“S.H.I.E.L.D.” has so far split the readership and this issue might only serve to widen that divide as these vignettes are ethereal and cerebral. If that separation occurs, it would be a shame because there is much to study on these pages. This issue is not the bombastic history Jonathan Hickman is crafting across this title but it is the first and most important Appendix in appreciating the figures with which he is playing the game.
These tales are quick and fleeting but they might just contain little Rosetta Stones to deciphering the entirety of the series and the motivations of some of the central characters. It would not pay to miss out on what is presented here. These brush strokes are important and something to be savored. It's nice to have this space to explore the internal instead of the constant external.
Hickman writes each tale like he's writing history. Which he is. There's an erudite quality to the words he chooses, the silence he lingers on, and of course the characters he's using. The first tale might fly close to being fanfic but The Colossus of Rhodes fighting a Kree Sentry truly is more than you can expect from a comic. It's proof that this series still wants to be fun and play with your desires of what a Marvel comic is and can be.
Nostradamus, Nikola Tesla, and to some degree Michelangelo, all get their time to shine (pun intended for Michelangelo) but their pages are more character dressing than pure plot narrative. This is insight into these men, as their motives and futures become slightly clearer within this anthology. Isaac Newton is already established as a character in the book, we know what he is and what he's capable of, but it's interesting to see a little more written down here for us to analyze. The man is driven, surely, but he's also a little crazy.
The art in this issue is extremely varied. Nick Pitarra's work is cartoony in a comic book way. His work is a great match for the ludicrous fight of the story. Zachary Baldus has a much more independent flavor to his pages, the color and the sound effects work to create the narrative, as well. Kevin Mellon plays with the scope of the page settings to convey the immense nature of the subject matter. Gabriel Hernandez Walta comes across like an evil newspaper cartoon, though the flashback panels hold a woodcut quality that is enchanting. These men might not replace Dustin Weaver, but they all make a smart decision not to try to emulate his work.
This anthology is a solid concept with deft execution. While it might feel thin, it is actually expanding the universe of this narrative. This is helping you get to know these titans of science better and that should never be cause for concern. Hickman sells each tale with a personal hook and this works to make for fascinating and sometimes scary reading.