S.H.I.E.L.D. is a hard title to review just as one issue because that’s like placing a dirty beer glass over a section of “Virgin of the Rocks” and critiquing what you see. Though these single issues do stand on their own a little better than that analogy might imply, each issue certainly is one piece of the larger puzzle and must be taken as such. This issue gives us insight into two of the main characters amidst a glut of ideas and knowledge.
There’s a feeling that Hickman is swinging for the bleachers on this one, and while I think he’s going to get it we’re only going to see the moment with a few feet of airtime at a go. We are presented with basically two major moments for two major characters but it’s the canvas on which it’s presented that is meant to keep the pundits here every second month.
There’s a glory of concept and intellect on display that reminds of "All Star Superman" or "Gødland." Hickman is rewriting the Marvel universe by deconstructing the little things we didn’t know about and didn’t know to ask about. He paints in glorious sweeps of his brush and the series is the most satisfying, the most epic, when he’s dealing with centuries within mere pages. It’s like a mind-bending guide or handbook, not a narrative.
But that’s also the major flaw in “S.H.I.E.L.D.” and the reason many will trade wait. The little character moments aren’t always working. They usually are; Newton is really evolving as a bastard, but Leonid (our eyes into the entire series) is a man who I still have no feel for. He’s a passenger in every scene. While it might be hard to work against the titans of science throughout history, it is Hickman’s job to make Leonid more interesting. Four issues in and I still don’t know our ‘main’ man.
I am feeling the historical figures, though, and the dashing Da Vinci is a glory in every scene. It doesn’t matter how he manages to fly to the sun (beating both heat and years to make the journey), what matters is that when he gets there he knows what he’s doing. He’s going to deliver a baby that was planted there hundreds of years ago. Yeah, it’s ideas like this that might turn some away but that completely fascinate me. It’s aggressive intimidation of innovation and exploration.
Each issue delivers in the art completely. Weaver is building the sort of worlds that only true architects dream of. The science is constantly bent like light through a prism, but this monster of science seems to be missing a heart. It’s bombastic and impressive but it isn’t personal and it needs to be at some stage or else it will detach from the reader. If the focus falls on Nostradamus and Da Vinci, then this can be attained but for now there’s a hollow disengagement that doesn’t always draw you in though you can’t help but be awed anyway. This issue is good, make no doubt; there are a few very satisfying sequences, but it deserves to be titanic.