Images & Words – S.H.I.E.L.D. #4

[images & words is the comic book pick-of-the-week at OL. equal parts review and diatribe, the post highlights the most memorable/infuriating/entertaining book released that wednesday]

S.H.I.E.L.D. is the best comic book currently being published.

This isn’t a new revelation. I’ve held this opinion for awhile now. And I stand by it.

The newest issue simply reaffirms the beliefs I’ve held, further developing a story that delivers some heavy ideas through an original plot. What is the story at hand? Well, it’s pretty simple: Isaac Newton is in charge of the Shield, an organization that has protected the human race from extinction for thousands of years. Unfortunately, Newton is evil and has involved himself in a number of shady dealings like killing Galileo and enslaving Nostradamus so that he can uncover the secrets of the Five-Fold Understanding.

Of course, there’re some positive forces that just might be able to put a stop to Newton’s dastardly scheme. This hero is Leonid.  The wise old man is Leonardo da Vinci. And they ain’t fuggin’ around.

In this fourth episode, da Vinci confronts Newton and informs him that he is not going to idle while injustices are committed. The current leader of the Shield doubts the sincerity of da Vinci’s declarations and the Renaissance man has to drop bombs of knowledge.

“And yet here I stand. Having defeated death and tunneled through space and time to be here — now — with all of you. Oh, the wonders of science…But first, why I am here — I bring a gift…for the brotherhood…and for all of mankind…the human machine.”

After presenting the strange device that is the human machine, da Vinci makes his way into outer space (set in 1956, this makes him the first human amongst the stars). Once in outer space, Leonardo travels to the sun and catches as nasty loogie it spits up — the foetus of God.   This life form is a sort of star child, a Celestial that was embedded in the sun nearly two thousand years before.

We also follow Leonid has he rummages around the backrooms of Shield. He manages to stumble upon the imprisoned Nostradamus. After being freed by the bright-eyed youth, the mystic reveals that he is actually the architect of revelation. Seems pretty bad-ass.

But yet again, where S.H.I.E.L.D. is especially worth reading because of its ability to play with ideas. In a medium that is riddled with vapid storylines and lowest-common-denominator depictions of women, it’s refreshing to have a title that isn’t afraid of pursuing thought. Elevated thought, at that!

One of themes that’s been dancing throughout this series is parental relationships. Leonid’s father is Night Machine, a muthafugger who poses a threat to the Shield. On top of this, we have the passing down of leadership of the Shield — while the generational transition has historically been straightforward, Newton’s corruption undermines the entire process. This issue also sees da Vinci explaining to Leonid that “There is a difference between being someone’s child and being someone’s son.”

Hrm. Interesting.

To top it all off, the foetus of God was implanted into the sun by a celestial being. Given the importance of this new character, Hickman seems to be suggesting that the creation of life is an act of utmost significance. Perhaps the utmost significance. After all, da Vinci gazes at the being with an expression of astonishment, fear, wonder, and awe. I can only imagine that these same feelings are found on the faces of new parents who sit back and realize “I just created life. I created possibility.”

With a less-than seamless transition, I have to note that the other reoccurring theme is possibility through hard work. The entire series is a rumination on the wonder of the human mind and the great feats of which it is capable. However, S.H.I.E.L.D. also readily reminds the readers that the mind must be put to use in order to yield anything useful.

In a flashback, Nostradamus is informed by an angelic figure (I think it might be the Second Man, but I’m not sure) that he is going to have to subject himself to years of imprisonment and torture. When he initially rejects the idea, the heavenly figure offers his words of encouragement:

“I never ask for more than what someone can give. Even if it is everything.”


I’m a huge advocate of human beings pushing themselves to their very limits. In my personal experience the endeavors that I’ve found most fulfilling requiring tremendous focus and effort on my part. S.H.I.E.L.D. is telling the readers to take an active role in their lives, take responsibility, and take their lives into some uncharted territory.

Go ahead, give it a shot.

It probably won’t be the Immortal City of a secret organization devoted to preserving humanity.

But it’ll probably be better than where you are right now.