In the same week that Jonathan Hickman debuts as new writer of the "Fantastic Four" monthly, he takes over the full writing reigns on "Secret Warriors," one of the best new series of the year. By all accounts, this series has been the Hickman show since the beginning, with Brian Michael Bendis credited as a co-writer more as a formality than a practical relationship. Bendis drafted Hickman for this project, and it's been his comic since the beginning, supposedly, so it probably doesn't matter that Hickman's alone atop the "writer" credit with this issue.
But none of that matters as much as this: issue #7 might be the best issue of the series so far.
I finally grew accustomed to the Caselli/Rudoni art after seeing it for six issues -- and while I still think it's too clean, too slick, and too Devil's Due for this particular project, I didn't mind it very much by the end of issue #6 -- but issue #7 brings a new art team, with Alessandro Vitti drawing and Sunny Gho providing the colors. Gho's colors are more reasonable than Rudoni's were, but they are still too overbearing. And Vitti can draw some nasty bad guys (Norman Osborn has a menacing grin and the Thunderbolts look loaded for super-bear), but he's not as technically proficient as Caselli.
In other words, the art fits the tone of this series a bit better, but I kind of miss the original art team. I know, I'm fickle.
Hickman's writing here is superb, though. He continues to establish the badassery of Nick Fury (which seems like the easiest thing in the world to do, but I've read plenty of lame S.H.I.E.L.D. stories over the decades), he spends more time on the interpersonal dynamics between the members of the so-called "Secret Warriors," and he gives us a great scene between Norman Osborn and Baron Strucker, in which Osborn bluntly explains exactly what he did to Strucker's children (as seen in the "Thunderbolts" series).
Oh, and the story opens with an explosive bank robbery, led by Nick Fury.
This issue hums along, deftly moving from scene to scene and setting up the next stage of the development of the "Secret Warriors": raising money to finance a war. A war between the 3,000-strong Howling Commandos and the Osborn-led H.A.M.M.E.R. And Norman Osborn isn't going to let himself get on the defensive in this conflict.
Good stuff, Jonathan Hickman. Well played.