One of the many, many things I've come to love about "Secret Warriors" is that there's always a moment each issue that Hickman gives the reader a gift. It can be a revelation on someone's identity, perhaps it's a surprise object being discovered, or a sudden transformation of fortune. Whatever the gift, though, it's always a payoff for everything that's led up to that point. When you read the comic, you'll want to stop for a moment and say out loud, "Oh, cool." And really, shouldn't every comic evoke that sort of feeling?
"Secret Warriors" delivers again on that front, as the first half of the issue devotes itself to HYDRA's latest problems even as one of the higher ups has a dramatic shift in status. It wasn't at all what I expected, but the greatness wasn't the surprise but rather where it puts this character for the future. It's a wonderful hook, and also a reminder that "Secret Warriors" is just as much a book about HYDRA as it is Nick Fury and his band of superheroes. I never thought I'd be interested in seeing a series of flashbacks about Viper, or seeing HYDRA fight the Leviathan group. Hickman makes it work, though, and engrossingly so.
It's funny, because after all the great stuff in the first half (to say nothing with Nick Fury's dinner date, and all I can say is wow that's one way to bring flowers), I initially felt a tiny bit let down with the scenes with the actual Secret Warriors. It's still good, but with reactions about Druid's dismissal still going on, it does feel like it's moving a little slowly. I appreciated it more on a re-read (it feels like Hickman's getting all of his pieces in position), and it's still a fun group of characters even when they accomplish precious little.
Stefano Caselli and Sunny Gho, meanwhile, are still knocking the art out of the park. From the winter landscape outside the Long Winter base (complete with flecks of snow blowing through Gorgon's hair), to the softer lines and colors of the Viper flashbacks, everything here feels like it flows and glides across the page, with a grace that few artists can bring to the page. Caselli's good at the big moments, too, like the "gotcha" moment within the restaurant as all is revealed to the reader as well as the diners. Gho's colors mesh wonderfully with Caselli, too; it makes the entire book look like it was painted, and raises and lowers the intensity to help set the mood of each scene.
"Secret Warriors" is a seriously fun book from start to finish, and this issue is no exception. If you aren't reading "Secret Warriors" you're missing out on a great, anything-goes series; trust me, this is a book that just keeps getting better every month.