Customer Review

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark, conspiring, and absolute quality., 20 Dec. 2010
This review is from: Secret War TPB (Graphic Novel Pb) (Paperback)
Brian Michael Bendis is one of those chaps whose work I've truly admired and respected. There's plenty of good reason why he's one of the best things about Marvel today. Look at his resume, and you'll get some real hits from the last decade, such as Ultimate Spider-Man/X-Men, The Pulse, New Avengers, House of M, Secret Invasion etc. The reason why he's so good should be as plain as day by now. His ability to write enthralling story arcs and express them with his brilliant, true-to-life, conversational dialogue.

Secret War is a graphic novel that, while nowhere near as major as stuff like Civil War or Secret Invasion, is a dark, artistic triumph, that looks at governmental conspiracies, manipulation of heroes, a new war against terrorism and a very fine line between law and chaos which becomes hopelessly blurred.

To get the most obvious question out of the way first; NO. This is NOT the classic Secret War crossover from the eighties where a who's who list of Marvel Heroes and Villains were whisked off to the Beyonder's planet to fight in an intergalactic war. Nor is it a sequel to said-crossover. This is an entirely different premise, one where the leading star is Colonel Nick Fury, the infamous head of S.H.I.E.L.D.

The legendary colonel with the infamous eye-patch and cigar unearths a startling truth. Latveria has been funding virtually ALL of the technological super villains in Marvel history, and Prime Minister Lucia Von Bardas has essentially an army of terrorists running wild to bring America down from within. And Fury is outraged when the White House refuses to oppose the Latverian government directly.

So what does Fury do? He defies the President's orders, gathers a special ops team (comprised of Spider-Man, Wolverine, Captain America, Daredevil, Luke Cage, the Black Widow and the mysterious Daisy Johnson) and secretly invades Latveria to end the dire threat himself, risking everything to preserve global peace.

One year after...all those involved in this `Secret War' - Fury most of all - will suffer the consequences.

Without question, Secret War is one of the most enthralling graphic novels I've ever read. The tone of it is dark, violent, highly intelligent and well presented, to the point where it's reminiscent of Metal Gear Solid. It's unlike any `WHAM! BAM!" superhero crossover I've experienced before, and the decision to present the min-series in a political/espionage/black ops setting...is both creative and inspired.

The graphic novel collects all five issues of the Secret War series, as well as the special "From The File of Nick Fury'. The bulk of the tale is told in usual comic panels and speech bubbles, but the story is also conveyed by pages that feature transcripts of classified S.H.I.E.L.D. interviews, along with data files of personnel. All of which showcases how Fury initially uncovered the truth about the terrorist threat, the list of super villains involved and why he selected the heroes deemed `best suitable' for the Secret War, as well as a list of candidates Fury considered and ultimately dismissed.

This alternate means of story-telling is one of the highlights of the graphic novel, and cleverly put together by Bendis. Not only does it provide some great character analysis, it also provides a great insight into how Nick Fury works and how he views the heroes he's chosen. It also gives a chance to shed some light on the unknown Daisy Johnson, and learn exactly why she is so special and why an 18-year-old rookie is put in the same league as Spider-Man and Wolverine.

In terms of actual comic book material, Bendis delivers with typical excellence. His story, plot and character focus remain golden. He takes time to focus on each of the supporting cast (Spidey, Cage, Cap, Devil, Widow and Logan) equally and makes time to fit in great interaction and humour. Daisy Johnson looks right out of place with the others she's partnered with, but that's why her character works. She comes across as really interesting as a result, and it makes you wonder just what Bendis has in mind for her in the future.

The only thing I can really criticise about Secret War, is that the army of super villains being funded by Latveria are mostly reduced to the purpose of cannon fodder. Only the likes of Killer Shrike, Scorcher and Jack `O' Lantern play any real role to the antagonistic side of the story, though there are some great haunting cameos by both the Tinkerer and an intriguing, enigmatic new Hobgoblin (who hasn't been seen since!). Lucia Von Bardas is the real threat of the terrorism and when she returns on the fateful one-year anniversary, it's a true nightmare that does nothing but frighten.

But again, it's Nick Fury's ethics that come into question here. It's all his fault, and he did it for no other reason than he HAD to. His fate afterwards is very fitting, and your left feeling as lost as he is when all's said and done. And for Bendis to create that kind of feeling for readers is nothing short of remarkable.

Of course, the most striking thing about Secret War is Gabrielle Dell'Otto's painted artwork. Visually speaking, it's fantastic to look at, and it compliments the nature and tone of Bendis' story ideally. It's truly, truly beautiful, and the fact that there's a stunning art gallery of Dell'Otto's paintings of the Marvel Universe is a bonus that makes this book all the more worthwhile.

In closing, Marvel: Secret War is highly recommended. Aside from being gorgeous to look at and captivating to read, it also dates back to a time where Marvel didn't feel the need to change everything for the worse (i.e. Spider-Man: One More Day.) For that reason, Secret War should be savoured even more.

Buy and enjoy!
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 7 May 2012 19:37:39 BDT
Ghostgrey51 says:
Excellent review R Wood. I'll have to buy this on the strength on your review alone. No wonder you are up there in the top echlons (I've posted this already, but it sems to have vanished into the Amazon Alt universe of Confused Titles and 'cat' numbers

In reply to an earlier post on 7 May 2012 22:27:37 BDT
R. Wood says:
Thank you, sir. Glad you found the review helpful. (I agree that the confusion with the catalogue numbers for this product is bizarre.)
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