Am I the only one who wishes that this book was called "Nick Fury: Agent of Nothing"? Those words have appeared on the cover of the first two issues of "Secret Warriors" and they really seem like a better title. "Secret Warriors" may make more sense since the book is about those who fight those hidden wars behind the scenes that determine who really controls the planet, but "Nick Fury: Agent of Nothing" just screams "This comic will knock you on your ass!"
That would be more fitting, since "Secret Warriors" is a comic that will knock you on your ass.
After last issue's major revelation, this issue divides its time between Baron Strucker as he works to make Hydra even bigger than it was before, and Nick Fury and his new Howlin' Commandos (or, Caterpillars if you prefer) as they prepare to move against the newly revealed Hydra. While last issue focused on setting up Fury's group, here, Hickman focuses more on character and sets up Hydra.
The opening pages work wonderfully to move Strucker from third-rate Bond villain to a capable adversary for Fury. If you check out the preview pages, you'll see how he makes short work of a group of Skrulls, acting effectively and ruthlessly. This is a Baron Strucker that you can believe as Nick Fury's opposite, not just as the head of a rival organization, but as someone equally formidable in combat and strategy. The rest of the issue builds on these opening pages as Strucker gathers the ruling class of Hydra, unafraid to act more openly since he knows that Fury knows about the true size and strength of Hydra. What's most interesting is that Strucker seems happy that Fury is aware of the real Hydra.
Hickman's focus on the Commandos (Caterpillars) and how they interact is interesting, especially when Phobos, the child god of fear, reveals some of his knowledge of the future. In a recent interview, Hickman revealed that he has extensive plans for this series and, here, he reveals some of them. It's not all good news for the group as not all of them will, apparently, make it out unscathed or, even, alive.
Stefano Caselli continues to impress me as I wasn't sure his style would suit the nature of this book, being a far cry from Hickman's own art. However, he really shows some chops not just in the short action sequences, but in the talking head scenes as well. His storytelling and facial expressions need improvement, but they more than do the job. His reworking of Strucker's look adds a lot to taking him seriously. Gone is the monocle and his facial scarring is greater than ever.
With Caselli's art and Hickman's writing, "Secret Warriors" is shaping up to be one of Marvel's best books after only two issues. These characters showed potential in "Secret Invasion" and look to be fulfilling it here. Hopefully, this book will make it through the 60 issues Hickman has planned.