by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Alessandro Vitti (art), IFS (colors), and Dave Lanphear (letters)

The Story: The origins of Leviathan are revealed in a team-up of epic proportions.

The Review: Secret Warriors #25 is a very interesting issue, if for no other reason that it once again points to Jonathan Hickman carving his own little corner in the Marvel Universe.  His idiosyncratic SHIELD series bleeds over into Secret Warriors this month, and the result is that much of what makes that series good bleeds over.  That and, at a more basic level, it’s just pretty damned cool seeing Hickman’s hidden city and Leonardo Da Vinci in Secret Warriors.  It even threatens to make SHIELD feel less cryptic and inaccessible in a way, but I digress.  The presence of Da Vinci in particular (though he’s never actually named as such) makes everything seem way heavier and more significant and given the scope of SHIELD, it raises the game, and the stakes, as far as Secret Warriors is concerned.  Given that we’re heading to the series conclusion, that’s definitely a good thing.

As far as the plot goes, this is an issue that really lives up to the “Wheels Within Wheels” moniker.  Seeing all the power players of the Marvel spy-world working together under Da Vinci, regardless of what side they may be on, is damned cool.   Seeing Kraken, Baron Strucker, Fury, and hand ninjas all the same team is awesome and makes their shared goals seem all the more important.  Oh, and you even get to see who’s behind Kraken’s mask.

Unlike what has often been the case with the series, the story is still very large this month, but it’s also focused enough to feel excited about.  The characters are easy to root for, if for nothing but name value, and seeing the birth of Leviathan feels important.  And that’s the meat of it really: this issue feels important, not tangential or digressive.  That’s no small feat given that many of the series characters play no role this month and almost the entire issue is a flashback.  It’s an issue that feels vital and exciting and fully comprehensible, despite the massive and largely unfamiliar cast and the non-linear nature of it.

Furthermore, the art this month is very, very good and one of Alessandro Vitti’s best performances thus far.  Part of it is the extra-sized nature of the issue, but the other part of it is that in having to work in the shadow of Dustin Weaver, Vitti has clearly elevated his game.  While I’ll admit that at times, a couple members of the large cast are hard to distinguish from one another, I pin that more to the characters actually really looking similar to each other, feature-wise, as opposed to any fault of Vitti’s.  This is a great issue to look at overall.

That said, I can see some frustration arising from this issue, if not from all readers.  It is a bit absurd having us see the origins of Leviathan this late (for no purpose that I can see), and it’s even more absurd given that Hickman has chosen to take this turn with only three issues to go in the entire series.  As a Hickman fan, these are sort of the bizarre storytelling decision you learn to roll with, but it is a strange creative decision and while, as I said, this issue does feel vital, it nonetheless is worrisome in that one wonders if an issue this close to the end could’ve been better used.

Conclusion: A really good issue in and of itself, but doesn’t do much to alleviate my concerns about how Hickman is going to finish this beast of a series.

Grade: B

-Alex Evans