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S.H.I.E.L.D. #5: Review

Dec 2010
Jonathan Hickman, Dustin Weaver

Story Name:

The forgotten machines of Nikola Tesla

Review & Comments

4.5 stars

S.H.I.E.L.D. #5 Review by (March 5, 2019)
Jonathan Hickman was also writing Fantastic Four at this time. FF#581 came out about the same time as our #2 and showed a version of the scene from #2 where Nathaniel Richards was involved in the explosion which sent him and others into the future. In FF#581 a future Nathaniel explains what happened. He went forward 600,000 years as here. But the rest was different.

In #2 we briefly saw multiple versions of NR, which are shown in this re-enactment too. He says that the chronal explosion caused him to become effectively immortal, and also he could travel in time but it took a while to master the ability. But also it brought all the alternate reality versions of himself together in 1 timeline in this far future, and gave all of *them* the same abilities. Immortus was policing time for the Time Variance Authority and decided such a group was too time-dangerous to exist. But rather than wipe them *all* out he offered them the chance to decide among themselves which single 1 of them should be allowed to survive. Thus began the Great Hunt where some of the NR's hunted down their fellows and murdered them. Others chose to commit suicide. The NR speaking himself went into hiding.

Hickman obviously expects us to accept both that account and the current 1 as true, but how do we reconcile them?

The fact that the Hunt has taken a long time suggests to me that Immortus initially sent them all back to their individual timelines. So our NR was left alone to meet Howard Stark. And he can't yet time-travel at will. (But this would explain why next issue Nathaniel knows that it was *he* who inadvertently brought them all to the future.)

The history of Nathaniel Richards was previously told in John Byrne's FF#271-273. NR disappeared 3 years before FF#1. The FF now discover he had invented a time machine, and using it they track him down to an alternate present where he had become the saviour of a war-devastated world. At then end he chose to stay there. An epilogue claimed that this was the timeline that birthed Kang (who would eventually become Immortus), and it was NR's time machine he found not Dr Doom's as previously assumed.

The conclusion Marvel Wiki and Wikipedia draw is that this alternate world was where he was hiding from the other NRs. So he must have left his family twice, 1st to join the Brotherhood and 2nd to hide from the other NRs. This is supported by the fact that in this issue he says he's leaving his *family* which implies his wife is alive as well as his son, whereas FF#271 says Reed's mother died when he was 7 and flashbacks in FF#570-572 (also by Hickman) show Nathaniel with him alone from about that age to late teen. In FF#581 NR appears out of time to visit Reed in college where a few years have passed. If we add to this the time for Reed to become an established scientist before FF#1 it is clear that NR's (2nd) disappearance was much more than 3 years before that comic.

In FF#581-582 Nathaniel takes Reed, Ben Grimm and not yet scarred Victor Von Doom to the future to face the only other surviving NR who has out-Hunted the others. He is living in what Nathaniel calls 'collapsed Chronopolis' where he has collected artefacts from Earth's history to preserve them. Alongside examples like a pyramid and the Eiffel Tower we see the evil NR's home the Fortress, which is our NR's base from the alternate world he ruled.

Also note that in FF#273 we learned that in Nathaniel's adopted world there had been a war which destroyed the Moon. In that comic it was depicted as reduced to a ring of rubble encircling the globe. Meanwhile in this issue the Moon is there but broken. And remember that Chronopolis is the base of Kang/Immortus in many comics.

This raises the possibility that the future worlds in this series and in FF#581-582 are the same, and are the same as the reality our NR hid in and the future home of Immortus. In this issue Nathaniel says he found a smaller set of ruins on the other side of the mountain. Could that be collapsed Chronopolis?

This gives us a timeline for the life of Nathaniel, and more importantly for Reed Richards. In 1955 NR has a wife and child Reed. This double-series will end in 1960 (with more time-travel in between), so NR could return to his family then in time to be there when his wife dies when Reed is 7. So in 1955 Reed was very young, and NR is widowed very soon after 1960. NR would disappear again in the early 70s, and Reed would be in college later in the 70s, with FF#1 quite some time after that. This would go some way to satisfying Marvel's rolling timescale which has FF#1 permanently about 15 years before the current date. In 2010 when this series was published that would be 1995, and Reed spent a couple of decades on his scientific career before getting to build and launch a rocket. Not unreasonable in the real world but things tend to happen a lot faster in comics, especially where a supergenius is involved. And anyway we're now in 2019 and that puts FF#1 about 2005.

There's a similar problem with Howard Stark and his son Tony who would also have to be born before 1955. But the problem is bigger here because it has been established that Tony Stark was 21 when Howard *did* die in a crash. So Tony would be 20 years older than Reed. Even more significantly if the Brotherhood faked the crash for Howard it killed his wife as well.

Nikola Tesla has some Marvel mentions before he became Night Machine. Shang-Chi (2002) #2 credits his experiments with causing the Tunguska event in Siberia in 1908. Captain America is at his death bed in 1943 in CA: The Medusa Effect. This is historically when he died but this issue claims he just disappeared with his inventions and notes. Next time we saw him he was already Night Machine with the woman who is his talking bird looking after young Leonid in a flashback panel in #2, in what vol 2 #1 will call 'Bendy Time'.

That issue will also show how baby Leonid turns a bird into the woman to look after him initially.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

S.H.I.E.L.D. #5 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
This issue Howard Stark gets his 1960 panel in 1st with his dictation of a summary of the events we have been witnessing. This time he reflects that there comes a time when a man must choose between keeping his head down and standing up for what is right.

