Secret Warriors was a Marvel comics series that ran for 28 issues from 2009-2011. It was created by Brian Michael Bendis and Jonathan Hickman, with Hickman quickly taking full reins. The series began with art by the excellent Stefano Caselli.
The series deserves a full review for two primary reasons: a) It was a fine spy series and b) ABC’s Agents of SHIELD has pilfered many of their major storylines from Secret Warriors.
In order to provide an adequate review, I’ll have to spoil major storylines. So, spoilers ahead.
Secret Warriors featured a team of superpowered special agents under the direction of Nick Fury. The characters were introduced in Mighty Avengers #13, then debuted as a team during the Secret Invasion storyline.
The roster included:
- Daisy Johnson (Codename: Quake), Team Leader, and the daughter of Mister Hyde, who possesses the power to control seismic activity. (Here’s a full profile on the character Daisy Johnson.)
- Alexander Aaron (Codename: Phobos), son of Ares, the God of War. Phobos is the young God of Fear, who possesses the power to instill fear in others.
- Sebastian Druid (Codename: Druid), the son of Doctor Druid who shares his father’s skill with magic.
- Yo-Yo Rodriguez (Codename: Slingshot), the daughter of the Griffin. Yo-Yo runs at superhuman speed and bounces back to the point where she began running.
- J.T. James (Codename: Hellfire), is the grandson of the Phantom Rider and is able to charge items (typically a chain) with fire energy.
- Jerry Sledge (Codename: Stonewall), who is the son of Carl “Crusher” Creel, the Absorbing Man, and possesses similar abilities.
- Eden Fesi (Codename: Manifold), has reality warping powers and was previously under the care and training of the mutant Gateway.
I’ll give you a brief beat-by-beat of the major story threads, then offer some closing thoughts.
From a Secret Invasion to a Dark Reign
After the Skull invasion, Nick Fury revealed the true agenda to his secret warriors. HYDRA was bigger and more far reaching than he ever realized, evening having its tentacles in SHIELD for decades.
SHIELD was in shambles, so Fury went underground, while HYDRA went on the move. The series sets up Fury putting his secret warriors into place, while he also reassembled Dum Dum Dugan and his Howling Commandos.
Wake the Beast
Making matters worse, a long thought dormant agency of Leviathan began its ascendancy. The return of Leviathan complicated Fury’s plans, but also provided opportunities when HYDRA and Leviathan quickly went to war, giving Fury extra room and time to maneuver his own forces. The plot was thickening and deepening, even as the level espionage shot up.
It was during this period that Daisy Johnson discovered that her White Team – who served as Fury’s fist – was not the only team of special agents at Fury’s disposal. A Black Team was being run by Alexander Pierce, and was composed of the more unsavory operatives who were tasked with watching HYDRA. The other was the Gray Team and run by Fury’s son, Mikel Fury. They were tasked with recon into Leviathan.
Last Ride of the Howling Commandos
The time came for the major offensive against HYDRA that Fury had been building toward. The target was a secret HYDRA base deep inside the borders of China, which would be assaulted by Team Black and two helicarriers full of Howling Commandos.
Before making it out of China, the two helicarriers were intercepted by a superior HYDRA force and the Howling Commandos took major casualties. HYDRA now came after Team White and Team Gray. Daisy Johnson’s team took casualties, but it was shown that things were much worse for Team Gray, led by Fury’s son, Mikel.
Wheels within Wheels
In 1961, Fury – along with 11 more of the world’s greatest spies– met with Aries, secretly being Leonardo da Vinci. He assigns each of them a sign of the Zodiac and sends groups of them around the world to gather various artifacts from different locations.
In the present, Baron von Strucker and Nick Fury are both captives of the Kraken. It’s at this point that the big reveal is made, which I won’t dare spoil.
Is the Secret Warriors series any good? In the words of Nick Fury, “You can bet on it, soldier!”
Some things really shone bright in this series:
- Secret Warriors was METICULOUSLY plotted. Subtle clues in previous issues would invariably lead to big reveals later on in the series. The only way to read this series is from start to finish, preferable as a binge, and you dare not skip around or skip an issue. It’s brilliant in how the plot was woven.
- It’s a darned good spy story. Secret agents were double agents who might be triple agents. Darned if I knew sometimes who was working for whom and to what end, but I was whole-heartedly captivated.
- Nick Fury’s dialogue was spot on. There have been may attempts to modernize Nick Fury and it’s never worked. Secret Warriors was old school Nick Fury, a grizzled son of a gun with a knock for saying the absolute most biting (or confounding) things.
But there were some meh things in Secret Warriors as well:
- As is usual with Marvel’s series, they just can’t help themselves with the darned crossovers and tie-ins. Tie-ins were an occasional distraction to an otherwise very tight story. My eyes rolled every time Norman Osborn made a cameo and the Phobos storyline suffered as a result (although it was brought later to a satisfactory resolution). Marvel was producing several really strong stories during that time period (their Guardians of the Galaxy series was another fine example), yet all of them sputtered at times due to Marvel’s insistence on forcing tie-ins.
- The art was inconsistent. The primary artist, Stefano Caselli, was excellent, offering both fantastic characters and also great action and splash scenes. But the fill in artists were merely adequate, and occasionally bad.
- Daisy Johnson’s otherwise EXCELLENT characterization as a top talent and rising team leader was sidetracked by a forced love story. I’m not sure why an otherwise brilliant thinker like Daisy would be so foolish in romance, but her jackwagon fling did get his comeuppance in the end, so there’s that.
I give Secret Warriors 6 out of 8 nerds.
I want to give it an 8 out of 8, on just the strength of it’s brilliantly intricate and engaging storyline, but tie-in fatigue and art inconsistencies keep this from being a perfect series.
But make no mistake, it’s a fantastic binge read and the entire series is available on the Marvel Unlimited app.