after the cut.
Matthew Meylikhov: Why do I think that is? Hmm… probably because you just don’t see Secret Warriors for the totally awesome comic that it is, because this issue was really quite good. I have an additional theory, but I will provide it at the end based on your opinions.
DH: Hey! I totally put Secret Warriors in the discussion for best comics of 2009. It was one of my top 5! So that can’t be it, can it? I’ve loved this book for a while. I just feel like it’s falling off the tracks as we approach the end.
MM: I would respectfully disagree. In fact, I’m honestly quite confused at what you DIDN’T like about this issue. So why don’t we start there?
DH: Alright. Well let’s start with Mirko Colak, the artist from the last issue and a little over half of this issue. His art is an awful mess, failing at both storytelling and basic figure work – there are moments where it is honestly difficult to tell what is even happening on the page. And then Allesandro Vitti joins up mid way through, and he’s been good on the book, but it’s like they panicked because Colak was so bad and his work ended up being rushed and sub par for him as well. This was the worst looking book I’ve purchased in a couple months, all things told.
MM: I can not agree with that at all! Colak is not even half as bad as you claim, sir. See, this issue was not just an action issue, this was THE action issue. Obviously from the very beginning – just the script stage – it would be a very stylized issue, and I think Colak and Vitti both did a fantastic job with their scenes.
DH: Seriously? Were you looking at the same book?
MM: How could you not love the slow motion bullet sequence at the beginning?
DH: The whole thing looked like a mash of awfulness. Seriously, I find Colak’s work to be indensively bad. When Caselli isn’t on this book and it drops to Colak, it’s like dropping from Frank Quitely to Igor Kordey on Morrison’s X-Men run.
MM: Ooof. That’s a harsh comparison!
DH: A very good one though. Apt at least.
MM: I really don’t agree at all though. Obviously I have my artistic preferences too, but Colak isn’t that bad at all. Certainly not Kordey bad.
DH: I’m not saying he is Kordey bad, I say it’s a huge drop off like the Quitely/Kordey drop off.
MM: He had a lot of large action sequences that featured a lot of characters yes, but the story flowed well at a good pace for an action comic, and I thought the entire story was very clear on what was happening.Continued below
DH: I don’t have the comic in front of me right now, but a lot of those scenes with lots of characters it was impossible to figure out who exactly was who on the page, especially in Colak’s hands. And the story flow has nothing to do with the artist. The story flow is controlled by the writer. I’m concentrating on the depiction of events on hand, and I feel as if both Colak and Vitti failed at that.
MM: The artist certainly has a great deal with the story flow. If the artist can’t convey what the writer writes, then the book ends up terrible in that regard. You can have the best writer in the world, but Igor Kordy could still screw it up. I thought it was pretty clear. I’m also overly fond of the characters though, so maybe I just … I dunno, know them better? Hahaha.
DH: See, you gave me my next point. Have we really been given enough by Hickman throughout this series to care about these characters? I admitted that this was one of my favorite books in 2009, yet I couldn’t tell you half the characters names.The Secret Warriors have been largely absent from their own book in 21 issues. So how can you care for characters that rarely appear, let alone face character development?
MM: I think it depends on the person for that one. I mean, I followed the Secret Warriors out of Mighty Avengers, and I’ve gotten pretty good at following Hickman’s rather dense form of intertwined storytelling. I can understand why you might have trouble, but it’s not unheard of for people to grow into characters rather quickly. This is just the way that the story is displayed, which makes perfect sense for the theme. It’s a spy book, and the story features a lot of smoke and mirror tactics. You sort of get the pace.
DH: Honestly, I don’t think you could name all of the Secret Warriors if I was right next to you. Burpee did that to me during a 4 Color, and I could name 4 of them.
MM: Phobos, Stonewall, Druid, Eden, Hellfire, Quake, Slingshot! Well, and Nick Fury. It’s not just the characters, it’s the story!
DH: I understand the book, Matt. It’s not that I don’t have a grasp of the story. I handle it just fine. Hickman has done a poor job of developing the characters. No offense, but I don’t actually believe you didn’t look that up. I’m just saying, as someone who was once a big fan of the book, I feel as if he’s malnourished these once very promising characters, save Phobos. I feel as if Phobos had a fantastic moment that tied in perfectly into their Siege tie-in.
MM: The book for me largely operates on two levels. The story for me is the big point – we’re following a large and epic spy story that from the very beginning operated the ULTIMATE betrayal, and not even a year into it offered a brand new player to the game that made things even worse for the characters. In following the book at that very base level, it gives me more than enough to care about every little thing within it because now I’m following not just at a character level but at a story level that you can recognize, from the very beginning, will be the type of story to “make sense” closer to the final issue. In fact, I would say that more than anything I look at this in the same way I look at 60 issue Vertigo books that you and I both love, where it’s not JUST about the characters. HOWEVER, on a CHARACTER level, I’d say it varies person to person. For me, I highly enjoy the characters and I don’t think it’s so unreasonable to get attached to them within a couple issues if you’re that into the story. I’ve seen “fangirls” and “fanboys” do it with new books within a single issue, let alone 21. So if you personally didn’t really attach to the characters in any way, that’s fair – but I think that is more on a person to person level than it is as a whole.Continued below
DH: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Seriously? Vertigo books ARE ALL about the characters. I mean honestly. When I talked to Jason Aaron about Scalped, for example, he said plot is only their to advance the characters and develop them further. He said what happens is only there to show different stimuli and how they affect the characters. I think this book fails at that very basic level at this point, and does so thoroughly. I have zero connection to any character outside of Fury and Phobos.
