Jamil Scalese: The corporate comics machine amazes me. Even though the finale of Secret Wars has been pushed well past the premiere of the new Star Wars they are brashly pumping out their All-New All-Different line to great success. The design of the mega-story has allowed the ending to stay relatively spoiler-free, and really, to the trade readers it’s not going to matter that this event was elongated to an almost silly point.
The eighth issue succeeds because it sports more payoff than set-up. We’re treated to some ultimate happenings with the likes of Thing, Franklin Von Doom, Maestro, Terrax, Thanos and the ever-lovable Groot. The interactions are taut with energy and Esad Ribic executes the thunderous action superbly. The gravitas of the moment is related through copious destruction committed by genetic freak shows fighting gamma strongmen fighting undead honor seekers. It speaks to a core idea of Secret Wars: The essence of the Marvel Universe warring with itself.
Jonathan Hickman has built this story well, and on a meta level Doom’s Battleworld is much like the series, sturdy but flawed. It’s an interesting setting, and the array of characters have been fun and dynamic in their vignettes, but the writing lacks an element of wonder that the writer is normally very good at manufacturing. I’m not sure what the last issue is building toward, and that bores as much as it excites me.
Shawn Hill: You’ve hit on something important there, JS! Hickman hasn’t just aimed the Marvel Universe at itself with this series; when Doom desperately tried (in Thanos’ supposedly damaging words) to rebuild in order to “save what [he] can,” he and Sheriff Strange had the wherewithal to mix things up as they chose. Hickman’s forte is taking the established MU and recombining things in odd ways, and this series has given him free reign. Ben becomes the Shield Wall, Franklin becomes Galactus (but only sort of, as Terrax discovers to his dismay) and the other major players (especially Doom’s Generals like Sinister and the Maestro) are bizarre echoes of their older selves.
Doom finally has the “power cosmic” he’s always wanted, and when Thanos challenges his umbrage, Doom demonstrates how even former gods really need the Infinity Gauntlet to achieve full power. Who actually has it is another neat twist. Fold in Star-Lord and Groot, and Sue von Doom finally starting to open her eyes (even if Valeria has to drag her kicking and screaming to do so), and this is the most satisfying issue in (too long of) a while.
Also I’d say Ribic is back on his A-game this month, with some really beautiful 3-panel splash pages at several key moments. I’m also loving his Thanos, he’s nearing Starlin-level with his character-defining take on the crazy death god.
Jamil: The Doom/Thanos scene is what worked most for me. I’ve been hungrily awaiting that interaction and it played very well, surprisingly fresh and extremely loyal to their robust characterizations. Really, for the most part I though much of the dialogue in this issue was tight, though Ben’s surrender to Franklin was underinflated.
Secret Wars is an odd beast, and I’ve dug it for several reasons, however as I’ve been following along with Chris Wunderlich’s great Full Run column on Hickman’s voluminous Avengers stint I’m reminded how insular this story feels. Longform comic books always have a problem with consequence, and superheroes in particular endlessly defy traditional story structure and this series is literally in its own plane of existence. All the lingo and rhetoric assembled over the last few years, Avengers Machine, Mapmakers, Builders and preemptive strikes against infiltrating Earths, etc. are non-factors in Secret Wars. It’s more of a finale to Hickman’s Fantastic Four work than the Avengers stuff, which is perhaps fitting because the First Family comics were probably better.
I imagine there are still some series waiting to be announced but the outcome, the purpose, of Secret Wars is somewhat lost on me. I’m looking forward to a plump final issue to clear it all up.
Shawn: Outcome and purpose, huh? I think it was mostly Hickman’s toybox to play around with, to really see how far certain Marvel concepts could stretch, and it turns out to be pretty far. It also gave a kind of free reign to Marvel’s creators to stump for whichever continuity they preferred, a smart move of invigoration and revival while DC was Diverging and Converging (if we can remember back that far). I enjoyed for example revisiting Secret Wars 1 with Deadpool; seeing Michael and Carina get to be heroes, however briefly in the Korvac Saga; and exploring just how deeply Doom wishes he were Reed Richards (deeply enough to steal his whole family, it seems). Yes, as you say, despite the presence of some figures from Hickman’s Avengers run, this story is much more deeply steeped in the intergalactic loyalties and explorations of his Fantastic Four.
Jamil: Which is pretty cool considering their status elsewhere in the line and in Hollywood.
We’ll rap aplenty about the crossover books in the final column. For now I’ll blab on about my stragglers in…
Battleworld Tie Up!
Jamil: Woooo! We’re ALMOST at the end Secret Wars and the tie-in spigot is finally at a slow drip. Only two books for me and none for Shawn who is still waiting for Ultimate End to, well, uh, end.
Hail Hydra #4 concludes Rick Remender’s multi-year employment at Marvel in sneakingly anti-climactic action. The issue reads like the end of an arc of a standard ongoing with its ambiguous final page and a few loose emotional threads. The true gem of the piece might be the opener which features a flashback talk with Old Man Rogers and series protagonist Nomad over the “pointless ballet of punching, politicking and piety”, a possible nod to why the creator is taking a hiatus from superhero comics. The series as a whole works as a suitable end to his strong run writing the Sentinel of Liberty. The script’s OK but Roland Boschi’s fervent action and Chris Chuckry’s moody and spooky colors get the job done.
I’ve always been a fan of Marvel’s willingness to lampoon their own brand so I took a chance on Secret Wars Too. The seven story anthology boasted a couple alright stories, namely Kate Leth and Brittney L. Williams’ “Pizza Quest” and Kyle Starks and Ramon Villalobos’ “Last Days of D-Man”, but the highlight is “Sraw Terces” by Hickman and Brian Churilla. It’s a weird tale about his doubts to deliver a satisfactory close to the event comic manifested through conversation with an imaginary Dr. Doom. The very existence of the story makes me wary he’s got a magnificent ending to this comic, I guess we’ll see in about a month.
One more of these to go, join as next time as we review the final installment, talk about the event series as whole, and tell you what was what as far as the tie-ins! Merry Reset, Everyone!