Jamil Scalese: The final days of Dr. Doom’s reign are upon us … Well, unless you’ve read any All-New All-Different Marvel titles, then it’s technically been over for eight months.
Shawn, that’s about how long it’s been since we’ve started this little jaunt, and, for me, this issue was the first bump in the road. Even though it sated my requests for more action Secret Wars #7 caught a touch of Marvelitis, the condition that that compels an event miniseries to hem and haw around the main point while fawning over its own mythology.
According to Hickman and co. this and the next issue were previously a single entity but were split for $torytelling rea$on$ and I think that shows in the padding and banter in the middle portions. The sudden concern with Sinister, Maestro, Madelyne Pryor and Apocalypse was too digressive for how tight this was been. Moreover, those characters’ stories, shown in tie-ins like Age of Apocalypse and Future Imperfect, do not line up with what’s happening here. The immediate danger to Doom’s chaotic society is established repeatedly, but I’m not even sure who the hell is fighting against him before the Thor Corps go turncoat. Lots of hazy battle scenes in this one. Who is Maximus leading again? What do they look like?
What works and rectifies it for me are are the last few pages with T’Challa and Namor. For good or bad their relationship was one of the hallmarks of Hickman’s New Avengers work and the way it’s unfolded in Secret Wars works as a charming capper.
Shawn Hill: It did read both as rushed and slight. When we’ve been waiting this long for the summer blockbuster to conclude (hint, winter is definitely coming, guys), I do want more than a swiftly crumbling facade. Though I do think it lines up on several fronts, or at least the Thor betrayal has been diagrammed in Thors, which also concludes this week. Doom’s reign is riven through with blind spots, and they show up on the writer’s and artist’s parts, too.
It still doesn’t sit right that Susan and Valeria look more like twins than mother and daughter, and now we’ve got poor Madelyne Pryor getting kicked when she’s down, twice, by Sinister and Captain Marvel. The latter is shocking, because this can’t be the Captain that survived in the Life Raft, can it? At least she’s not like the more heroic ones from A-Force and the Carol Corps. Playing Sinister as prancing and fey rather fits the character, but it also sits kind of ill as he ends up beheaded and insulted by Apocalypse of all beings.
As to the players, the promising Prophet arc collapses completely as it was just Maximus being petulant as usual. The Hulks, Thors, and Zombies seem more promising foes to Castle Doom, especially as the latter are being given a new lease on life by the always suave T’Challa. Ever abrasive, even Namor has been won over.
Jamil: The delays have certainly sapped some of the energy from Secret Wars, but I’m a fan of (visual) continuity, especially for something like this, so I don’t hate them. However, Ribic’s luster is starting to fade a bit. A certain level of craftsmanship from the first few issues is lacking though certainly not totally missing. He gets to show off his action chops here and much of it is fun to look at. Even though the undercard villains haven’t really earned their page time they look great though Ribic’s lens.
The Goblin Queen beat down succeeds visually but is certainly brutal. Captain Marvel’s status is an odd little nugget, one of the few remaining mysterious and so arbitrary you wonder if it’ll be fully addressed. Outside of Mr. Fantastic and Black Panther the use of many of the Life Raft characters has not been clear.
In terms of a single issue Secret Wars #7 and its twenty pages didn’t provide too much but considering how much text has flooded the previous installments; this will likely read better in trade.
Shawn: Yes, the problems cited make this one of the weaker issues overall. While things are coming to a head, it’s weird to see Doom, who was so pro-active at the first sign of dissent (having a hissy fit with Reed; killing his Sheriff for insubordination, as if that would go unnoticed even by his own family), now just sitting and brooding as all of his carefully wrought order crumbles around him. Sue’s not doing much either, nor is Franklin (who must be powering some of this somehow, right?) … so maybe it’s time for Valeria and Black Swan to take action on their own?
Jamil: The final leg of tie-ins approaches! Just about every title I’m reading has completed and many of the good ones released their final issues.
The only one that wasn’t was Agents of Atlas #1, a late announced one-host by Tom Taylor and Steve Pugh (on a second tour in Battleworld after Age of Ultron vs Marvel Zombies). They produce a bland, though not at all bad, comic with the always digestible and fun 50’s Marvel characters.
