Jonathan Hickman and Dustin Weaver (and colorist Christina Strain, who really shines on the issue) come together to give us an intriguing prelude to what promises to be a very interesting series, based on the notion that some of the world's most famous historical figures have been working together for centuries to stop threats to Earth before the "Age of Marvels" ever began.
If you'll note the usage of the word "prelude" above, that's really how this issue read. It was a strong issue, as Hickman introduced some very interesting concepts, but it really read more as a set-up for future issues rather than as its own entity.
I think a lot of this came from the relative underdeveloped nature of the "hero" of the book, a young man named Leonid who is enlisted into a secret organization known as The Shield.
As you can see, Leonid certainly appears to have some sort of cosmic awareness.
In any event, throughout the rest of the comic, we get to see various instances of historical figures interacting with established Marvel alien bad guys, like the Brood, as seen here...
Click on the double-page spread to enlarge.
(As a quick aside, Dustin Weaver has already mentioned that it was accidental that Imhotep has such a light complexion - it'll be fixed in the trade)
Now, don't get me wrong - these quick asides are brilliant. Imhotep, young Apocalypse and an ancient version of Moon Knight in an Avengers-esque team? That's awesome.
However, the only downside of all of these little asides is that it makes the entire book more of a prelude than an actual chapter in the narrative. Think about it this way - after perhaps the first two historical asides, we understood the concept - historical figures fighting against Marvel characters.
So the narrative really did not NEED all of these confirmations of the established concept.
Naturally, thoughts like that are countered by the sheer awesomeness of the set pieces - Gallileo against Galactus? That's way cool, and Dustin Weaver (and the brilliant Strain) do a great job on these magnificent set pieces. The brilliance of Weaver's art on the set pieces, though, does make it odd to me when some of the other pages seem almost pedestrian in comparison. Heck, just look at the sample pages above - the Imhotep pages seem to be given a lot more attention than the Leonid pages. I can certainly understand why that would be, but it's still a bit odd when it gets to the point where it's actually somewhat noticeable.
If you're reading Secret Warriors, then you'll already probably know what the counterpart to the Shield (the Spear) developed into over the years, which is a very cool bit by Hickman, establishing these histories in Secret Warriors before addressing them here.
I don't meant to give the impression that this was not a very good comic book - it was. Especially the striking ending, with a figure from the past apparently traveling through time for some great event. I was just not expecting this issue to read so much like a #0 issue instead of a #1.
It's still very well-written with strong artwork by Weaver (with some pieces particularly strong) and Strain, so I'm looking forward to seeing what comes next (quick question - do you think that the two agents with the familiar last names are actually who you would naturally think they are?)!!