S.H.I.E.L.D. #4

Review by: JumpingJupiter

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Size: 32 pages
Price: 2.99

S.H.I.E.L.D.  is the
story of fate versus choice, destiny versus free will and the conflict between
the factions sided with either one of those ideals. It retells a facet of
Marvel history in which Da Vinci is the first man in space, Galileo defeats
Galactus with a hope machine, and Isaac Newton is apparently an obsessed despot
who imprisoned Nostradamus for 500 years in order to extract from him a
prophecy integral to the survival of mankind. Da Vinci even travels back and
forth through time and space to tear down Newton’s covert
“kingdom”, ie S.H.I.E.L.D and liberate mankind’s ability to choose.
Oh, and there’s also a giant robot mother who lays a divine egg in the
sun which eventually spawns a “god fetus”. Also, the robot mother once
was Galactus’ herald. So, yeah.

This story is opaque and dense. Subtle
visual clues seeded early on grow into plot points many pages afterward.
Words spoken by the characters seems cryptic at it’s surface but hide
meanings. Like an algebraic equation, this story is coded and seems
incomprehensible until one begins to understand the cypher
of the narrative. Anyone picking this up hoping to see Nick Fury punch meanies in the
face will be in for a surprise.

This issue is the fourth in the series, each of the previous ones focusing on the
back story of each key player in the story. Issue 4 reveals much about
Nostrodamus’ character and his role in the plot. It turns out old Nostro is
kind of a badass, choosing 500
years of
torture in order to protect mankind’s chance at true freedom. He and
Newton have
a compellingly intense confrontation. It’s as near a fist-pumping moment
this book has had so far. We also witness Da Vinci fly to the sun to
uncover the mystery contained within and find the aforementioned “god
fetus” who speaks to Leonardo in mathematics. I’m guessing this is an
Icarus allegory and we’ll later find out how Da Vinci’s pursuit of
scientific truth becomes his eventual downfall.

Leonid, the key to the story or perhaps keyhole
is a more accurate
description of his role (if you’re paying attention you’ll pick up on
reference), appears peripherally in this issue. In fact Newton shoos him
out of a scene in order to have a private conversation with Da Vinci.
In previous episodes, Leonid stood in the story in the reader’s proxy.
Asking questions,
discovering, not fully understanding the events unfolding. Leonid being
throughout the middle part of the issue created a sort of gap between
the complex and rich mythology contained within the comic
book and the reader’s experience. However, I’m tempted to think this was
deliberate. Within the narrative, Leonid’s role is apparently to “stand
in the gap”. This is no doubt meta text for how both the reader and
writer use the Leonid character as an entry point into the fictional
world. There’s a lot going on at each level here.

About the art. My goodness the art! This book has it all art-wise. Arresting
covers, scratchy yet detailed pencils and inks, innovative layouts, clever
panel use and intelligent coloring always appropriate to the scene. I was
particular impressed by a spread of Da Vinci approaching the sun. The hot light
and power of the sun creates such beautiful visual resonance on the page! There’s even clever use of typography in the
word balloons! Not to mention Hickman’s trademark graphic design work punctuating the
story. This book is a brilliant team effort.

Kudos to Marvel for allowing Hickman and Weaver to construct this world! Though
this series has an impenetrable and cryptic tone, with an open mind and some
re-reads I find myself thoroughly enjoying each installment of this story,
including this one.

Story: 4 - Very Good
Art: 5 - Excellent


  1. Agreed. Before I read this issue I reread issues 1-3 all at once, then read 4 the next day. It was a wonderful experience. It’s like a symphany, the way Hickman skips through time, giving you little glimpses of things. At first the technique makes things difficult, but upon rereads the experience becomes moving, poetic, and kinda mind-expanding. (I’m still waiting for who’s behind the typewriter stuff…) And two months is so long between issues, but if that’s what it takes to get us art this great and consistent, I have no problem with that.

  2. Thank you for commenting. 🙂

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