by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Mirko Colak (art), IFS (colors), and Dave Lanphear (letters)

The Story: The series’ conclusion looms in site as Nick Fury initiates the assault on Gehenna.

What’s Good: Jonathan Hickman does a solid job this month of establishing the scope of the current status quo in Secret Warriors.  As things come together, it is abundantly clear that there is a war going on, and it’s huge, finally exploding outward in a big way, no longer capable of being kept in the shadows.  Everything that’s made the series all cloak-and-dagger boils over in a big way.

Mirko Colak’s art does in many ways help to establish this feel.  The opening few pages are haunting in the gravity of the destruction they convey.  There’s a disquieting sense of silence and desolation despite the explosions illustrated and a grim, desperate feel throughout.

What’s Not So Good: Unfortunately, Colak’s art is poor in almost every other respect.

Character faces often seem inexplicably swollen, reducing their eyes to slits.  Other characters just seem wrong in general: Yo-Yo looks African, Daisy frequently appears unmistakably Asian, and Alexander looks like a geriatric gnome.  Then there’s Eden, who looks so physically jacked and lantern-jawed that I didn’t even know who he was at first.  Daisy and Yo-Yo are also not helped by a sudden and radical shift in hairstyle.  Why is Yo-Yo bald?  Why does Daisy have standard, shoulder-length hair all of a sudden?  Both are awful decisions.

Hickman doesn’t hold up his end either.  I’ve read pretty much every issue of every comic that Hickman has ever written and I’m fairly certain that this is the worst.  Most discomforting is that I can’t help but feel that this book is a sign of Hickman’s non-linear storytelling crashing down around his head as he has to actually conclude what he started.

Take the first few pages, which basically rush us through massive events that should have been relayed to us gradually over successive story-arcs.  But no, after apparently frittering away his time with Dum Dum’s story (which, at this point, looks all but tangentially related) among other things, Hickman seems to realize that the final issue is creeping up on him and he has nowhere near enough time to get his characters and his world where they need to be for his planned ending.  So he just crushes crucial developments and information into a few tediously narrated images that open this issue up and calls it a day.

Aside from being bad in its own right, this also has the effect of robbing what happens this month of its significance.  An assault on Gehenna should feel vital, the stakes should be high, and I should be excited.  It should feel like a culmination of everything that’s happened thus far.  But it doesn’t.  At all.  It just feels like yet another Nick Fury-led op, yet another adventure for our team, not the pulse-pounding endgame Hickman intends.

Then there’s JT.  Hickman’s provides an explanation for JT’s betrayal that is so half-assed and cliché that I can’t believe a writer like Hickman could stoop to it.  It’s ill-defined and generally a miserable disappointment.  Again, I can’t help but feel that had Hickman spent more time on JT and Daisy, had he done more to portray their relationship and external/internal conflicts, we’d’ve gotten a much better, much more nuanced reason for JT’s actions.  However, due to a lack of time spent on character development, we get this slop.

Conclusion: Nick Fury’s expression on the cover perfectly captures my feelings about this issue.

Grade: D

-Alex Evans