Jonathan Hickman has always said that "Secret Warriors" was a finite series, with its beginning, middle, and end points pre-determined. Reading "Secret Warriors" #20, though, it's hard to keep from feeling like Hickman was told to wrap it up early. Because even though it's probably not the case (Hickman's said before the series will wrap up around #27 or 28), it's certainly how it comes across to the reader.
It doesn't help matters that the book opens with the caption "Six Months Later" and we quickly get a three page narration from Nick Fury explaining to the rest of the team everything that's happened with S.H.I.E.L.D., Hydra, and Leviathan since then. Never mind, of course, that they've been working for Fury all this time and should have a fairly good idea on what's been going on. It comes across as clumsy and as blatant exposition, and it makes you wonder if there wasn't one more storyline supposed to happen between the previous issue and this one that got axed.
More importantly, it destroys any sort of forward momentum "Secret Warriors" had. By being told, "This is what you missed" it leads you to wonder what other stories and events have happened that we aren't seeing. Are there other developments for the main characters we didn't find out about? And if not, how is it that nothing's happened to them for the past six months? This just doesn't work on multiple levels.
The rest of the issue's plotting isn't that much better, unfortunately. When a character specifically states that one member of the team is the sole person to get the group in and out of the enemy base before it explodes, well, it doesn't take psychic powers to correctly predict what will happen next. I normally expect a lot more from Hickman, but this issue isn't delivering.
New artist Mirko Colak's art also isn't quite up to snuff either, unfortunately. Everyone has a rough, oily look (apparently hair conditioner is not stocked in Fury's secret bases) and there's not a lot of expression on people's faces either. Aside from the rather dramatic destruction of a landmark in the first few pages of the comic, the art feels lacking in energy, even during fight scenes. It's an unattractive look for the series, and there are several pages where characters seem to almost get lost into the background.
"Secret Warriors" is normally a lot of fun, but this is the first issue in a while that just hasn't quite succeeded. Maybe my expectations are normally higher, but this isn't a good way to kick off the second-to-last storyline of the title.