MM: There are plenty of larger books I follow where I don’t know all the characters names. Hell, I ADORE the Walking Dead, but I can’t remember the names of some of my favorite characters from issue… I don’t know, 31? And I also don’t know the names of every character still alive NOW.
DH: So to summarize what your point of view is…I fail at reading the comic?
MM: I wouldn’t say you fail at reading the comic, no. You just don’t connect to it as much as someone else, such as me. But that’s the case for every comic ever, isn’t it? You mentioned Scalped, and I know you ADORE that book. I’ve also read every issue, but I DEFINITELY don’t connect to it on the same level as you.
DH: Okay. As I said though, I thought this issue had a really nice section about Phobos, who in my mind has been the best non-Fury character so far. It isn’t all death and destruction from my point of view.
MM: I can say that I fully agree with you on that. Phobos has been one of my favorite characters in this book for a while. But see, you can tell other people like Phobos too… which is kind of funny to a certain extent. Ares went and became a Dark Avenger, yeah? And Bendis wrote an issue of Dark Avengers that “crossed over” with Secret Warriors. In it, Phobos was the central issue as Ares wanted to make sure he’s being taken care of. Then on top of that, we have Siege where Phobos is brought out for his very own one-shot as his father is ripped in half in the pages of the main book. So knowing Phobos doesn’t surprise me. He has gotten WAY more page time than ANY other character except for Fury, the Howling Commandos, and … I guess Daisy (Quake).
DH: I’d say he has had more time than Daisy, even. But it makes sense, he’s really the only character most readers have connected with. I have an interesting point. I’ve always said that Hickman excels more at plotting than he does character work, and that when his character work matches his plotting is when his books excel. Which is why I think this book failed and this week’s Fantastic Four was such a smash hit with me. Yet you seemingly liked this more than Fantastic Four. That’s interesting.
MM: You know, I love Fantastic Four. I have his entire run. But you’re right – Hickman spends more time as a plotter of events than he does writing stories that really build up characters. If anything, that could be – as you say – his flaw.
DH: I didn’t call it a flaw.
MM: Well ok, not you specifically, but I am saying if I, as uber-Hickman fan, need to point something out as his flaw, it’s that he focuses a lot on plot. It’s a fair point to bring up. However, I suppose I kind of look at the current F4 issue and this one in a specific way in that they’re both on their way to big and momentous occasions within their respective stories. For F4, it’s “Three” and the death of one of the family (or someone closely related to the family). With Secret Warriors, we’re coming to The End. This arc is “Night” – things are closing, everything is going to get bad before it gets better, etcetera. Given the stand-off cliffhanger of issue 20, Hickman delivered an issue that focused ENTIRELY on action. A lot of it too. Absolutely explosive, no pun intended. So when I pick up this issue that’s supposed to help herald in the finale of the book, and I see that there is a MAJOR change to a certain character (which I will not ruin for anyone who hasn’t read it) and a GREAT deal of stylistic sequences that are – to use the layman term – freaking AWESOME, I end up with an incredibly satisfying comic book experience.Continued below
DH: Well, I thought the Phobos stuff at the end was good, but I think that F4 succeeded because those character moments will make the resolution of “Three” all the more powerful. I think nothing in the issue actually developed the moment at the end to have more meaning, and if you didn’t read the Siege: Secret Warriors one-shot, you wouldn’t even know why it matters.
MM: Well, keep in mind Fantastic Four has YEARS of character development… Hickman had two issues in Mighty Avengers before he and Bendis started the book.
DH: Okay, here’s my last major negative: this HUGE war, this HUGE battle is going on and no one shows up. No Avengers – nothing. Seattle is destroyed, but the Avengers are like, “meh? We’re le tired.” What’s up with that?
MM: We don’t specifically see that no one DOESN’T respond…. I mean, yes, no Avengers show up, but this fight is also heavily underground within a secret base of a secret base of a secret base. We don’t see anything going on with the Avengers, but I wouldn’t say that it’s completely out of character for Fury to do something a) without anyone’s consent and b) without telling anyone. ESPECIALLY after the previous arc with the Howling Commandos.
DH: They broke the Space Needle! They fail at covert!
MM: Yeah, but where we focus on the story isn’t at the Space Needle! We’re underground. No needles, no space!
DH: I know, but that’s why I’m saying – the Avengers would be all up in that business. But ultimately, I found it to continue the massive downfall of this book. It regularly would earn 9+ grades from me. This one? I’d probably give a 5.
MM: Well, can I offer you a plausible scenario that might enhance the experience?
MM: I alluded to this earlier, but at the time that I was reading the issue, I happened to be listening to Black Sabbath. Not on purpose – it was just where I was and who I was around at the time, causing me to sit like a fool reading a comic with Black Sabbath blasting all around me. HOWEVER, it did sync up rather well. Perhaps you just need some heavy metal?
DH: I’ve listened to plenty! No assistance! What would you give it?
MM: You know, I understand your various gripes, but at the end of the day, I enjoy the story as a whole (looking at the scope of it from issue 1), and I find it incredibly satisfying – metal and all. I would honestly give it an 8.9 – if only because I still miss Caselli.
DH: 8.9! Crazy talk!
MM: Crazy shmazy, man! I liked the issue a lot!