So you enjoy the Avengers books Hickman’s been writing. However maybe since Infinity has hit you feel a little lost and like you’ve been missing some points of information that you feel should have been already covered. Well I want to take you back to what Jonathan Hickman has done for Marvel before he got his gig with the Avengers books. Because believe it or not, it all connects in one way or another. The one I don’t go over that connects to the current New Avengers run is the “the Illuminati” group that Bendis created way back around the pre-Civil War Arc.
This was co-created by Bendis and Hickman, and was my introduction into Hickman’s storytelling. This book started during the Secret Invasion storyline. Nick Fury’s Secret Warriors actually have a critical effect on the outcome of how the battle with the skrulls turns out. The ending of Secret Invasion starts the Dark Reign storyline due to how things go sour with Deadpool’s mission and the benefits Norman Osborn gains. However the group Nick Fury has put together is not done once the Skrull Invasion has been culled, they have a lot of work to do behind the scenes to help combat the chaos going on with Norman Osborn, Hydra, and other mysterious organizations that are afoot.
More of that great Hickman Graphical layout, it all started in this book. Well it’s where we first saw it in Marvel that is.
This book details a lot about the history of Nick Fury, sides of Hydra you didn’t even know existed, and more confrontations with Norman Osborn and H.A.M.M.E.R. We also get some great new character introductions like Eden Fesi for example, who’s become an Avenger and now operates under the moniker “Manifold.” If you remember Steve Rogers goes to recruit him, this is because he knew about Fury’s team, because Cap and Fury are great friends. All the details on that relationship and more are in this book.
My favorite part about this book aside from the amazing action and character development, is how it started to tie in to the storyline of the S.H.I.E.L.D. title Hickman also wrote. I was hoping this would be a thing since S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nick Fury are a connected thing, though not connected so much anymore, but it does connect. This book isn’t about S.H.I.E.L.D. though. It’s about Nick Fury and justice done the Nick Fury way. It’s an incredibly fun read and finishes out at 28 issues. I recommend however that you read S.H.I.E.L.D. before finishing this series. It does some great mind blowing. Also the book starts out with one of my favorite artists, Stefano Caselli! I believe he stays on for the majority of the book, if not all of it.
This book sort of surprised me when it showed up with it’s amazing promo art of what turned out to be of Leonardo da Vinci all decked out in his various inventions with a subtitle exclaiming, “This is not how the world ends.”
The book started as a 6 issue mini-series detailing the story of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s origin. Believe me when I tell you you’ll have no idea S.H.I.E.L.D went so deep into the past or was such a big deal. The coolest thing about this book is that it takes real people from our past and shows how they were involved in the history of the 616 universe. Besides Leonardo da Vinci, we get to see Nikola Tesla, Isaac Newtown, Nostradamus, Galileo, Imhotep, and Michelangelo. Also joining the book is Howard Stark and Nathaniel Richards. They make for a very fantastic backstory as well.
After the 6 issue mini-series ends there is an “Infinity” issue (Hickman seems to favor that word), and then the main series starts and there are only currently 4 released issues and it has been quite some time since issue 4 has been released. It was really hard to part with this story because it was really going somewhere huge. I haven’t felt a story of this magnitude since then, well at least not til now with the current Hickman Avengers and Infinity storyline. I think also Fantastic Four at the time was getting a lot of the priority and this one just had to take a back seat sadly.
The artist for S.H.I.E.LD., Dustin Weaver, writes this to explain a little on what happened,
Well, when I finished issue #4 there was no script for #5. Jonathan just hadn’t had a chance to get it done. Marvel has been keeping him real busy, and some of the comics he’s been writing are tied in with big Marvel events and need to be on time. S.H.I.E.L.D. is kind of its own thing. It’s not a big Marvel title and it’s not connected with any major Marvel Universe events. Getting the next issue of S.H.I.E.L.D. done just wasn’t as big a priority. It’s understandable. So the good editor folk at Marvel gave me some other work to do while Jonathan was able to catch up. They gave me a great Kieron Gillen Uncanny X-Men issue and the gig doing the covers for Astonishing X-Men. Not bad work. I couldn’t complain.
So then, Jonathan and I were off doing seporate things. S.H.I.E.L.D. was officially on a hiatus. Then I had to have my gallbladder removed, which killed my productivity for about a month. Meanwhile Jonathan was keeping super busy. So busy that when I did finally wrap up my Uncanny X-Men issue there was still not a full script for S.H.I.E.L.D. #5. Jonathan had only found the time to write the outline for the issue, so we decided to do it in the “Marvel Method .”
