Secret Wars #1
(Jonathan Hickman; Esad Ribic; Ive Svorcina; Marvel)
Jamil Scalese: Well, it was a good run.
The Marvel Universe is dead. The Ultimate Universe is dead. For about 75 years these fictional realms have produced near endless adventure and drama. They’ll be missed, but alas, as Reed Richards has told us multiple times throughout the last three years: “Everything dies.”
Well, maybe. Shawn, you and I abstained from the Jonathan Hickman run on New/Avengers, choosing rather to focus on the Rick Remender branch of Earth’s Mightiest, and now the chickens have come home to roost. Since the announcement of Secret Wars I’ve been grabbing stray bargain bin issues of Hickman’s runs on The Ultimates, Fantastic Four and Avengers to try catch up on what the hell is happening to the Marvel multiverse. Context, glorious context.
The first issue of Secret Wars gives us the culmination of seventy-plus issues of work, and even though I only read a small portion of the run it feels like Hickman pulled it off. I thought the balance of emotion, shock and black humor worked very well. This first issue promised the end of the world’s longest-running fictional universe and it gave us just that. It felt legit.
Shawn Hill: Agreed, this was scary stuff. Ribic did the covers for House of M, but it’s nice to see him let loose on an epic of his own. The scale and size of the action is cinematic, not in a gimmicky way, but just on the sense of big sci-fi grandeur.
And I like the dirty way both sides, each with their own Thors and Nick Furys, are playing to win. 616 Reed Richards vs. the Ultimate abomination is especially illustrative of different realities in collision. It’s also pretty intense watching Captain Marvel try to punch out Ultimate Tony Stark even as he flirts with her and brings out his literally bigger guns.
Since it’s not really an end but just a change, coming after a summer of off-concept mayhem, this issue has gotten me excited to stick around for the ride.
Jamil: I’m going all-in with the “this is the end” mindset, I’m investing quite a bit of a money into the Marvel machine this summer, I might as well get amped about it.
While reading this issue I had a surreal moment when I remembered how enamored I was with the Ultimate Universe back in the early aughts. My first hardcore read and collect days were in those days and I had a big affinity for what Bendis, Millar and others were doing. So watching them get pummeled to bits is weird, tragic and satisfying. Poor 1610 Nick! You contributed so much to the zeitgeist, sir.
There’s an impressive amount of characters crammed into this opener. Maker, aka Ultimate Reed Richards, is a very cool antagonist, and Thanos and the Cabal are a wonderful wildcard villain sect. A small group of survivors stocked with headliners like Spidey, Black Panther and Captain Marvel look to be our viewpoint, and let’s not forget Doom is still lurking somewhere out there, pontificating with God and such.
Shawn: And the Illuminati, too. If there’s anywhere they might actually serve a purpose, it’s here. I will say I hope they’re among the casualties of the new reality, however. Secret War has never been the deepest of concepts (and comparing it to Convergence, as my LCS proprietor did this week, makes for an interesting contrast right now). This seems to be the most creative (and definitely most complicated) take on the concept thus far. And they’re throwing their big guns at it, so that could be fun.
Jamil: The recent concentration on multiverses, not only in comics but across modern fiction, is pretty fascinating. There’s so much to explore there, but at the same time I’m getting a little tired of it. Alternate universes are a bit of a cheat, window-dressing used by creators to generate instant excitement and it’s rarely backed up with good plotting. I do like Marvel’s approach to multiversal throwdowns though. Battleworld looks to be a hell of a concept, and some of those June and July debuts hold ridiculous amounts of promise.
Hickman does a good job, and Esad Ribic is right there with him, though there were bits and spots that I didn’t really dig. At times his art is a little puffy (though that may be the coloring) and some of the facial expressions didn’t channel the pure terror happening around the characters. On a more macro level I’m happy with the selection of Ribic to helm this. He is not a household name, and while style is very grandiose it has a mythic feel to it. I think that fits in with the whole Beyond(ers) riff raff.
Shawn: Better than a popped collar and a jheri curl, anyway! I kid, I love Prince!