“The Observer Effect”
Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Artist: Scott Kolins
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Plot: The Watcher shows up in this final installment of the Battleworld adventure, but his motivations are maddeningly unclear. We’re all in for a few surprises.
Comments: Suspicions about what’s really going on with this series have proven correct (all admittedly foreshadowed by McDuffie’s careful plotting). Of course, Hank Pym didn’t kill everyone last issue, he just shrunk them down in hopes of revealing the real player behind their abduction. And what a reveal it is! I can’t really talk about any of the surprises in this issue without giving away everything, which is too bad. So let’s treat it like a blind item:
What mysterious alien, not known for making friends, a kind of outsider wherever he goes, has been bedeviling our stalwart crew of misfits? If you thought the Space Phantom was a blast from the past, wait till you see this interstellar oddity!
What’s most interesting in this issue is the notion that the events of the series are definitely in continuity and reflect the current statuses of the characters. I was doubtful about this at first, thinking the scenario a perfect one for a giant reset button at the end. But McDuffie at least has not provided one. Hank and Jan seem to have broken up for the last time. He’s started a relationship with a much more appreciative Firebird.
And while the series began with the seeming murder of Spider-Man, it ends with an actual death for one of the players, including a funeral back on Earth. This unexpected fate is fitting with the tone of the series, which included humor and nostalgia but mixed in with a lot of deadly predicaments and serious challenges, too. McDuffie keeps the dialogue flowing, and doesn’t take us or his characters for idiots.
The title refers to science and quantum experiments, but also quite literally to the Watcher and his own brand of coping with the non-interference policy of his race. Uatu comes off as exceedingly clever, and McDuffie, as he does with nearly every character in this rousing adventure tale, manages to deepen the Watchers mythology without violating their legacy. He and Kolins have delivered a solid series employing the richness of the Marvel Universe with a nimble mix of humor and tragedy.
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