You’ve probably heard of the “Secret Warriors,” right? But do you know as much as you think you know? Have you heard of the arc starring Daisy Johnson? Have you always wanted to read it, but never had the time? Have you seen “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and thought you know all you needed to know? Well, I’m here to tell you that you’d be wrong.
It’s a departure from the “Avengers,” it’s quite different as opposed to other comics, which may be why it’s not necessarily as popular as other Marvel properties, along with the characters it features. (But hey, Captain America is in it, too!) But the differences are what make it unique, they’re exactly what makes it great.
15. ALL THAT GREY AREA
When you have heroes like the Avengers, you have clearly drawn lines about black and white. Good and bad. But characters like Daisy, and like Nick Fury, and even J.T., there’s that so-called grey area. What is considered crossing the line, and what’s considered protecting a friend? Maybe it just depends on who those people are to you, how well you know them. Or maybe it’s not. This isn’t explored in a crystal clear way, but it’s something that’s shown throughout.
You’re used to the good guys being the ones that don’t kill the bad guys, because that wouldn’t make them any better (or whatever sanctimonious speech the leader of the group makes). Except, out there, in this post-S.H.I.E.L.D. existence, it’s kill or be killed. Even Alex, our 10-year-old demigod, has blood on his hands, and he’s unrepentant about it. Because, very clearly, it was them or him. And who’s going to protect the world from Hydra if they don’t?
14. MCU PARALLELS
Well, the biggest one is obvious, I think, don’t you? The fact that Hydra had hid inside S.H.I.E.L.D., growing stronger and stronger until it could emerge on its own? That’s definitely true. That’s definitely a parallel, and it doesn’t take a genius to determine that’s where the MCU got the idea. But what about the smaller things? If you’re wondering if I’m going to mention the whole “Secret Warriors” arc in “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” don’t waste your breath, because I won’t. That whole fiasco was not “Secret Warriors,” and it only had two members of the original team.
I tend to compare the relationship that Daisy and J.T. had to the relationship between Skye (not yet Daisy) and Grant Ward – because of the obvious: he was the mysterious man who didn’t much care for the leader and was working for Hydra with the insistence that the woman of his affections would not be hurt. That word was kept…but at a cost. Not everyone came out of it unscathed, like Alex, in “Secret Warriors,” or Fitz, in “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Although Fitz’s hypoxia just sort of…disappeared as soon as it was convenient.
13. GOD HELP THE OUTCASTS
Along with them being the children of these other known names, there was one more thing they had in common. They were outcasts. They were even, to a point, afraid of themselves and their abilities – like J.T.’s, which was more or less unexplainable. They had been cast out from their normal lives because of what they were, and they sort of found a family by being amongst others just like them.
They were also nobodies. That was why Fury had recruited them when the Skrull invasion became apparent: he assumed that they could be trusted, because they weren’t famous heroes that the Skrulls would’ve been posing as. That’s a clever idea, really, and that’s part of why I, along with many others, love this storyline so much. They go from being zeros to heroes, and I think that’s remarkable. Even J.T. has his moments, despite his eventual betrayal of his friends.
12. WHOSE CHILD IS IT, ANYWAY?
Honestly, one of the most interesting things about Secret Warriors (at least, that I didn’t know about it going in), is that they’re essentially made up of second-rate heroes whose parents were once villains or heroes themselves. Alex’s father was literally the Greek god of war. Daisy’s father was the villain Mr. Hyde, J.T. was a descendant of the Phantom Rider and Jerry Sledge was revealed to be the son of Carl Creel, or the Absorbing Man.
Not surprisingly, none of them have had particularly good upbringings, and getting their abilities had not been pleasant experiences. Daisy blamed her father for her seismic powers, because he had toyed with his D.N.A. prior to her conception, and it was that which activated the latent Inhuman ability within her. J.T.’s family was more or less disconnected from the name Slade, he didn’t find out about it until much later, and Creel…well, you can imagine how well that lifestyle worked for his son.
11. UNDENIABLE LOSS
Most comic arcs, especially the darker, grittier ones, feature the death (or presumed death) of a main character. It happens over and over, and it’s because death is a natural part of war. There are casualties on both sides, and if a good guy goes down, you just hope that they managed to take down a good few of the bad guys in their effort. But something you witness over time in Secret Warriors is also the loss of innocence. Alex is just a boy when he joins Fury’s team, a 10-year-old boy. And while he’s no ordinary boy by any means, he’s certainly not an adult. Yet, he learns the most about sacrifice, and it’s him whose death takes a toll on the team.
