Secret Warriors volume 5: Night


By Jonathan Hickman, Mirko Colac, Alessandro Vitti, David Marquez & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-4803-6

In his “Infinity-formula” extended career, Marvel’s immortal secret agent Nick Fury fought in every war since WWII, worked for the CIA and ran numerous iterations of superspy agency S.H.I.E.L.D.; generally finding over and again that nobody could be trusted – not to stay clean and decent – in a world of temptation.

Worse yet, even the best of men could be forced to whatever was necessary given the right motivation…

Too many times the spooks “on our side” became as debased as the bad guys in a world where covert agencies were continually exposed as manipulative, out-of-control tools of subversion, oppression and ambition.

The taste of betrayal and those seeds of doubt and mistrust never went away, and following a succession of global crises – including a superhero Civil War and the rise of a certified maniac to the second most powerful position in America – Fury was ousted as S.H.I.E.L.D. director.

His immediate successor Tony Stark proved to be a huge – if well-meaning – mistake, and after an alien invasion by Skrulls the entire organisation was mothballed. He was replaced by the dynamic Norman Osborn and his cultishly loyal H.A.M.M.E.R. outfit. It was a case of giving a rabid fox the keys to the henhouse…

As America’s Director of National Security, the former Green Goblin instituted a draconian “Dark Reign” of oppressive, aggressive policies which turned the USA into a paranoid tinderbox.

The nation’s Top Fed was specifically tasked with curbing the unchecked power and threat of a burgeoning metahuman community, but he was also covertly directing a cabal of the world’s greatest criminals and conquerors; intent on divvying up the planet between them. The repercussions of Osborn’s rise (and inevitable fall) were felt throughout and featured in many series and collections throughout the entire fictive universe.

His brief rule also drastically shook up the entrenched secret empires of the planet and his defeat destabilised many previously unassailable clandestine Powers and States…

Fury, a man driven by duty, fuelled by suspicion and powered by a serum which kept him vital far beyond his years, didn’t go away. He just went deep undercover and continued doing what he’d always done – saving the world, one battle at a time. From this unassailable, unsuspected vantage point, free of the shackles of politically motivated oversight, Fury picked his battles and slowly gathered assets and resources he had personally vetted or constructed…

The indomitable freedom fighter had always known that to do the job properly he needed his own trustworthy forces and no constraints. To this end he had spent decades secretly sourcing and stockpiling his own formidable, unimpeachable army. Decades in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D. had provided him with mountains of data on metahumans. From these he had compiled “Caterpillar Files” covering many unknown, unexploited and, most importantly, untainted potential operatives who might one day metamorphose into true assets…

His first move was to assemble a crack squad of super-human agents. Team White initially comprised Yo Yo Rodriguez AKA Slingshot, neophyte mystic Sebastian Druid, JerryStonewallSledge, J.T.HellfireJames, instinctive leader Daisy Johnson – codenamed Quake – and the terrifyingly volatile Alexander: a 12-year old boy with incredible power.

The child Phobos was destined to become a true god and personification of Fear itself but until then his daily-growing divine gifts were Fury’s to use… if he dared…

In the aftermath of the wave of crises the old soldier had come across a truly shocking piece of intel: for most of his career, S.H.I.E.L.D. had been no more than a deeply submerged and ring-fenced Hydra experiment.

All Fury’s world-saving triumphs had been nothing more than acceptable short-term losses for a secret society which claims to reach back to ancient Egypt, secretly steering the world for millennia.

However since Osborn and the Skrull invasion had shaken things up, the old war-dog now had an honest chance of wiping out his perfidious many-headed, faceless foe forever…

Hydra had been badly damaged by the crisis, and as the dust settled Baron Wolfgang von Strucker sought to capitalise on the chaos to regenerate the cult in his own image, seizing all fallow assets, technology and even experienced agents abandoned by friends and enemies alike…

To this end, Strucker co-opted breakaway factions of Hydra and convened a new hierarchy of deadly lieutenants loyal to him alone. However even with Viper, Madame Hydra, Kraken, Silver Samurai, The Hive and mystically resurrected mutant ninja The Gorgon on board, the prospect of wedding super-science and corporate rapaciousness with ancient magic and millennial covert cabals was a risky ploy…

Their rabid rapid expansion also gave Fury an opportunity to place one of his own deep within the organisation…

