When you think about Marvel’s Inhumans, the word “fun” probably doesn’t come to mind. Their leader Black Bolt can’t speak without causing devastating destruction. The Terrigen Mists that give the superhuman race their powers nearly drove mutants to the brink of extinction. And I’m not even going to touch that short-lived ABC TV show. So, yeah… fun? Not so much.
That is, until I read writer Matthew Rosenberg’s Secret Warriors, which ran for 12 issues. I’m going to be honest, I caught up with this now-finished series after reading the brilliant Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey (see, Inhumans, the X-Men aren’t so bad after all). Rosenberg’s ability to juggle a large cast in Phoenix Resurrection without sacrificing satisfying character moments made me want to read more of the writer’s work.
That brought me to Marvel’s two Secret Warriors collections–the newest of which being Secret Warriors Vol. 2: If Trouble Must Come. Had it not been for Rosenberg’s name on the covers, I would have never read these volumes. Quake, Inferno, Moon Girl and the rest of this series’ cast just don’t appeal to me as much as the many other characters in the wider comic book universe I could be reading about. Also, as an X-Men fan, I forced myself to follow the Inhumans’ adventures up until the conclusion of Inhumans Vs. X-Men. I was done after that, and very happy to see the two franchises go their separate ways.
I, of course, say all that because Rosenberg’s writing is so good, he made me like these characters. It’s an odd group: Quake, Ms. Marvel, Inferno, Moon Girl, Devil Dinosaur and Karnak. Definitely a quirky combination of characters, but that alone was all Rosenberg needed to spin some truly entertaining stories about this dysfunctional “family.” I get the sense that once the team was in place, the dialogue pretty much wrote itself.
Also, for me, it didn’t hurt that Rosenberg, an X-Men fan himself, threw characters like Magik, Dark Beast and Mister Sinister into the mix. At times, Secret Warriors has felt like just as much an offshoot of the X-Men as the Inhumans.
So, what could the second volume of a series that spun out of the controversial Secret Empire possibly be about? A lot of things, it turns out, from trying to kill Deadpool to playing a board game.
The first two issues in this collection, #6 and #7, focus on Quake’s desire to avenge the death of Agent Phil Coulson of Marvel Cinematic Universe fame. Turns out everybody’s favorite Merc with a Mouth was the one responsible for killing Quake’s mentor. What follows is an entertaining arc that features appearances from Taskmaster and Bullseye, and manages to flesh out the flaws in Daisy Johnson, who is one of the series’ best characters.
Issues #8-#12 are more Inhuman-heavy, as Rosenberg follows up on plot points from the first Secret Warriors collection, specifically Karnak’s connection to Mister Sinister. I mention the Inhumans focus because this arc may lose casual readers who aren’t as familiar with the Inhumans’ recent Marvel adventures. Mostly, I’m talking about Ennilux, a corporation introduced by writer Charles Soule in his Inhuman series, which is now run by Ahura, the son of Black Bolt and Medusa. Readers can surely follow along, but this is still a much more continuity-heavy adventure than I expected.
There are twists and turns, romance and heroes and villains punching each other. But that’s not what you’ll remember after you finish this collection — the character moments are what make this collection memorable. Every one of the Secret Warriors has his or her moment, which makes it sad that you may not be able to follow every one of their continuing adventures on a monthly basis.
Quake, the team’s leader, is incredibly damaged, being the daughter of supervillain Mr. Hyde and the product of years of S.H.I.E.L.D. training. She probably shouldn’t be the team’s leader, as she’s always coming into conflict with those around her–specifically the far more idealistic Ms. Marvel. Karnak is equally damaged and so out of touch with what it means to be a good teammate and father that he is truly Inhuman. And Inferno’s just the “dumbest guy.” His words, not mine.
I’ve always believed flawed characters are the most entertaining characters to follow, and this motley crew certainly proves my point. Best of all, you don’t go too many panels without something funny happening or being said. Phoenix Resurrection definitely had its funny moments, courtesy of comedic characters like Iceman. But with Secret Warriors, I realize that Rosenberg is just a funny writer. While Phoenix Resurrection made me want to see him write an X-Men book on a monthly basis, this collection makes me want to see what he can do with Spider-Man!
Hey, good comedy’s hard to write, so make good use of this man’s talent, Marvel.
Things get a bit uneven on the art front, unfortunately. While the pencils in the first two issues, drawn by Juanan Ramirez, are a bit of a departure from those of regular artist Javier Garron, they work with the edgier revenge story. The visuals become inconsistent after that as Garron splits the work with Will Robson, whose images are a bit more cartoony. Finally, Ramon Bachs provides the images for the final issue. These are all talented artists–I’m just a stickler for a consistent trade paperback experience, especially when I’m reading the collection in one sitting.
In terms of extras, you get some alternative covers and cover sketches, along with letters from Rosenberg and Garron, reflecting on their run. It’s always nice to see creators reaching out to readers and reflecting on their runs. Let’s get some more of that!
Overall, I think there are multiple reasons to pick up this collection (and the one before that). X-fans: Read it to see what Mister Sinister and Dark Beast have been up to, or to learn how much Magik enjoys cake. Fans of good writing: Matthew Rosenberg. ‘Nuff said. Inhumans fans: Do you even exist? Just kidding. But, yeah, they’re all over this collection. And finally, fans of fun comic books: This series ends with, “The Secret Warriors will return… Someday. Maybe. I don’t know.” How can you not love a book that doesn’t take itself too seriously?