Another loss was J.T., in more than one sense. He was killed, yes, but hadn’t the team lost him long before he died? His betrayal was a loss of hope and a loss of love, for Daisy. Which, privately, I think is what inspired her to stand up and be strong. Not to grieve for him, which she had been doing. Maybe J.T.’s loss was imperative so that S.H.I.E.L.D. could survive, it’s always a possibility.
10. A WOMAN OF HYDRA
Madame Hydra is a compelling villain in her own right. She may not have any superhuman abilities, but she has been trained almost her whole life in the service of Hydra – she even married Wolverine at one point to further the cause. With Hydra out in the open and only the Secret Warriors strike teams to fight back against them, she’s there to lead Hydra into battle, and to victory.
For those of you ladies (and guys) that love a strong female villain, Madame Hydra is your gal. She earned top place in her ranks, gaining herself the name Viper, at first. She did work freelance for a while as a mercenary, but she stayed true to her roots. When Hive awoke, she returned to Hydra. However, Viper was killed by the then Madame Hydra. But Hive did her a favour: he reanimated her, this time with a squid atop her head that included a telepathic connection.
9. BETRAYAL NEVER COMES FROM ENEMIES
I mentioned before that Daisy and J.T. were romantically involved, right? Well, here’s the thing: J.T. isn’t into the whole “hero” thing. He likes money, but what they’re doing just isn’t cutting it. So Hydra sidled in and offered him money to spy on his teammates in order to help Hydra find out what they’re doing and when. Naturally, he takes it.
Well, that leads the Secret Warriors into an ambush that ultimately gets Phobos (Alexander) killed. They’re grief-stricken, but listen, Fury is ruthless and nothing gets by him. During the rush to get out, Hellfire (J.T.) ends up slipping, and Fury catches him. Then Fury lets him know like, “By the way dude, I know it was you” and then lets him fall to his death. Betrayal really doesn’t work for anybody in the Marvel universe, but it definitely makes for heartbreak and a more compelling story. “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” learned that quite well, I think.
8. WHY THEY HAVE TRUST ISSUES
“Secret Warriors” is special because it’s S.H.I.E.L.D.’s first full comic arc post-Skrull invasion, meaning that it’s also after S.H.I.E.L.D. itself was revealed to have been under Hydra’s control all along. The team hides out at various bases that only Fury knows about. So while Hydra is out there and biding its time, so are they. They train, they fight and they retreat, all in order to regroup and fight another day.
Also, think about what they’re just coming away from, too: Skrulls. Shape-shifters that look just like them, except they’re not them. That’s got to give even the boldest person some trust issues. And I think that sort of plays off pretty well. They’re battered and broken, but they’re holding their own as best they can for as long as they can. And although they take some hits, they don’t get put down permanently, and they do end up on top, with S.H.I.E.L.D. starting up again under Daisy Johnson’s direction.
7. CUT OFF ONE HEAD…
This might be a little subjective, but Hydra is one of my more favourite villainous organisations. Whether they’re in comics, films or television, they’re just the right sort of diverse and have just the right sort of patience. The Hydra we see in the MCU films and in “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” isn’t so different from the one in the comics, although admittedly, there are more varied leaders.
And one of the most interesting of those leaders is the creature known as Hive. The MCU’s take on this particular villain is considerably different from the character’s origins, with the MCU having him be an Inhuman who can possess the bodies of dead humans. Once only a man, the comic book version of Hive joined Hydra and was found in perfect condition for an experimental program. He was taken to the Hive base, and over a painful period of six years, parasites ate away at him until there was nothing left: just the Hive.
6. NICK’S GOT A GUN
MCU fans know Nick Fury as Samuel L. Jackson, the fearless director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Which he is, no doubt, and some of his bits in Captain America: The Winter Soldier are my favourites in the MCU as a whole. In “Secret Warriors,” he’s somewhat different. He’s in charge, but he’s also a director without an organisation. And in the aftermath of the Skrull invasion, Fury learns that Hydra had been hidden within his own organisation, and he had never even known. That’d do a number on anyone.
Naturally, Fury’s kind of a loose cannon, and though Daisy Johnson looks up to him, it’s evident that his one task is getting rid of Hydra for good. That’s absolutely not a bad thing, but she has to take a stand and tell him that he doesn’t decide what’s the best for her team, including getting rid of a man who he thought was only a liability. (It turned out to be the best thing for him, but that isn’t the point.)
