Sunny Gho is a better fit for Stefano Caselli than Daniele Rudoni was. Let’s just make that clear at the start. While Rudoni bathed the early issues of this series in pea soup hues and garish highlights, Gho favors metallic greys and earthy browns with flashes of red or blue for accent. So, yes, it’s nice to have Caselli back on this series he helped launch, but it’s even better to have a colorist that brings out the best in him. This issue looks striking.
And it looks to be back on track story-wise, as well. Jonathan Hickman has stumbled a bit in recent months with “Secret Warriors” (even while racing to the realms of awesome with his “Fantastic Four”) as the characters have stepped in and out of hassles with Norman Osborn’s Reign o’ Darkness. The intrigue, the complex layers, the counter-double-secret espionage of the first story arc was lost, or so it seemed.
It’s back now. Characters like Gorgon and Kraken have returned, and some depth has been added to their interactions. They are instantly iconic, and they don’t need to be fleshed out much, but Hickman provides just enough back story to make them matter. And he does so by weaving in some features of the previous few issues — the ones that seemed tangential — showing that even his apparent derailment was merely a change in direction, a tour through other essential regions, that would lead back home eventually.
I don’t know how accessible this series is at this point. Eleven issues in and even I’m not sure who all the players are, and I certainly don’t know what their motivations are. There are wheels within wheels within boxcars of buzzsaws. But that’s the attraction here. “Secret Warriors” is, at its core, about Nick Fury and his team (his ever-expanding team) regaining a balance of power, taking back the world from the secret societies that have, it turns out, always been in control. Yet the machinations, the layers of organization and counter-organization, are impossible to get a grip on. You’d need a Hickman-designed diagram, pages of them, to fully grasp who is working for whom and what they all want.
But the genius of this series is that Hickman keeps that stuff behind the curtain. The “secret” here isn’t just in the title. I don’t know if Hickman does have pages and pages of diagrams to show how all of his pieces fit together — though I’m convinced he does — but it’s the promise of the mystery that makes this series so compelling.
And though we got away from that for a few months we’re back in the thick of it again, and when you get a final page where Nick Fury says, “Hell’s comin’ — and I’m comin’ right behind it,” that’s a series that I’ll follow anywhere. Even if I don’t want to know where it’s headed.