If you’re not familiar with what the “Marvel Method” is, I got this from Wikipedia: “The Marvel Method is a form of comic book writer-artist collaboration in which the artist works from a story synopsis, rather than a full script, creating page-by-page plot details on his or her own. The technique takes its name from its widespread use at Marvel Comics beginning in the 1960s, primarily under writer-editor Stan Lee and artists Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko.” This method doesn’t seem to be used much anymore, but I gotta say that I’m loving it. I do try to inject as much of myself into the storytelling of EVERY comic that I do, but actually getting to create the pacing and find the beats is so much more rewarding. I’m not sure how many comics I’ll be doing this way in the future but I’m having a lot a fun on this one.
One cool thing we got at least, since there was a lack of S.H.I.E.L.D. issues being release is a surprise visit, or connection as I was saying earlier, from this book to the Secret Warriors book that took place in the last issues 25-28. I don’t want to spoil what it is, but seeing the connection finally between the two was huge. And yes, it blew my dick off.
Just check out some of this amazing art. Tell me that doesn’t hype you up to want to know what’s going on in here.
Fantastic Four and the Future Foundation (FF)
I was skeptical. I knew I liked what I read from Hickman in Secret Warriors and I was blown away by S.H.I.E.L.D. I always thought the Fantastic Four were a silly team, with old silly principles and stupid ways that they did things. Everything they were involved with always seemed targeted to an extremely young audience and they never seemed to meld into other affairs of the main Marvel Universe. At least not until now.
Hickman did things with these characters that made them so relevant and so entertaining to follow, that I instantly changed my opinion of the Fantastic Four. Just how you probably feel about how he handles the current Avengers books. He makes every character relevant. Well I assure you that same attention to detail is prevalent here. Hickman jumps onto the book at Fantastic Four #570 and for about 5-10 issues writes a bunch of self contained stories. Within each single issue that each of these stories is contained in, you feel as though something huge and relevant has taken place. Issue to issue they go around solving various threats, or go exploring just for the sake of it, as well as confronting issues that keep arising for whatever reasons. Not to mention they’re drawn by the glorious Steve Epting. I don’t want to give anything away or too many details, as they are very fun reads. It turns out however, that each of these seemingly one-shot issues turn out to all come back and connect as each event taking place in those stories finally reaches a turning point and everything sort of happens at once. All these simultaneous events lead up to Fantastic Four #600 which I’m sure you’re all familiar with the subject matter. This leads to a new set of events that also lead Reed Richards to set up what he calls “The Future Foundation”, which is a philanthropic organization created to better serve humanity’s future. This ends up being the focal point and purpose of what the Fantastic Four become, however due to the events of issue #600, “The Fantastic Four” no longer works as a name, so they call themselves “The Future Foundation, and have their long time, off and on again member Spider-Man join back up and fill in the ranks.
This book compounds on how well it builds up story. Hickman spends about 50 issues between the main Fantastic Four book and the FF book detailing deep ends of story that have been building and continue surface. They combine stories with Atlantis, The Mole Men, The Inhumans, Annihilus and the Negative Zone, Galactus, and even Ronan the Accuser, but I’m still leaving things out. Glorious things like how Hickman writes Doctor Doom. A favorite part of mine is how at one point in the Fantastic Four book Hickman writes and addresses “The Fault” that has been caused by the War of Kings cosmic event. No other Marvel book at the time was doing this and it made me exceedingly happy that one of the Earth books was referencing it. I could go on and on about things I love in this book but I must refrain or we’ll be here all day. Lastly I must mention though, that by the time the books split into Fantastic Four and FF, and the story is on it’s way to a big culmination. We get some side story and crossovers with Nathaniel Richards and how he has become who he is since his past, a past we get a window into within the S.H.I.E.L.D. book.
I wanted to write about all these wonderful books because I think they could possibly show relevance in the coming months as we get more and more Infinity stories. Also once Infinity is finished I truly believe we’ll see a return to the S.H.I.E.L.D. book (hopefully) and who knows how many ideas are being stored up for this one. Also since Hickman was one of the only writers to give the Fault a mention to during the Fantastic Four, and he’s already used the InHumans, as well as Ronan and the Kree; this leads me to believe that connections between these and future stories are probable. As in, I think that we’re going to have more connections to cosmic events with Infinity than we realize. This is probably already quite obvious for some, but I am restating because if you read the past stories what seeing connections now to then is so exciting! That Hickman greatness. So if you love Infinity and his Avengers books, I implore you… Please read these books! You will NOT be disappointed.
Thanks for reading,