5. A SOAP OPERA?
Stories usually don’t work without some sort of drama. You can have all the action and adventure in the world, but every character needs some sort of weakness, and the Secret Warriors have those by the bucketload. Not like it’s a soap opera or anything, but there’s definitely Daisy and J.T.’s relationship that’s a whole arc all by itself, and the rest of the story would have been entirely changed if not for it. (Maybe less people would have died.)
But personally, I believe it’s one of the better romances in Marvel comics. Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s some overly-dramatic romance stories, but I was attracted to Quake and Hellfire’s drama immediately. The straight-laced agent and the rogue, the guy who…well, ends up betraying the people he supposedly cares about, all because he just wants to keep her safe. All in all, “Secret Warriors” is gritty and sometimes dark, but it’s not without the drama that all emotional stories tend to carry.
4. ACTUAL GREEK MYTHOLOGY
Okay, so this is actually pretty sweet. You might think it’s weird that a 10-year-old is part of Fury’s team, right? It sort of is, except Alexander Aaron isn’t exactly a normal 10-year-old. He’s a demigod: son of the Greek God Ares, god of war, and a mortal woman. The intention was for Alex to grow up normally, but before that could happen, he was kidnapped and trained to be a swordsman. Although he was rescued and his honed skills were erased along with his brainwashing, Alex still joined the Secret Warriors and ended up facing off with the Skrulls in Central Park.
We see Ares from time to time, but it’s when Phobos (Alexander) gets brought to judgment before the gods that it gets cool. Because there’s more than just Greek Mythology; he’s also judged by Balder the Brave (Baldur, in the Norse tradition), Hera, and Quetzacoatl (of the Aztecs). Alex is told he is worthy of the title “God of Fear,” because he shows none of it. But the thing is, Alex is a demigod. In order to be welcomed to Olympus, he must die and be reborn.
3. A FAMILY BY CHOICE
Great stories are never just about one hero, they’re about many. Why do you think so many people like the Avengers? They’re a group of people from all over, with different backgrounds, different abilities and have different political opinions. However, somehow, when the world’s in danger, they manage to get together, work together, and beat the bad guys. The Secret Warriors aren’t much different.
Even sometimes, there are scenes where they’re just sitting down and having a meal, having a drink, playing cards…like those moments when Hellfire tries to slip Phobos a sip of beer, despite the fact that he’s only 10 years old. And their dynamic in particular is one of my favourites: it’s fun, and ultimately, tragic. They have their differences. Daisy, at first, respects Fury tremendously, despite J.T.’s hatred for him, and even though he has no respect for their initial leader, he stays on the team anyway.
2. HOWLING COMMANDOS
Who hasn’t heard of the Howling Commandos? They’re Captain America’s World War II buddies, who helped liberate Europe and fought the good fight, right? Bet you didn’t know that Nick Fury was at one point a member of the Howling Commandos. In issue #17 of “Secret Warriors,” Fury meets up with them at the Sandbox – and not only them, either. In their company were Steve Rogers and Sharon Carter.
The story arc is appropriately titled “Last Ride of the Howling Commandos,” and unlike the rest of the “Secret Warriors” run, it focuses not on Daisy and her team, but on Dum Dum Dugan and the rest of the Howling Commandos. If nothing else, they tell great stories about what it was like during the war, and we certainly learn some things about Cap – “I don’t like sauerkraut,” and the like. The story is a different pace than the others and a little jarring, but it definitely brings in the fan favourites, so it was hardly a misstep.
1. CAPTAIN DAISY
If you’re looking for a strong female character, Daisy definitely fills that description. In the past few years, Daisy Johnson has become quite a popular Marvel character, what with her introduction in “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” But as with most MCU renditions, Chloe Bennet’s Daisy is quite different from her comic book counterpart. Believed at first to be a mutant with a seismic ability, it was discovered later that her abilities came from her biological mother’s Inhuman lineage.
For most of her childhood, Daisy grew up as “Cory Sutter,” the name chosen by her adoptive parents. As an adult, she was one of the few S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives to gain “Level 10” clearance, and after the Skrull invasion and learning that Hydra had resided within S.H.I.E.L.D. for years, Fury looked to Daisy to head a strike team. With the Secret Warriors in pieces, Daisy was chosen as the Director of the “new” S.H.I.E.L.D. In her time as Director, she recruited a man named Phil Coulson. She even joined the Avengers for a while.
Are you reading “Secret Warriors?” Tell us what you think about it in the comments!