Marvel’s latest big event, Secret Wars, has been a massive success. Secret Wars has been the rare occurrence where a big event delivers in incredibly intelligent and entertaining story as well as also being an absolute sales monster. Secret Wars has been in beast mode as it has rampaged the sales charts with each issue. To be sure, that is all that Marvel cares about with their latest big event. It had been a long time, since Civil War, that a Marvel big event tore up the sales charts in such a manner. However, as a reader, we can rejoice that Secret Wars actually has delivered an excellent story. Imagine that. Hickman constructs an amazing story making the readers happy. Meanwhile, Hickman’s story sells a tons of issues making Marvel happy. Everyone wins. That rarely happens during a big event. Is Secret Wars #5 another hot read for this big event? Let’s hit this review and find out!
Words: Jonathan Hickman
Pencils: 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 funeral service for Sheriff Strange. We see a giant statue of Strange placed next to the giant statue of Molecule Man. Franklin Richards places some flowers around Strange’s statue. Franklin says that he liked Strange and that he will find who killed him. Franklin says when he finds the killers he will mash them into little pieces. Doom silently watches the entire ceremony.
We shift to that night with Valeria sitting underneath Strange’s statue. Doom approaches Valeria and tells her that he wants her Department of Science, Justice Division to track down the individuals who emerged from the space ship they found. Doom believes that they are the ones responsible for Strange’s death. Valeria says that she feels responsible for Strange’s death since it was her Department of Science that found the space ship. Valeria says that none of this makes sense. Valeria asks why Doom has not already killed these people.
Doom replies that he is not of a clear mind and might do something rash and break the world. Valeria says that she wants to know everything about these individuals who emerged from the mysterious space ship. Doom gets weary of Valeria’s constant questioning. Doom tells Valeria to not confuse undying love with eternal patience. (Fantastic line! I’m using that on my boys next time they start to question me.) Doom says that he needs Valeria to find these people and do so without asking anymore questions. Valeria says that she will. Valeria leaves.
Doom stands alone by Strange’s statue. Doom says “Damn you, Stephen.”
Doom then enters a hidden cave. He defends down stairs into an area that is nothing but bright light and energy that lacks any physical form. Floating in the middle of the bright light is Molecule Man. Doom tells Molecule Man that Strange is dead. Miracle Man (who is acting like he has gone insane) asks what killed Stephen. Doom says doubt killed Strange. Doom says that even Strange and he were not there at the start. Doom says that in the beginning it was just Molecule Man and the Beyonders. Molecule Man says that it was only “them” in the beginning.
Molecule Man says that the Beyonders were all-powerful and curious. That the Beyonders created universes. Then the Beyonders became bored. That after a while, once you build something and then have finished tinkered with it then all you can do is tear it down and start over again. The Beyonders went from being fascinated with life to fascinated with death. The Beyonders decided to start destroying the universes across the Multiverse.
The Beyonders created the Molecule Man. He was their bomb that was designed to destroy a universe. The Beyonders made many versions of Molecule Man for each of the universes in the Multiverse. But, the Beyonders forgot to plan for one thing: They made Molecule Man a man. And by making him a man they inadvertently gave Molecule Man a choice.
Molecule Man said that his choice was Doom. So, Doom and Molecule Man decided to go about the Multiverse killing the other versions of the Molecule Man. They created the Black Swans to hunt down and destroy the other Molecule Men. However, the Beyonders had built Molecule Man too well and it was obvious that they were not going to be able to save the Multiverse. That is when Molecule Man and Doom go tricky. At that point, Doctor Strange joined them.
While the Black Swans were out in the Multiverse destroying the other Molecule Men, Doom, Strange and Molecule Man were busy taking some of the alternate versions of the Molecule Man and turning them into a weapon. A massive bomb.
Doom, Strange and Molecule Man then approached the Beyonders and used their weapon powered by multiple Molecule Men to destroy the Beyonders and to steal the Beyonders’ powers. They then stored the Beyonders’ power somewhere safe in order to use it to save as much of their universe as possible. The Molecule Man served as the conduit for the machine that housed the Beyonders’ powers. Strange said that he cannot be the one to decide who lives and who dies as they try to save the remnants of their universe. That only Doom is capable to making such tough decisions. Therefore, Doom received the Beyonders’ powers and became God Doom.