To further bolster his own relatively meagre forces, Fury reached out to selected old S.H.I.E.L.D. comrades and especially his former second-in-command Dum-Dum Dugan who had gathered up the most trustworthy agents and veterans into a private security agency – the Howling Commandos Private Military Company. Warriors to the last, they were all looking for one last good war and a proper way to die…

Some of them got their wish when the good guys launched a daring raid and stole three of the mothballed colossal flying fortress warships dubbed Helicarriers, laying the groundwork for an imminent, unavoidable and very public shooting war…

Fury’s counterattack failed spectacularly and in the resultant chaos that followed things only got worse…

Now Hydra has once more splintered into factions again leaving Strucker embroiled in a globe-spanning vendetta with Soviet-founded subversive organisation Leviathan. Moreover, their once-covert conflict has escalated into a monstrously damaging and destructively public shooting war resulting in thousands of collateral civilian casualties all over Earth…

Written throughout by Jonathan Hickman, this fifth complex and intriguing espionage epic collects Secret Warriors #20-24 (November 2010-March 2011) and opens with the eponymous 3-parter ‘Night’ and ‘How Did Things Ever Come to This?’ (art by Mirko Colak and Alessandro Vitti) wherein Fury briefs his diminished White team – Hellfire, Stonewall, Slingshot, Daisy, Phobos and human teleporter Eden Fesi – about the growing crisis and tells them how they’re going to stop it.

Once the squad’s preparations to raid and eradicate Hydra’s key base are finalised, the traitor in Fury’s handpicked team takes the first opportunity to pass on the plans to the always-one-step-ahead opposition…

Infiltrating the supposedly unsuspecting Gehenna Base in ‘This is How it was Always Going To Be’ Team White find a veritable army of hostiles led by Gorgon, Strucker and Madame Hydra waiting for them, but still manage to plant a devastating “mountain-breaker” bomb before beginning a frantic retreat. In the melee Fury and Phobos are separated from the rest.

Confronted by Gorgon, the boy-god tricks his grizzled human mentor into leaving before turning to duel the Gorgon. After a shattering battle with enchanted swords Alex dies heroically, enigmatically stating “this is how it’s supposed to be”…

The tragedy concludes with ‘I Gave Everything I Had’ as the mountain-breaker – aided by Daisy’s quake powers – detonates and Fury pragmatically drives his protégés to a secret rendezvous where his back-up escape plan is waiting.

The old warrior then selects one of the squad to join him in a rearguard action and, as they hold back the Hydra hordes, makes it plain that he’s aware of the greedy treachery which caused this debacle and Phobos’ death.

Only Fury rejoins the rest of Team White as they make their hairsbreadth escape…

In the aftermath, Strucker fumes, his frustration at fever pitch and his power further diminished by the desertion of The Gorgon and Madame Hydra. He is not expecting his faithful subordinate Kraken to try to kill him…

Illustrated by Alessandro Vitti, ‘Rebirth’ offers an elucidatory flashback which clarifies the mechanics of the team’s lucky escape. Six months previously Fury had very publicly kicked junior sorcerer Sebastian Druid out, declaring him a liability.

It was another ruse and ‘There Is No Out’ reveals how the portly mage was subsequently hot-housed by cyborg SHIELD agent John Garrett whose draconian training program turned the sad sack into a lethally capable operative in complete control of his eldritch abilities.

As a graduation test Garrett had Druid assassinate one of the Leviathan leaders and make it appear as if Hydra was behind the killing…

The Beginning of The End commences with ‘Wheels Within Wheels Part One’ (art by David Marquez & Vitti) as another strand of Fury’s Byzantine scheme seemingly falls apart. A year ago and unknown to all, he had activated another, completely covert Caterpillar team of super-agents, led by his own son Mikel.

Now ‘I Did My Best’ reveals how that entire squad falls in battle against Hydra rebel Hive and a shell-shocked, heartbroken and utterly beaten Nick Fury surrenders himself to Kraken and his Hydra host…

To Be Concluded…

This excellent exercise in tense suspense and Machiavellian manipulation also includes a stunning ‘Cover gallery’ by Jim Cheung and Paul Renaud to supplement the bleak, engagingly cynical, convoluted, over-the-top action and dazzling cloak-and-dagger conflicts: employing enough intrigue to bamboozle even the most ardent espionage aficionado, with the added bonus that far less knowledge of Marvel continuity is necessary to fully appreciate this particularly intense and engaging effort to the full.
© 2010, 2011 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.