By Jonathan Hickman (writer), Dustin Weaver (artist), Christina Strain (colors)

Dear Jonathan Hickman,

I think I’m in love with you.

Being a recently divorced, heterosexual, thirty-something I don’t admit this easily to the Internet, but shit man, your stories excite me like a twenty-dollar hooker on a Friday night!!! You’ve had my attention ever since The Nightly News, but with S.H.I.E.L.D. you have earned my adoration and accolades, both of which I will gladly bestow upon you until the end of time provided you can continue to give me storytelling as glorious as what you’re offering on this comic. S.H.I.E.L.D. is a miraculous, confounding book: saturated with ideas and intelligence, it demands my respect even as I wonder what the hell it is trying to achieve. You know what, though? For the abundance of imagination you’re giving me, I will gladly wait every two months to find out where you’re taking this story, because it demands respect, and I will gladly give it.

The moment that best defines this issue, in my humble opinion, was that double splash page of Leonardo Da Vinci flying within hundreds of feet of the Sun, looking like an antiquated Icarus in his steampunk spacesuit. When I saw that and beheld its beauty, it occurred to me that this was a story about defying expectations and refusing to accept limitations. I rather like that. And then you had to go and have Leonardo and Isaac Newton have a cryptic conversation in Egyptian hieroglyphics, and later have Da Vinci witness the birth of a Celestial and have it speak to him in mathematics. Come on, man! Are you completely trying to blow my mind here!? Cuz if you are…. well done, sir. Every page of your bi-monthly epic forces me to pay attention, read closely, despise the end of every issue, and savor the arrival of the next issue after it, and while some readers may resent being strung along from issue to issue without fully understanding the scope of what you’re achieving here, I for one happen to love coming along for the ride and feel this continues to be some of the best comic entertainment I can buy.

This month’s issue was quite illuminating, and yet still as baffling as the three before it. There was such an epic quality to that first encounter between Newton and Da Vinci as they sized each other up it reminded me of two generals competing for control of the same army. A shot was fired somewhere in those first few pages, perhaps when Da Vinci exposed the mysterious Human Machine to the assembled brother of S.H.I.E.L.D., or perhaps even earlier than that when Newton so selfishly tortured Nostradamus in pursuit of his own self, yet still painfully elusive agenda. But then a thought occurred to me: Although Newton’s methods are a tad…extreme, we don’t know that he’s anymore of a bad guy than Da Vinci is a good guy. And if each man, theoretically, has his own vision of how S.H.I.E.L.D. should be ran, then why is the Night Machine going out of his way to fuck things up for everyone? These are the things I lay awake some nights thinking about, and it’s genuinely rare for me to care about twenty-two silly pieces of paper as much as I do when they’re the products of your imagination.

And Weaver? Don’t think I’m sitting here resisting your wily charms. I don’t know how you do it, but I’m glad you do. Your linework defines Hickman’s flights of fancy with a level of detail that is as beautiful as it is unsettling. I can’t even imagine how you began to start thinking what a pregnant Celestial might look like, but the final result, as well as the birth of its progeny, left me feeling thoroughly satisfied that I had seen New Things, and wouldn’t you agree that it is this quality that makes books like S.H.I.E.L.D. so absolutely necessary to the landscape of American comics?

Guys, if you should happen to find a box of chocolates and a dozen red roses on your doorsteps, please accept them anyway as humble tokens of my appreciation for all your efforts and my slight mancrushiness for your brilliant storytelling. Way to make comics fascinating, gentlemen.

-Tony Rakittke