"Secret Warriors" is a special book that comes along rarely. Take this issue, where Jonathan Hickman manages to spend considerable time on an illuminating and character-rich conversation between Nick Fury and the Contessa, but also packs in an unpredictable action scene that will surprise many. In superhero comic terms, somehow, "Secret Warriors" gets to have its cake and eat it, too.
After last issue's reunification of Hydra under Baron von Strucker, Madame Hydra, Viper, the Hive, Kraken, and the newly resurrected Gorgon, the group has been busy, raiding S.H.I.E.L.D. covert bases and taking what's there for itself. Fury aims to put a stop to that by activating his Commandos.
Meanwhile, Fury himself has dinner with his on-again, off-again love, Contessa. Hickman's writing of their conversation is nuanced and feels like two old lovers meeting once again. As an outsider (off sorts), Contessa can raise questions about Fury that no one else will. Questions that Fury can't, or won't, answer easily. As in any good spy comic, what's not said is just as important as what is said.
The rescue mission doesn't go as planned as the Commandos participate in a full-on fight with Hydra's forces. The action here is exhilarating with lightning-quick pacing as the Commandos show what they can do. Stefano Caselli really shines in these sequences, clearly in his element, managing to portray the speed with which the battle happens without sacrificing clarity. With large groups, there's always the fear of things getting muddled under too many characters, but Caselli avoids that pitfall by, wisely, focusing on smaller numbers of characters at any given time.
Where Caselli falters is in the scenes featuring Fury and Contessa. While he handles action sequences impressively, his work on quieter, character-driven scenes is still lacking. At times, his figures don't seem to match their dialogue, especially their faces. He does an able job, but simply cannot keep up with Hickman's dialogue, which does the heavy-lifting in those scenes. It's odd, because Caselli's character work is much better at the beginning of the issue, but, otherwise, he does a great job here.
Each issue of "Secret Warriors" has been a step up from the previous with Hickman, Bendis, and Caselli upping the ante with each issue. This issue includes a surprise or two that readers won't see coming, but should have. Intriguing characters, a fantastic concept, enthralling action, and the odd "Oh my god!" moment -- "Secret Warriors" has it all.