Let's start by pointing out the obvious. This "Secret War" has nothing to do with the intergalactic Secret Wars super-powered slugfest from the 80's. This particular story has to do with more earthly concerns.
Nick Fury and his S.H.I.E.L.D. cohorts have twigged to something odd going on in the super-villain line. For years now, costumed super-villains like Killer Shrike and Jack O'Lantern have been getting themselves powered up with a fortune in hi-tech power enhancement gear, and using it to knock off grocery stores. That's just bad economics by anybody's standards.
Investigating, via a combination of rather brutal interrogations and some good field-work from Natasha Romanov, the Black Widow, Fury has found a trail that leads to Latveria, home of the all-powerful Doctor Doom. But when Fury takes his information to the White House, he is told to back off, and not to compromise the improving diplomatic relations between America and Doom's homeland.
All that happened a year ago. In the current day, an explosion puts Luke Cage Power Man in hospital and also wounds his girlfriend Jessica Jones. Nick Fury seems to make a connection between this attack, and the events of one year ago, and he holds himself to blame.
The story opens one year ago - shortly after Fury has been told to back off the Latverian investigations. The explosion which put Luke Cage in a coma is still twelve months in the future.
Nick Fury personally contacts Captain America, Matt Murdock, Peter Parker, Luke Cage, Wolverine, and persuades them to hop on a plane to Latveria, along with an unidentified young female who may well be Elektra. There, they meet up with Natasha Romanov and Fury himself. When all have arrived, Nick explains the situation.
Fury claims that the various hi-tech super-villains he has located have gained their over-priced equipment not through their own criminal endeavours, but from Latverian funding. He believes that in return, at a certain time those same bad guys will be called to perform a scheduled series of acts of terrorism. Naturally, Fury isn't about to see that happen, and so he plans a pre-emptive political counter-strike.
Yep, Nick Fury has gathered his own personal army, with the goal of overthrowing the ruler of Latveria - Doctor Doom!
Fast forward to the present day. Cage's hospital room. Enter Captain America, spitting with rage, and grabs Fury. Cap screams into Fury's face.
"I told you! I told you this would happen! Dam you for what you did do us!"
Ooops. Looks like something pretty heavy went down in Latveria those twelve months back. I guess that's why there's another three issues worth of explaining to go!
This book carries a $4.00 cover price, and ships every couple of months or so, but for that you get a top-rate format with gorgeous paper that shows off Gabriele Dell'otto's sumptuous painted art to maximum effect. So let's not hear any bleating about the extra buck you pay over what something like "Venom" might cost you. You're getting your money's worth. There's a swag of extra material at the back to help justify that extra dollar, just in case you weren't quite convinced.
Plus of course, you're getting Bendis at his best - with all the characters that he loves and has made his own in the past few years. What's impressive (to me) about Bendis is not just how good his writing has been, but how consistently good it is, despite the rather heavy workload he seems to carry.
I know there has been a few questions posed about the way Bendis has depicted the White House response to the threat of terrorism in this story. The only thing I would say to that is to suggest that we see the whole story through before anybody moves to judge their motives. I think there's just a few more secrets left in this secret war.
If you're patient, and have deep enough pockets, then this book is well worth waiting for and paying for. Four solid webs.