Secret Warriors #1
Written by Matthew Rosenberg
Art by Javier Garron & Israel Silva
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
Dark days have fallen upon the Marvel Universe with the dawn of Captain America’s Secret Empire. For the moment, it feels like hope is lost. But thankfully, Secret Warriors provides a bit of light. And Daisy Johnson, a.k.a. Quake, is at the center of it all. Writer Matthew Rosenberg is a fast-rising star, coming off his indie successes, 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank and We Can Never Go Home as well as stints on Marvel’s Rocket Raccoon and Kingpin. Here he teams with artist Javier Garron (Star-Lord, Inhumans vs. X-Men) to show us a potentially slightly less bleak take on Marvel’s big summer event while simultaneously showing us just how bad it really is. This is the kind of book that a big event is meant to facilitate. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and at almost no point in Marvel history has that been more true than in Secret Warriors.
The first time that we saw the Secret Warriors and indeed, Daisy Johnson, it was spinning out of Secret Invasion. With the Skrull infiltration looming over the Marvel Universe, Nick Fury went underground and put his own team together to fight back the dark. That series’ revelation that S.H.I.E.L.D. was really HYDRA all along draws some easy parallels to the current status quo, but now Daisy finds herself in her former mentor's shoes. Daisy’s origins on the original Secret Warriors team are important here - in the years since her first appearance, she’s become a major player in the Marvel Universe and one of the strongest female characters on Marvel’s roster. Rosenberg is no stranger to the character, first writing her in 2015’s Quake: S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary one-shot, and while that story served as a starting point for Daisy’s career with S.H.I.E.L.D., this shows us their unceremonious divorce.
Rosenberg’s work is at its best when his character development is firing on all cylinders. That goes beyond just dialogue. This issue has an interesting structure that flips back and forth between a time before Cap’s betrayal and Daisy’s reality after it. That juxtaposition is becomes unnerving as the issue moves along, as we see Cap in one of his worst moments and how that fallout directly affects Daisy. There are also echoes of Secret Empire #1 in the conditioning of Daisy’s fellow S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and the classroom scene from that issue. Those agents might not be shouting “Trust authority! Punish weakness! Report threats!” exactly, but their actions support that kind of thinking.
And as the issue kicks into gear, Rosenberg reminds us why Daisy is such a great character. She knows she needs a team, so she enlists Moon Girl, Devil Dinosaur, and Ms. Marvel before enlisting a few other Inhumans such as Karnak and Inferno. That’s a great squad with diverse abilities, voices and experience levels, and Rosenberg gives them each a few moments to make their presence known. It’s rare to get a book that balances meaningful character work across a team so well with the pacing of the issue.
Javier Garron and Israel Silva deserve a lot of credit for how well this tale is told. The first thing that jumped out at me was Garron’s slight “rumbling” of his panel layouts whenever Daisy uses her powers. It’s a small detail, but as a reader, it helps inform the action and adds a lot of energy to the script. Suddenly, you know you’re meant to read a little bit faster; that these panels are happening with a lot more speed and impact that the ones that preceded them. Secondly, Garron’s character renderings are spot-on. It’s rare that his characters look like they are just posing, and their facial expressions are varied but maintain a recognizable consistency. There are a few times where the clothing feels a little overrendered, but that same attention to detail applied on a larger scale to Devil Dinosaur gives us some of the best dinosaur art in a comic in recently memory. I generally like Silva’s work coloring this issue, too. There’s a strong differentiation between past and present scenes throughout the book. Some readers noted that Moon Girl and Ms. Marvel seemed to be coloring a bit lighter than we’ve seen them elsewhere, but I think that might be a function of the heavy red, orange and yellow hues of the fire/explosions around them in various scenes than an actual conscious decision by the artist.
Secret Warriors is one of the best things to spin out of Secret Empire so far, and it really helps flesh that story out. I honestly don’t know how someone could read one without the other. This book stands as an examination of a more intimate betrayal of trust, reminding readers that smaller stories that still have big implications are historically some of the best in Marvel history. You only need to look to the original Secret Warriors for proof. Matthew Rosenberg is solidifying himself as one of the best writers in Marvel’s stable right now, and artist Javier Garron is certainly no slouch, either. Secret Warriors #1 is on track to be the definitive Daisy Johnson story, and that’s a very, very exciting thing.