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S.H.I.E.L.D. #4: Review

Oct 2010
Jonathan Hickman, Dustin Weaver

Story Name:

The madness, the Star Child, and the Celestial Madonna

Review & Comments

4.5 stars

S.H.I.E.L.D. #4 Review by (February 26, 2019)
Newton says his master buried Leonardo, and we can only assume he meant his master in the Brotherhood Galileo. But unlike Newton and Nostradamus the dates used for events in the lives of Galileo and Leonardo fit with their historical lives in our reality, 1564-1642 and 1452-1519 respectively so Leonardo should have died long before Galileo was born. And they both lived before Newton discovered the Elixir Of Life immortality potion.
Anyway Vol2#2 will show us that when he came to the future he left a robot to live the rest of his life in the past.

The title of this issue refers to the female Celestial as the Celestial Madonna. Not to be confused with Mantis in Avengers #123-135 and elsewhere.

She may have been mistaken about a Celestial embryo in the Earth. Avengers (2018) #5 will tell us that the corpse of Progenitor, the 1st Celestial to be infected by the Horde, has been there for billions of years. And also that Zgreb the Fallen Celestial has been buried here for a million years. And we also know that Tiamut the Dreaming Celestial has similarly been around since the 2nd Celestial Host ~16,000 BC.

Newton's Infinity Formula somehow fell into the hands of Prof Sternberg who 'gave' it to Nick Fury during WWII (Marvel Spotlight #31). This version of the Elixir Of Life kept Fury young and healthy for a long time, but he had to keep taking refresher doses until he used the last of it to save Mockingbird's life in New Avengers (2010) #13 and then gave his blood to save Winter Soldier in Fear Itself #7.1.

I don't know if the 2nd Substance is mentioned anywhere else.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

S.H.I.E.L.D. #4 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
We open in 1956 with Leonardo da Vinci (and the youth Leonid) confronting Isaac Newton and the Council of the Brotherhood Of The Shield in the Immortal City below the Eternal City of Rome (ie the end of both #2 and #3). But before we can get anywhere we have another single panel of Howard Stark in 1960 dictating his history of these events. His words this time are "Silence is not security".

Leonardo announces his name and says he is a Patriarch of Shield. Newton doesn't believe the man standing before him is who he says he is because Leonardo died, Newton's master (presumably Galileo) buried him and Isaac himself has seen the tomb. Leonardo says he has come through time to bring the Brotherhood a gift - the Human Machine. Here he holds up a glowing ball he held in previous issues, which now floats above the assembly. Newton sends everyone else out of the room so he can interrogate this man alone. Leonardo tells Leonid to obey but to await him in Iter (where they met in #1).

The pair converse in Egyptian hieroglyphs until Newton is convinced of da Vinci's identity. Isaac announces *his* name and says he too is a Patriarch of Shield, and currently its Master. After a bit of verbal sparring Leonardo says he's here to do his duty as a Brother of the Shield - he will stand in the gap (a phrase Isaac used in #1). Then he stalks off ...

... and joins Leonid to pass through the Iter 'passage' to the observatory floating above Rome. He asks the youth about Newton and gets the reply that he is harsh but fair, although most of the Brotherhood fear him. Leonardo advises Leonid to do the same, and cryptically that being someone's child is not the same as being someone's son. (Vol 2 #1 will confirm that Leonid is Newton's child, but it was Nikola Tesla who brought him up as his son.) Leonardo says he's also 'supposed' to tell Leonid to look for a passage behind the Council Chamber with the sign of an open eye.

And then da Vinci activates his flying armour and sets off to become the 1st man in space.

Now we continue a flashback from #1 in China in 114 AD where Zhang Heng of the Brotherhood Of The Spear is conversing with a female Celestial. She tells him that Earth, like many planets, has a Celestial embryo growing at its centre. After millions of years the new-born Celestial will emerge, consuming the planet as it does so. Zhang promises that the Brotherhood will guard the egg for as long as mankind exists (which he doesn't expect to be more than say 1 million years).

But that isn't what the Celestial wants. She is the 1st Celestial to carry an embryo within herself. (And this may be forbidden.) She expects the birth to kill her but she needs 'food' to see it through. She wants to eat the Earth, killing humanity, or the Moon, causing 'apocalyptic chaos' which will have dire effects for mankind. (She doesn't seem to care that the 1st option would knacker the prospects for the egg at the centre of the Earth.) She wants Heng to choose which she should do.

But Zhang suggests a fitting alternative for a 'child of the stars' ...

... and we see 'space-suited' Leonardo approach the Sun wherein we see the body of the female Celestial. (We get a brief flashback to the 1495 flashback in #1 where he detects something growing in the Sun.) I think he sends the glowing ball (the Human Machine) into the Sun and in return gets a baby-sized Celestial. Which says "1+2=3", and Leonardo agrees.

