A while back, I read and reviewed a trade from writer Jonathan Hickman about the secret history of the Marvel Comics spy organization S.H.I.E.L.D. It turned out that was only the first half of the story. Well, I did get to the second, subtitled The Human Machine, so let’s see how all this turned out.
A brief recap: S.H.I.E.L.D. was originally the Order of the Shield, a secret society made up of all the great geniuses of Western Civilization (the East had a similar organization called “the Spear”), and many of them have achieved long lives and still exist in the 1950s. In fact, the trade opens showing how Leonardo DaVinci faked his own death by building a lifelike robot to take his place while he flew off to do stuff around the sun.
These are comics, and you can’t make these things up.
However, DaVinci’s return causes a war to break out between factions, namely DaVinci’s followers, who believe in free will, and current Master of the Order Issac Newton, who believes in predestination. Both men have a vision of the future, and the winner of this battle may determine what that future turns out to be. Or, it won’t. It’s a bit fuzzy.
Meanwhile, there’s the supervillain the Night Machine AKA Nikola Tesla, Tesla’s son Leonid who has some odd energy powers, agents Nathaniel Richards and Howard Stark, and a mysterious glowing man who turns out to be the great artist Michaelangelo.
The civil war doesn’t last long as arbitration is set up, and Newton quickly becomes something of the series villain, escaping to the future with a baby Celestial that only speaks in mathematical formulas to ensure the future that Shield captive Nostradamus saw comes to pass. Oh, and it’s not a pleasant one. It will be up to the remaining agents to go to the future and find a way to if not stop Newton than to at least come to an accord with him over what the future will be.
I said the last time, and it’s still true, that aside from some minor Easter eggs, this could have been one of Hickman’s own creator-owned sci-fi series. It would have worked out just fine. This one does offer a bit of character growth by showing how Richards and Stark each shaped their own genius sons, with one being a much better father than the other. The solution to the issue actually works, and it does make sense that Newton would believe in predestination since, well, the real Newton very much did. And the way the series depicts the future that all the characters converge on is rather creative while Michaelangelo comes across as a Marvel Universe version of Dr. Manhattan. But is this worth a read? As I said with the previous one, this is only for Marvel die-hards, and it never does explain how this secret, millennia-old organization morphed into the spy organization that it is today. It’s fine, but hardly required reading.
7.5 out of 10 time traveling brothers kept in stasis.