Secret Warriors #5

The past few issues of "Secret Warriors" have been building to this: a confrontation between Nick Fury and H.A.M.M.E.R. Luckily, for Fury, he's got a little help from some old friends in the form of the Howling Commandos, former S.H.I.E.L.D. agents gone private, led by Dum Dum Dugan. Expect explosions a' plenty. While not as deep as previous issues, Hickman shows again that he can write compelling action sequences -- and, for a guy known more for comics filled with discussions of philosophy and science, that's something.

With the first four issues setting up this one as Fury and the Howling Commandos attack the now-under-H.A.M.M.E.R.-control Dock to steal a Helicarrier or three. And, thanks to an inside man, the defense grid is down, but that doesn't make it an easy target. Especially when Hydra, using its knowledge of the inner workings of S.H.I.E.L.D. and whatever secret operatives they have within the Commandos, joins in, hoping to hurt both Fury's forces and Osborn's new agency.

The opening scene is probably the best in that it shows off Hickman's dialogue and character skills with a new H.A.M.M.E.R. agent who only worked for S.H.I.E.L.D. for a few months before it got shut down paired with 28-year S.H.I.E.L.D. veteran who just happens to be Fury's man on the inside. The interplay between the two is very well done as the veteran sees the brash, headstrong man he used to be, ready to push the old guard aside and take charge... before he puts a bullet in his skull, because he's part of the other side. Hickman manages to sum up a lot about the life these people lead in just a few pages, which is remarkable.

Since this issue is mostly action, artist Stefano Caselli is leaned on heavier than any issue in the past to carry things and he does so well, for the most part. While he shines during the fighting, having no problems depicting humans or machines in battle, there are also panels that call for more subtle looks or body language that he doesn't always pull off. That's a slight criticism, though, as he does improve with each issue and you can still understand what he's getting at.

Where he does his best work, though, is when all three groups, the Howling Commandos, H.A.M.M.E.R. and Hydra engage one another. It would be easy to devolve into utter chaos in those scenes, but Caselli keeps things clear and never delivers crowded, muddled panels. Panels may be full of characters, but in that good George Perez kind of way.

While this issue does lack a certain depth that the previous four have delivered with some great character work by Hickman, this one also delivers a confrontation that's been building for the entire series. If anything, "Secret Warriors" #5 again proves that this is a book that is unafraid to move the plot forward quickly and to change the status quo issue to issue.

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