Secret Wars #1 did not do much for me. It was a slow and rather un-engaging read. I have been cautiously optomistic about Secret Wars. I have always like Hickman’s work at Marvel. I find him to be quite talented and his stories at Marvel have always captivated my attention. However, Hickman can get lost in his own details and often find himself trapped and unable to craft a satisfying ending to his stories. Also, Marvel has not impressed me as of the past year. So, my trust in Marvel in general is at an all-time low. Add to all of this the horrid way Marvel has handled what is to come after the conclusion of Secret Wars and it all adds up to enough to give me concern over this big event. Still, Hickman has entertained me through out his time at Marvel from Secret Warriors, to SHIELD to Fantastic Four to the Avengers. Hopefully, Hickman can continue to do so with Secret Wars. Can Secret Wars #2 get this big event going in style and hook my attention? Let’s find out!
Words: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Esad Ribic
Colors: Ive Svorcina
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with the Thor Corps (I have no idea what Hickman is calling this group. But, I like the name Thor Corps.) all assembled and watching a young man lifting up Thor’s hammer to prove that he is worthy to become a Thor and join their ranks. All the Thors cheer the newest addition to their Corps. The Thor Corps’ job is to be the arm of Justice for their God: Doom. (Yup. In Battleworld, Doom is God. He is worshipped by everyone as God and is credited with creating their entire world. Battleworld is comprised of various Kingdoms. Each Kingdom is run by a Baron. The Baron can do whatever he wants with his Kingdom as long as he swears loyalty to Doom and worships Doom as God.)
There is an old Thor who appears to be the leader of the Thor Corps. Old Thor tells Newbie Thor that they are Justice and are the law. And they serve their God: Doom. The Thor Corps then all bow down and pray before a giant stone carving of Doom’s face. We learn that the Thor Corps is located on Doomsgard. (Like Asgard but more Doomy.) Old Thor tells the story of how God Doom created the light and created their entire world. Old Thor says that there are sinners in their world and that they must go dispense justice.
We slide over to The Kingdom of Utopolis. Alex, Dragon Man and some Mole Men are investigating an area that was the epicenter of an earthquake. Dragon Man talks about how there is a schism between faith in God Doom creating the world and science which suggests the world was created in a different manner than the teachings of God Doom. Evidently, they are investigating the cause of an earthquake. God Doom is maintaining that the earthquake was the product of natural causes. The truth is that something else caused the earthquake. Our team of scientists then come across the cause of the earthquake. It is a massive spaceship.
We cut to the Thor Corps arriving at Baron Sinister’s castle. Old Thor tells Sinister that he is under arrest for the crime of discord. Sinister is less than impressed with “Justice” or the charges being brought before him. Old Thor and Newbie Thor then transport Sinister to Castle Doom. (By the way, it appears that a fiery version of Galactus stands guard outside of Castle Doom.)
We shift to the Court of Doom inside of Castle Doom. Doom is on his throne with Sue Storm by his side. Dr. Strange is Doom’s Sheriff of Agamatto and is the Judge, Jury and Executioner for Battleworld. Dr. Strange declares that “I am the Law.” Strange charges Sinister with illegally aligning himself with Hyperion, the Baron of Utopolis, in opposition to the Kingdom of Higher Avalon. (Higher Avalon’s Baron is James Braddock.) Strain says that Sinister is in violation of all Border Treaties.
Newbie Thor asks Old Thor if all trials are this formal. Old Thor responds that as long as the resolute laws of Doom are followed then each Baron is given complete control of their Kingdom. That any disputes between the Kingdoms are handled by this Court that is held by Strange. Sometimes skirmishes are settled amicably and new alliances are formed like those between the Upper and Lower Kingdoms of Egyptia. Sometimes they are settled in the Court of Doom and there is a winner and a loser. Like the former Baroness Madelyn Pryor who was unseated and contained by Baron Summers. Then there are those that are conquered. Like the Four Horsemen who each had their own Kingdom but now they serve Apocalypse who runs their Kingdoms combined.
Sheriff Strange rules that Sinister is guilty and that Sinister must make restitution in either gold or territory. Sinister refuses to do either. Sinister then invokes his right to meet his accuser in the Arena. That if his accuser does not accept his challenge then Doom’s Law says that Sinister gets to go free. James Braddock says he accepts Sinister’s challenge. Sinister then says that he was challenging Brian Braddock and not James. Brian agrees to battle Sinister in the Arena.
