Comic Review – Secret Wars #9 (Marvel Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. He missed reviewing them while he tries to write up his PhD thesis, so every other week he’ll be reviewing of one of them, with potential minor spoilers.

Despite taking time off from writing for the site and doing these weekly comic book reviews, I have still managed to find time every week to head down to my LCS to pick up the latest comic book releases every Wednesday. This week saw the release of the finale of Marvel’s Secret Wars series, their summer event of 2015 and the series that essentially informs the make up of the current Marvel Universe. I reviewed the first issue back in May, and I ended up following it and a decent number of the tie-ins as the Marvel Universe crumbled apart and became Battleworld until October. Since the start of the ‘All New, All Different’ Marvel, I’ve shifted dramatically from being largely a DC fan to really dropping the number of books I’m reading from over there in favour of all the excellent books Marvel is currently putting out, and Secret Wars was really the trigger for that. As with the rest of the series, the 34 page finale to Secret Wars was written by Jonathan Hickman, with art from Esad Ribic and colours by Ive Svorcina, with letters from Clayton Cowles.

Secret Wars began at the the end of all things, when Earth-616 (the normal Marvel universe) and Earth-1610 (the Ultimate universe) collided. A small number of Marvel heroes escaped on a ‘life raft’ ship, but the rest of reality was destroyed. Battleworld rose up in it’s place – a patchwork reality made up of fragments of universes, constructed and ruled over by Victor Von Doom, now with immense cosmic powers and known as God-Doom. Over the course of the series, the cracks in the world started to show and the survivors of Earth-616 conspired to take down Doom and attempt to reassert some semblance of the universe they once knew.

The finale begins with Black Panther and Namor facing down Doom, with T’Challa wielding the Infinity Gauntlet to engage Doom in a huge cosmic throw-down. But that was merely a distraction (a really pretty distraction…) to buy Reed Richards time to talk to Molecule Man, the source of God-Doom’s powers. This all leads to a final confrontation between Reed and Doom, age-old enemies, for the sake of reality itself. When the dust settles, the story shifts to 8 months later back in the Marvel universe, on the ‘Prime Earth’, bringing us in line with the current timeline and providing a reasonable roadmap of how we got there.

Event comics often fizzle out at the end, either due to the finale focusing too much on setting up the next event or storyline, or just not quite sticking the landing. Secret Wars manages to not only side step this and deliver a conclusion that managed to be both cataclysmic in scale in parts, and in others a deeply personal conflict between life long enemies, but it did a good job of setting up the new status quo, or at least giving a satisfyingly comic booky way for how it happened. With Secret Wars Jonathan Hickman has delivered a huge blockbuster event that never dragged or felt like it was treading water (and so the addition of an extra issue may well have been necessary), and after years of the impending death of all things, the series ends on a renewed focus on life and hope for the future.

A big part of why this event has been so enjoyable has been the art. Throughout, Esad Ribic has illustrated a bleak and intense Battleworld full of brilliant, show-stopping scenes (the Groot sequence in issue #8 was possibly my favourite), apocalyptic fights and emotionally resonant personal moments. T’Challa and God-Doom’s cosmic brawl is high concept and stunning to look at, but it’s the up-close struggle between Doom and Reed and the fury on their faces that stands out in this finale. Ive Scorcina’s colours round out the excellent art to show a dark, burning, war-ridden world as Battleworld falls, before switching to a brighter and clearer palette to go along with the hopeful turn for end of the book.

A lot has been made out of the delays to the series, but while I do think that ending up with the final issue leading in to the All New All Different Marvel universe coming out 3 months after that new universe has already started seems like very poor organisation on Marvel’s part (and I have no idea what the cause for it was), ultimately the delays to the book shouldn’t have an impact on the book’s quality. Contrary to that, the delays probably ensured that every issue had the same art team behind it, so when Secret Wars is all collected and re-read the delays won’t matter. What will matter is the consistently excellent art work that has the focus that the story required and deserved.

When Secret Wars started, at least for the first issue, I thought it was a good looking book that was the most enjoyable of the events last summer, so I felt it was worth continuing with to see how it all played out. From the second issue onwards, the scale of the story and the writing and art made Secret Wars one of my favourite books, with the end of every issue leaving me hungry for the next. An encyclopedic knowledge of the Marvel universe is absolutely not necessary to enjoy the story, though not knowing much may take some of the impact out of a few scenes. If you’ve not been keeping up with it, I’d definitely recommend tracking the previous issues down or picking up the collection when it comes out in March.

Score: 9 Molecule Men out of 10

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