But this time we continue with Stark as he wakes up after the explosion in 1956 in #2 to find himself in a very hot jungle. And overhead the Moon has some large chunks broken off. (It also appears to me to be bigger hence nearer.)

Then we catch up with him days later making his way through the jungle and he's in communication with someone by portable solar-powered shortwave radio. That person guides him to their meeting place and we see it is Nathaniel Richards, who was with him in the explosion. They both agree that the position of the stars and the state of the Sun mean they're probably 5-6 hundred thousand years in the future.

Nathaniel has a theory that they were brought here by the power source of their foe Night Machine, which is what caused the explosion. If they can find his body they might be able to get back home. (Stark's 1960 commentary suggests at least *he* will succeed.) But so far he says all he's found is ruins. He leads Howard to the edge of a cliff to a vista over some *colossal* ruins, many of which are metal pyramids. And they are dwarfed by a huge seated Pharaoh-like statue which we might recognise as Immortus.

For the next section we return to this series' present and are treated to a voiceover by Leonid explaining what happens from 1957 to 1960. Leonardo da Vinci, who travelled from his time to this era, gradually attracts a large number of the Brotherhood Of The Shield to be his followers, abandoning their immortal Isaac Newton. Leonardo offers them the hope of a long evolving future for mankind. But Newton's remaining adherents became more fanatical in their belief in his prediction that humanity will be destroyed in 2060.

Meanwhile the Star Child baby Celestial that Leonardo rescued from the Sun last issue grows up rapidly. As well as his size this is indicated by the increasingly less simple maths he burbles and the increasingly less simple things he can build. By 1960 he is taller than a man and allegedly aware of the conflict brewing in the Immortal City (beneath Rome) that they live in.

In parallel Leonardo's golden globe that he calls the Human Machine (which he obviously *didn't* leave behind in the Sun last issue in exchange for the Star Child) has been getting more complex too. Leonid likens it to various atoms. In 1957 it has gained a smaller orbiting ball and Leonid calls it reasonably Hydrogen. In 1958 it has 2 satellites and its central body has 2 merged lobes - Helium - as the Brotherhood begins to polarise. In 1959 the central body is back to a globe but with the hint of many balls packed inside it, and it has 6 'electrons' - Carbon - the basis of all living things as da Vinci's teachings take hold. In 1960 it is Oxygen with its 8 electrons and Leonid says the Human Machine becomes alive.

And through it all Newton has been constructing his Century Machine, his doomsday clock. It is now complete and war is imminent within the Immortal City. Nostradamus gives Leonid and the Star Child a quatrain (presumably 1 of his earlier prophecies, or at least 1 of them that Jonathan Hickman has made up):-

Armies will be heard clashing within the Earth
That very same year completion and schism
One hundred years, one hundred years, one hundred years
The drums of war and the sum of all fears

(The 100 years presumably refers to the gap between 1960 and the predicted end times in 2060. Or since it's repeated 3 times it could be the 300 years that Newton had Nostradamus prisoner and ruled the Brotherhood.)

But we pop back to 1951 where Howard Stark is waiting in his car for Nathaniel Richards to leave a house. It turns out Nathaniel's just been to see his family and has apparently chickened out of telling them he has to go away for a long time. This is to become an agent of the Brotherhood with Stark. The Brotherhood has actually told them they'll *never* see their families again, but Nathaniel refuses to believe that. Howard is actually glad to be free from the chains of a family. He hasn't told *his* family anything either, but the Brotherhood are going to fake a car crash for him.

Their initial assignment concerns a man who disappeared in 1943 along with most of his tech and notes. Now he's returned and their mission is to get hold of his Forever Machines and documentation. Stark says it's also personal for him. (The title of this issue and its appendix make it obvious that the man in question is Nikola Tesla.)

Stark turns his car into a flying machine, a more fantastical version of SHIELD's original flying cars.

In the far future the 2 adventurers have approached the ruins. Richards says there's a smaller set on the other side of the mountain but these appear much older. Then they see a woman in white who spots them and turns into a bird to fly away. They suspect she is the talking pigeon who accompanied Night Machine (and was *also* caught in that explosion). They follow her into a ruin where she reverts to human by the side of their gravely injured foe.

She thinks they are here to finish him off, but they say they need him to get them all home. In that case she says they'd better figure out how to save his life. And at last we learn he is Nikola Tesla.

This issue has the almost obligatory appendix, this time 2 pages:- 1 labelled 'The forgotten machines of Nikola Tesla'. The other 'The forever machines of Nikola Tesla'. All of them are mysteries apart from a name and a guess at their function. The forgotten machines are ones that have been found, the forever machines are still missing. (But is that before or after Stark & Richards 1951 mission?)

The forgotten machines are:-
Pulsar cascade: Creates a short-burst anti-matter wave.
Living mechanisms: Tools that expand or contract to fit the task.
Firmament: Anti-gravity coating.
Extinction engine: Death ray.
Lifter: Ion-propelled aircraft.

The forever machines are:-
The divide: Can pass through anything short of vibranium alloys.
The eternal dynamo: Unlimited power from zero-point energy.
The night machine: Quantum power driver.
Five fists of science: A coded historical document.
Tempest: Ball lightning generator.

I'm guessing a night machine is what Night Machine had in his body, that sent the 4 to the future.

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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 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, Nathaniel Richards, Night Machine (Nikola Tesla), Nostradamus, Star Child.