Sinister and Brian are given stun sticks. The first to knock the other unconscious wins the challenge. Brian immediately swing his stun stick at Sinister and knocks Sinister’s head clean off. Brian thinks that Sinister is dead. However, Sinister’s body stands up and puts his head back on. Sinister then attacks Brian and knocks Brian out. Sinister then refuses to stop and swings his stun stick to deliver a killing blow to Brian. However, Sinister is stopped by Doom lifting his pointer finger and freezing Sinister. Doom tells Sinister to get on his knees.
Doom says he could care less about the petty squabble between Sinister and Braddock. However, since Doom has saved Brian that Brian could return Doom a favor. Doom says that High Avalon is the most favorable conduit to reach the Silent Chambers where heretics and thieves work to overthrow Doom. Doom said that when members of the Silent Chambers are faced with Confession that the one name they always say is “Braddock.” Doom says that Brian will immediately tell him where Doom can find the Silent Chambers. Brian replies that he has no knowledge of the location of the Silent Chambers. Doom says that Brian is lying and shall be killed.
Suddenly, James Braddock steps forward and exclaims that he is the one who has helped the members of the Silent Chambers. Sheriff Strange places James Braddock under arrest. Doom exclaims that Braddock’s entire House shall be torn down and his entire family killed as punishment. Sue Storm them places her hand on Doom and says “Mercy.” Doom holds Sue’s hand and agrees to elevate Brian Braddock as the new Baron of Higher Avalon. Doom orders that Baron Sinister should be whipped in public as punishment. Doom then tell Old Thor and Newbie Thor to take James Braddock to The Shield. Doom and Susan exit the scene as Valeria stays behind to talk with Sheriff Strange.
Valeria mentions how Strange is Doom’s Right Hand. The Law. The Religion. That Valeria is Doom’s Left Hand. The Foundation. The Science. Valeria says that Doom created certain protocols in case of future ideological breaches. Valeria hands Strange the report about the space ship that they found. Valeria says that they found something that the Law might call impossible or even heretical. That carbon dating puts the age of the space ship well before the Date of Creation. Strange says that he is invoking Quarantine. That Valeria will recall all of her agents and that Strange is going to have the area around the space ship sealed.
We zip over to The Shield which is a massive wall built by Doom to keep the inhabitants of the Deadlands at bay. The inhabitants of the Deadlands include zombies, the Annihilation Wave and the Ultron A.I. (This is a combination of Game of Thrones and Judge Dredd.) James Braddock armors up and then pulls out his light sword and dives off The Shield and into the Deadlands. He is immediately surrounded by zombie Venom and other zombies. James starts valiantly chopping up the zombies before he succumbs to the sheer numbers of his enemies.
We hop back to Castle Doom. Old Thor informs Sheriff Strange that James Braddock is dead. Strange then says that there is a schism. That they have suffered a breach and that Old Thor must go take care of it immediately. Old Thor asks if it is the heretical doings of A.I.M. (Advanced Ideas Mythology). Strange says “No.” Strange says there is an object that must be quarantined.
We shift to Old Thor and Newbie Thor as a few Mole Men standing next to the space ship. Old Thor tells Newbie Thor that sometimes things occur that contradict the Godhead of Doom. Suddenly, the space ship doors open. Old Thor yells for Newbie Thor to leave immediately and tell Sheriff Strange that they have found death here. Newbie Thor flies away. Old Thor is then cut down and killed by several weapons come flying out of the opening in the space ship.
We then see Thanos, Terrax, Ultimate Reed Richards, Maximus, Black Swan and Proxima step out of the ship. Ultimate Reed says that compression of space and time may have led to some kind of external distortion while they were in stasis. Ultimate Reed then says that there is something very wrong with his scanner’s readings. Proxima then brings over a Mole Man that tried to escape. Thanos grabs the Mole Man and asks him “Where are we?”
The Mole Man replies that they are in Doom’s world. That Doom made this world with his own hands in order to test the faithful and the unforgiven. Thanos asks what is this world’s name. Mole Man says that high-born call it Latverion, the believers call it God’s Kingdom, but the common people call this world “Battleworld.” End of issue.
The Good: Some comic books are a delightful cupcake. A sweet snack that is quickly consumed and enjoyed. Other comic books are steak. A bit more substance and taste for the reader to chew on. And then there are the rare few comics that are a five course meal. That would be Secret Wars #2. This issue is a five course meal that demands the reader’s time and attention and rewards with a story that is exquisitely crafted.
