The secret history of the world

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The Spectrum

Grade: A

The history that has been recorded is not entirely true. In fact, the course of history was guided by a secret organization fending off alien invasion and keeping dark cosmic secrets.
This is the focal point of up-and-coming writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Dustin Weaver new series, S.H.I.E.L.D. The two uncover and explore the hidden undisclosed annals, that range from ancient Egypt to the Renaissance to the cloak and dagger spy exploits of the '50s.
S.H.I.E.L.D opens as a seemingly normal person named Leonid being is accosted by two government spooks. Here Leonid shows off his true colors, a skin that looks like a starry night sky.
The increasingly mysterious Leonid is taken to a massive underground city located under Rome where the titular organization explains to Leonid the truth about the world and for some reason Leonid is an important key.
Fast-forward to three years later and Leonid has an unusual guest: The Night Machine, Leonid's father. He gives him cryptic explanations of his whereabouts and things to come. Leonid's life is thrown into chaos once again as he sets upon a path to find out the secrets surrounding his past and the world's.
Intercut with the mysteries of Leonid are revealing scenes of the past of the Marvel Universe. Epic battles between Egyptians and insect monsters, Renaissance inventors fighting off a devourer of worlds, and warriors fighting off alien hyper beings in China all unfold in this issue in beautifully rendered pages by Weaver.
With already a number of great indie reads, The Nightly News hailed as one of the best books of 2007, Hickman has been quickly becoming one of the better writers of mainstream comics. After making critical hits with Secret Warriors and Fantastic Four Hickman adds another Marvel hit with S.H.I.E.L.D.
In the span of a few pages Hickman is able to create a wondrous world filled with new and interesting ideas. Each page adds a new layer to the story that slowly drags the reader into Hickman's astounding story.
Along with the grandiose world that Hickman is building, he also plants the seeds for an intriguing mystery. Hickman's characters all have a mystifying aura among them. From the Night Machine to the agents that brought Leonid in, all the characters have secrets and back stories that Hickman is building to in nice, slow-burn way.
The mystery centers on Leonid, whose strange powers and place in the world is one of the better parts of the book. The way Hickman writes Leonid as the everyman that has been thrown into this fantastic world definitely works in the book's favor. Leonid's curiosity matches the readers and works as a great cipher to explore Hickman's world.
Perhaps the most fascinating part of S.H.I.E.L.D is Hickman's use of historical characters. It might be strange at first to see famous figures of history, like Da Vinci and Galileo, as quasi-superheroes, but Hickman's execution is nothing short of brilliant. Beside, the image of Da Vinci flying into battle against strange creatures from beyond is a sight to see.
The combination of Hickman's mysteries and historical cast feel give the book an epic feel that is another big draw for the book. A story spanning hundreds of years with a large amount characters could be overwhelming but Hickman is able to weave it all together nicely. S.H.I.E.L.D is a well thought out and dense read making it one of the more intelligent in superhero comics on stands.
Along with Hickman's great writing is Weaver's artwork. Weaver's work here is topnotch and is able to capture the grand feel that Hickman's writing invokes. Hickman is able to let his imagination run wild on the book with a world of limitless possibilities and with a lesser artist the book would have been severely hurt. Weaver translates all of Hickman's wild thoughts wonderfully, from sixteenth century steam punk inventions to crazy `50s sci-fi technology.
Hickman and Weaver have crafted a new and more entertaining history of the world. Filled with sword swinging, space invader-fighting pharaohs, and cosmic Renaissance painters, S.H.I.E.L.D is one of the more interesting reads of mainstream comics.

E-mail: arts@ubspectrum.com