Doom then tells Molecule Man that he killed Strange. Molecule Man says that he already knew that. That Doom reeks of shame. Molecule Man says that Doom has started something. An unravelling that might take them all down. That if God Doom goes down then the entire world will go down with him. Molecule Man says that Doom is the one holding this entire world together. Doom replies that maybe it is Molecule Man who is holding the world together. Molecule Man answers “Well…won’t that be exciting? Hmmm. Just how we like it.” Doom then exits the scene.
We cut to the Science Department, Justice Division. Valeria has assembled her Future Foundation team of scientists that includes Dragon Man, Nostradamus, Tesla, Bentley and Alex. (You may remember Nostradamus and Tesla from Hickman’s S.H.I.E.L.D. mini-series.) Valeria tells her team that their number one mission is to find Thanos and his band of cohorts. She says that all of their other projects are suspended until they achieve success on this priority mission.
Alex says that they have been tracking the “God particles” which are the “stuff of Doom.” These particles are energy signals given off every time Doom uses his powers or when one of Doom’s Thors teleport into battle. What they have discovered is that there was a power completely independent from Doom. When Sheriff Strange used his powers the energy signals spiked on the negative side. They read as the absence of Doom. Also known as Dark Matter. Alex says that they believe it was Strange who scattered Thanos and his crewand the other 616 heroes away from the battle scene.
Valeria says that they are going to take this all the way to the end of the line. No matter where it goes. And for now what they learn stays only within the Future Foundation and no one else is told. During this monologue we see Black Panther stealing an amulet from the kingdom of Egyptia. We see Carol Danvers being captured by Mr. Sinister in his kingdom. We see Lady Thor drinking with the Thors in Doomgard. We see a Black Swan in Doomstadt.
We cut back to the Future Foundation. Valeria says that she wants to know what really happened. She wants to know who these people are and where they disappeared to. She wants to know what they are capable of and, more importantly, what they want. And she wants to know why it scares God Doom so badly. We cut to Thanos standing at the Shield wall. Thanos smiles. End of issue.
The Good: Hickman is a master chef. His work on Secret Warriors, S.H.I.E.L.D., Fantastic Four, Avengers and Secret Wars is his seven course meal. Secret Wars is Hickman’s showstopper premier course near the end of the seven course meal. This is the moment where the diner realizes how all of the previous dishes have led up to this climactic dish. The diner is amazed at Chef Hickman’s long-range vision and ability to construct his seven course meal.
However, on a smaller scale, the diner is amazed at the level of attention lavished upon each separate course. How Chef Hickman slaved over the careful selection of every single ingredient. How Chef Hickman meticulously chose each spice and thoughtfully considered how the different flavors would marry with each other. Not only the favors were considered, but also the texture of the dish. The diner marvels at how the different textures compliment each other.
The massive seven course meal can be appreciated on a macro level as one immense and impressive undertaking. However, the same seven course meal can be appreciated on a micro level. The incredible attention to even the smallest details making up only a portion of a single course. How all of these carefully considered decisions even for the smallest ingredient in one course can, in the aggregate, have a profound impact on the course and the entire meal itself.
This is the type of effort and care that one can expect from a person who is a true master at his craft. The truly gifted focus on the smallest details while still possessing the ability to see the grand scheme and how all the pieces fit together. Being able to do this is what separates the truly talented artists from everyone else in their field. This is what Hickman does with Secret Wars #5.
I know it must seem unexciting, and downright boring, to read a review where I simply lavish praise upon a writer’s work. Poking fun at a poorly written story and laying into the writer with plenty of snarky and witty barbs is always more entertaining. I get that. However, it is important to revel in a comic book that is truly well written. It is important to praise and to find the enjoyment in the shining a light on good writing in hopes that others will be inspired to raise their efforts at their craft.
There are only so many different ways I can praise each issue of Secret Wars. The fact is that Secret Wars #5 is another brilliant read. Hickman continues to amaze me with his writing on this big event. This is truly excellent work. The level of writing that Hickman is delivering on Secret Wars simply is not found in 99% of the super hero titles from Marvel and DC. Hickman is delivering the quality of writing that I would expect from a talented prose writer. This is the type of writing I usually see reserved for literature whether in short story or novel form.