Three of the strongest Secret Wars-affiliated series on my pull list delivered satisfying endings. In 1872 #4 (Gerry Duggan; Nik Virella) the bad guys get their due in the old town of Timely at the hands of Red Wolf and the widow Natasha Barnes. The art and story gelled superbly in this book, and it never failed to be brutal. I was very excited by the open ending as this idea has wheels.
Civil War #5 (Charles Soule; Leinil Francis Yu) took on the idea of the Marvel mix-tape and put it on full blast. Many of the other domains dealt with specific characters or teams or a narrow concept but in the Warzone Soule and Yu had access to just about the entire modern roster and cooked up some majestic fusions, like Wolverine/Hulk, Octo-Kingpin and a shockingly healthy She-Hulk/Iron Man relationship.
I haven’t failed to throw tons of praise at Marvel Zombies (Si Spurrier; Kev Walker) and the final issue will force me to continue that trend. The finale isn’t as fun as the rest of the series, but it’s just as clever and certainly emotionally satisfying. Elsa Bloodstone could be ascended into a usable property for Marvel if handled right, a natural Buffy stand-in who’d mingle well with the publisher’s smoldering magical landscape.
Shawn: Thors #4 ties directly into the action of Secret Wars #7 (much as the Siege finale did for #6), giving us a more elaborate version of Jane Foster Thor causing a rift between the good cops and the bad cops that are what Doom’s Host of Thors amounted to. Loki’s work here is done, but as long as you can keep track of how many different Thors there have been, you can make sense of what ended as a solid if unlikely Marvel Universe police procedural about corruption on the force.
Jamil: Jason Aaron has shepherded the Thor mythology very well and Thors was a nifty interlude in the Jane Foster saga, and the last page surprise was one of the better finishers of the whole event. In a funny way this series really points to the ‘tweener status of the tie-ins. It had the capability to be lockstep with the core series but only really intersected in the final issue.
Shawn: A-Force #5 ends on a note of great sacrifice, but there is something appealing about this mostly female world that manages to team up Medusa and Loki and America and Sister Grimm and Dazzler (from different eras and times) as heroines fighting to preserve their community together. Well, most of them. Jorge Molina’s art has been solid throughout, with especially nice effects for Singularity.
Modok Assassin #5 reveals the architects of MODOK’s woes, as it was Baron Mordo and Clea (evil version) who sabotaged Angela into falling powerless into Killville, so that MODOK would of course live up to his name and kill her. Somehow this was meant to lure Sheriff Strange into vulnerability, which leads to endless put downs from MODOK about Mordo’s stupidity. His unexpected love for Angela is the special sauce that kept this entire tale fresh as it was, and it delivers here one more time as the Thors come to rescue their own. Christopher Yost and Amilcar Pina have been having a lot of fun providing gleeful carnage and giddy insults all along, but the story was almost sweet.
Where Monsters Dwell #5 ends as snidely as it began. It turns out our main characters had a history a little more complicated than either realized at first. Russell Braun’s art was amazing throughout, whether he had to deal with angry pygmies or domineering Amazons (all of whom were cut from the classic blonde jungle girl model). It was a thoroughly pulpy story from start to finish, only the protagonist was a buffoon, and his foe a disdainful gold digger. Nothing was fair in this battle of the sexes, and if there is a winner by the end, it’s the lucky innocents who didn’t understand the game.
Jamil: I dropped that series after issue two. It was just brutal, catty and piggish at the same time.
I expected bit more out of Squadron Sinister as a whole but the fourth issue ended the battle between ‘Hawk and Hype well. I love villain comics and this one work on some levels but didn’t feel naughty enough after that bombastic first scene with the Supreme Power gang.
Shawn: Squadron Sinister #4 gives us what we’ve been waiting for the, the war between Batman and Super–I mean Nighthawk and Hyperion. Unlike in Dark Knight (which is explicitly referenced by Pacheco), Kyle has gathered the powers of the rest of the Squadron (or disposed of them) to use on bringing Hyperion down, mostly because he’s an asshole. Well, they’re both assholes, honestly. It’s the most varied and entertaining issue of the series, as it finally broadens its scope and is about more than simply murdering everyone else.
Jamil: This was another one with a surprising ending, a series of final pages that reveal a sudden twist of justice and comment on the realities of society.
We are very near the end of Secret Wars and its affiliate comics and I’m eager to move on. The event has been fun but now the concept is getting stale and I’m looking to make room in my budget for the All-New All-Different.