Meanwhile back in the Immortal City Leonid locates a passage behind the Council Chamber and finds a door with the sign of an open eye above it. This is obviously the way Newton arrived at the end of last issue because it leads to a downward spiralling staircase and hence to the dungeon containing Nostradamus.

We now get a flashback to 1652 following the 1 last issue where Newton kidnapped Nostradamus. He now has him chained up here with the Well Of The World containing the Elixir Of Life which Isaac explains confers effective immortality. But he explains that he also creates various diluted versions with different properties and names like the Forever Compound, the 2nd Substance and the Infinity Formula. He uses 1 of such to keep control of the Brotherhood by giving them necessary repeat doses to keep extending their lives.

He will give Nostradamus the Forever Compound that will give him long life but his body and mind will slowly decay. But if the seer gives Newton the prophecy he wants he will get the real Elixir. The prophet refuses and Newton injects him with the Compound, saying he'll wait. (In both #2 and #3 we saw Nostradamus finally relent in 1956 and promise to say the prophecy. Newton let him drink the Elixir Of Life and the prophet prophecied, but Newton was then alerted to the events up above and had to rush off to the beginning of this issue.)

We then see 4 earlier Nostradamus prophecies (invented by Hickman) and what they refer to in Marvel's version of history during the years he's been imprisoned. And we see him age in parallel.

The 1st shows 3 Arabic gentlemen in stasis tubes who are referred to as the Last Caliphate (mentioned as Section 3: The Navigator (containing 3 subsections) of the Human Machine in #1), the 3 greatest ones of Asia. We'll learn more about these in Shield: Infinity and vol 2 #4-6. There are 3 ships which could be Christopher Columbus discovering America except that happened way earlier (even before the real Nostradamus was born). It also mentions the Hidden Knowledge passing from the Muslim world to the European world of monarchies. This can't refer to the Brotherhood Of The Shield because that had already transferred its base to the Immortal City under Rome. It is true that Europe took over the lead in science and mathematics from Islam, but this was a gradual process that was already well under way before Nostradamus' captivity.

The 2nd shows Benjamin Franklin sporting a Shield badge during the American War of Independence. And someone discovering the Savage Land. This looks reasonably like Captain Cook who did explore the Antarctic around this time. But I don't believe the Marvel version has ever been credited with such a discovery.

Quatrain 3 covers the siege of the Alamo. Marvel Wiki suggests that the man with the Shield badge here is William Travis. He's holding a futuristic gun which the prophecy calls the 'great immortal gun'.

In the last entry it is suggested that the Eastern Brotherhood Of The Spear disintegrated and the Spear of Imhotep eventually fell into the hands of the Japanese Emperors and was lent to the Germans in WWII. This may be confused with the Spear Of Destiny (from the crucifixion of Christ) which was used by the Nazis in the Twelve: Spearhead 1-shot, but which has also made later apps. Marvel's History Of Hydra says that the Spear Brotherhood became (part of) the organization that would become Hydra. Hydra's Baron Strucker has the Spear of Imhotep in Hickman's Secret Warriors #25. And the image here certainly looks more like him than Hitler.

Back in 1956 Nostradamus tells Leonid that he's been chained up here for 300 years. (Actually he repeats Newton's number of 500 years from last issue, but as there I've changed it to 300. However the repetition suggests this is not just a simple mistake.) He says he's been waiting to be freed by the boy with stars in his skin (as Leonid is depicted here and elsewhere).

In 1645 he was visited by the Forever Man who told him what Newton would do to him and asked him to accept that fate. Nostradamus asked why he should do that and in reply the FM touched his forehead to give him a revelation. (I suspect this is the origin of his prophecies. This is why he told Newton last issue that he isn't a prophet, he *knows* the future. It's no use comparing the date with that of the publication of his prophecies because this Nostradamus lives in a different century to the 1 in our reality.)

Leonid frees Nostradamus who now tells him his name and says he is the Catalyst and the Architect Of Revelation. (These sound like more references to the Human Machine in #1 but they aren't.)

There's an appendix which repeats the Human Machine diagram from #1 but misses off Section 1: The Anchor. It also has a human baby linked to the central Section 4: The Source, which in #2 Leonardo said was Leonid.

And on another page Section 1 is called the Star Child. It appears in the centre of a different diagram labelled the Foetus Of God and is linked to the baby Celestial. It says that the Star Child spins against the axis of the Human Machine.

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> S.H.I.E.L.D.: Book info and issue index

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Dustin Weaver
Dustin Weaver
Christina Strain
Gerald Parel (Cover Penciler)
Gerald Parel (Cover Inker)
Gerald Parel (Cover Colorist)
Letterer: Todd Klein.
Editor: Nick Lowe. Editor-in-chief: Joe Quesada.


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Brotherhood Of The Shield, Howard Stark, Isaac Newton, Leonardo da Vinci, Leonid, Nostradamus, Star Child.