Secret Wars #2 is an issue that demands to be read several times. One reading simply is not enough. Hickman has delivered a beautifully textured story with multiple levels expertly woven together. The result is an incredibly well-developed setting for this big event. Battleworld is a delightfully complex world that captivates the reader’s attention. The setting for Secret Wars is just as important as the characters. Hickman does such an amazing job delivering a phenomenally fleshed out world that the reader is immediately pulled in and gets lost in the depth of this setting. I adore this setting. I found myself getting lost in it and being fascinated by every aspect of Battleworld. Hickman envelopes the reader in this world. Secret Wars #2 is a fine example of fully immersing the reader into a setting.
Hickman does a perfect job laying the foundation for this big event in Secret Wars #2. In fact, this issue is truly the beginning of this big event. Secret Wars #1 read more like a prelude than the actual start of this big event. So, if you missed Secret Wars #1 do not worry. You do not need to read it to enjoy this big event. Grab Secret Wars #2, hold on to your seat and get ready for the ride of your life.
For me, the most important aspect of any big event is the scope and feel of the big event. It must feel epic. Prior big events like Secret Wars and Siege failed miserably in that aspect. Secret Wars #2 most certainly does not. Hickman aces this core requirement of any big event. Secret Wars #2 delivers the feeling that something huge is happening. The scope of Secret Wars is massive. It is epic. The reader firmly believes that absolutely anything is possible with this story. Even if everything returns to status quo I need to feel that anything could happen during the big event. Secret Wars #2 succeeded in giving me a sense of excitement that all classic big events should evoke in the reader.
I love the social system of Battleworld with the various Kingdoms run by Barons that comprise Doom’s world. Positioning Doom at the top as the “God” of Battleworld lets Marvel’s greatest villain assume his rightful spot in this big event. Each Kingdom has its own unique flavor and the choice of Baron for each Kingdom is interesting. The Shield is a neat concept. It reminds me of the Wall in Game of Thrones. And the Deadlands is reminiscent of the Cursed Earth from Judge Dredd and the realm of the White Walkers in Game of Thrones. The Deadlands is a neat construct to employ the hive mind threats like the Annihilation Wave or the Ultron A.I as well as the mindless mass threat known as the Marvel Zombies.
Hickman hammers out some solid dialogue. However, that is not what really shines in this issue. It is Hickman’s narration that steals the show. Hickman is one of the few writers who knows how to employ soliloquies from certain characters to stand in place of the author and fill the reader in on important back story and information instead of employing dull narration boxes. Even more important is that Hickman delivers these soliloquies in an organic fashion. They never seem forced into the story. Old Thor’s soliloquies form a spine to this issue that makes it easy for Hickman to give the reader plenty of back story without having to pause the progression of the various plot lines. Also, it helps that Hickman is gifted at writing soliloquies that do not bore the reader. That is not easy to do.
Secret Wars #2 offers up a fine balance of action and drama. There is just enough fighting to keep the issue lively. There is a wonderful helping of drama and political intrigue entertain the reader. And certainly enough mystery about what is going to happen next that success in hooking the reader’s attention and getting them eager to come back for more. Secret Wars is wonderfully paced and plotted. Hickman moves with a purpose without every feeling rushed. The story unfolds in a natural fashion and steadily builds to a crescendo at the end. Hickman lays a strong foundation for this big event in this issue and does so without boring the reader. Setup work is hard to do and still make it entertaining for the reader. Hickman succeeded in this effort.
What I particularly love is how Hickman stunned everyone by revealing in this issue that Secret Wars is not the culmination of his Avengers/New Avengers run. No, Secret Wars is the culmination of Hickman’s Fantastic Four run. It is amazing to realize this but Hickman’s entire Avengers/New Avengers run was simply just a set-up for the conclusion to his Fantastic Four epic story. Incredible.
Sad Ribic serves up a sumptuous looking issue. Secret Wars #2 is a gorgeous issue. Ribic’s artwork is the perfect match for the massive scope of Hickman’s story. The art successfully captures the epic feel of this big event. I adore Ribic’s incredible attention to detail. Each panel shows such a high level of craftsmanship. This is one of those rare comic books where you simply want to re-read the issue just to soak in the stunning artwork.
The Bad: I have no complaints about this issue.
Overall: Secret Wars #2 was a magnificent read and made up for what I found was a lackluster debut issue in Secret Wars #1. I am not excited about this big event and eager to see what Hickman has in store for us. I wish Marvel was handling the publishing schedule better for this big event. I do not want to see Hickman getting screwed by Marvel’s editorial decisions the way Morrison got screwed on Final Crisis with DC’s horrible publishing decisions. I also wish that Marvel was more upfront about what is in store for their line of comics post-Secret Wars. However, none of that changes my belief that we are in store for a real treat with Secret Wars. It is clear to me that Hickman has a grand tale in mind for this big event and is going to deliver something special.