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This is Not How the World Ends

May 10, 2010

     Few new series have come out recently with as much hype and fanfare behind them as S.H.I.E.L.D., and with S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 out on the stands, it’s easy to see why.  Jonathan Hickman’s visionary tale of the secret society behind the protection of humanity begins with a young man named Leonid being taken by two mysterious men in coats to Rome.  There, layers under the modern city, he meets the High Council of the Shield, who explain about the origin of their order.  Imhotep defended Egypt from a Brood invasion, alongside Apocalypse and the original Moon Knight, and the shield he wielded, as well as what he symbolized, gave the group their name.  The council asks Leonid if he knows the ultimate fate of man, and when he asks how anyone could know that, we get flashbacks to Zhang Heng fighting off a Celestial in during the Han Dynasty in China, Leonardo da Vinci building a flying machine and a sphere in reaction to something growing inside the sun, and Galileo Galilei building some sort of ray machine to defeat Galactus.  Leonid stays with the order for three years, wishing to know what he is supposed to do.  Then, his father, the mysterious Night Machine, attacks the order and leads Leonid to a locked door and up the stairs behind it.  The two men who took Leonid arrive to fight with the Night Machine; they are none other than Nathaniel Richards, father of Mr. Fantastic, and Howard Stark, father of Iron Man.  Leonid follows the stairs up to a starry dome depicting the cosmos, and when it opens up, Leonardo da Vinci flies in, with the golden sphere open in his hands, claiming that it is the hope and the rescuing of all things.

     Damn.  That’s all I can say in reaction to that.  Damn.  Marvel really let Hickman have free reign with this story.  And even though it’s a massive retcon for the entire history of the Marvel Universe (Galactus attacking Earth in the 17th century?) and for S.H.I.E.L.D., it is absolutely awesome.  The idea that all these great men throughout history were all a part of the same order protecting Earth and humanity…  The symbolism of both the concept of the shield and the words they all say, which indicates that they know the final fate of man, it’s all so very literary and awesome.  I’m not really sure I believe that God is what gives these people that knowledge, but I’m sure Hickman will reveal the truth of that in due time.  I’m not sure how I feel about Howard Stark being a member of S.H.I.E.L.D.  Nathaniel Richards makes sense, but Howard?  I don’t know.  Then there’s all the questions about Leonid and his father.  Why does Leonid seem to sparkle like the night sky?  Who is the Night Machine, what is his agenda, and why has he fought Richards and Stark before (and apparently died)?  What is da Vinci holding, and how will it save everything?  And what was that thing in the sun?  All these questions are just so tantalizing that it makes me wish that the next issue was out already.  I do wish that this issue was more than mostly exposition, but this was some of the best exposition I’ve probably ever read.  Dustin Weaver also totally surprised me.  His work before seemed so mediocre, so bland, but in this book, he shines.  Everything looks absolutely gorgeous, and it’s all so technically sound.  The council’s outfits look kind of ridiculous, but that’s okay.  While Weaver isn’t suddenly my new favorite artist, since I still don’t find him as exciting as those who are my favorites, he’s certainly significantly better than I originally thought.  I’ll admit that the first time I read through this issue, I thought it was just a bunch of silly exposition and a lot of grand, Grant Morrison-esque ideas that didn’t lead to anything yet.  I thought it might be cool, but that people were just being too fanboyish.  Then I read it again, and I realized that Hickman’s writing one of the best superhero comic books I’ve ever read right here.  Hickman is undoubtedly the biggest new writer in mainstream comic books, and this is the book of the year, right here.  So why do we have to wait two months for the next issue?!

Plot: 9.5      Art: 9.2      Dialogue: 9.4      Overall: 9.5

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