I am continually blown away at what an amazing wordsmith Hickman has become. Hickman plays with the English language the way a virtuoso plays with their musical instruments. Hickman plucks his words as if they were notes and places them together in a fashion that makes them almost lyrical. Hickman’s dialogue has a nearly poetic feel to it. The language is beautiful. There are moments that I get lost in Hickman’s artistry of stringing together words the I do not even think about the plot lines running through the story. I simply appreciate Hickman’s art. A person need not know anything about the various plot lines or the story itself in order to enjoy the sound of Hickman’s narration and dialogue.
The beautiful dialogue in this issue is complimented by strong character work. Hickman continues to do a fine job giving the main characters well-developed personalities. Doom, Molecule Man and Valeria are the stars of Secret Wars #5. These three characters are well-developed and have complex personalities.
I continue to be impressed by Hickman’s Doom. God Doom is a wonderful mix of a man who believes he is the hero of the story and everything that he does is for the good of the entire world. There is clearly love in Doom’s heart. However, all of that is tinged with the simmering anger and haughty attitude that will not tolerate anything other than absolute and undying loyalty and devotion. This create a delightful contrast that makes Doom a fascinating character in this story.
Hickman does a good job showing this in the scene between Doom and Valeria. It is obvious that Doom loves Valeria. Yet, at the same time, there is zero tolerance for anything other than complete obedience from Valeria.
I also like the shame and remorse that Doom has over having to kill Strange. This shows that even as an all-powerful God, that Doom has moments of weakness. That Doom still feels the loss of a man who was his close friend. Hickman has truly made Doom an even more complex and engaging character in this issue.
The character work on Molecule Man is fantastic. His scene with Doom is captivating. I like that Hickman gives the Molecule Man an unbalanced and slightly insane personality. This version of Molecule Man is quite mental. It is as if all of the immense knowledge of the Multiverse is too much for even Molecule Man’s mind to process and handle.
Valeria is also well written. She is able to shine in Secret Wars #5. I love that Valeria shows flashes of Reed Richards’ personality. Her unsuitable urge to question everything is well-played. Also, Valeria’s unwavering need to uncover the truth is well conveyed. There is no doubt, that Valeria is her father’s daughter. It is cool to see Valeria channel her inner Reed in this issue and begin to insert herself as a major player in this big event.
Secret Wars #5 is well plotted and paced. Hickman continues to progress the story in his trademark steady and controlled manner. However, Secret Wars #5 never feels decompressed. That is because, despite the steady pacing, Hickman delivers a ton of plot progression in this issue. Hickman drops the bomb on the reader that Molecule Man is in fact alive. And, on top of that, Molecule Man might actually be the person holding the entire Battleworld together instead of Doom. Hickman also finally delivers the story of how the Multiverse ended and how Molecule Man, Doom and Strange saved the remnants of their universe and patched them together to create Battleworld. We also get Valeria and her Future Foundation moved into place to chase Thanos and his crew.
There is a ton that happens in Secret Wars #5. This is an incredibly dense read that offers the reader plenty of consume and digest. This is certainly an issue that warrants multiple reads. It is beyond impressive how Hickman is able to fashion so many intricately detailed plot lines and juggle them all at the same time. There are so many moving parts to this story.
Hickman also delivers a strong hook ending to Secret Wars #5 that treats the readers to several teaser scenes in order to get them excited to come back for the next issue. We see Carol in trouble with Mr. Sinister and Black Panther stealing an ancient amulet. I am interested to see what out 616 heroes are up to in the next issue. Of course, the biggest teaser scene at the end was the one with Thanos at the Shield wall. The one big mystery up to this point is just exactly what the Mad Titan is scheming. I cannot wait to see Thanos finally take a more active role in this big event.
I can sum up Esad Ribic’s artwork on Secret Wars #5 in one word: Sumptuous. Ribic’s incredibly detailed artwork matches Hickman’s ornate story. Ribic gives Hickman’s grand space opera the proper scope and feel that it deserves. The artwork is able to convey the emotion and intensity of the characters in this big event. There is no doubt that the epic quality of Secret Wars would not have been possible without Ribic’s artwork. Hickman brought his A-game with his story and Ribic answered by bringing his A-game as well.
The Bad: I have no complaints with this issue.
Overall: Secret Wars #5 was another brilliant installment in this truly epic big event. Marvel has an absolute classic on their hands with Secret Wars. At the rate Hickman is going, when this big event is concluded, Secret Wars is going to be viewed as Marvel’s grandest big event. Secret Wars #5 offers beautiful dialogue, engaging character work, intricate plotting and stunning artwork. This issue is worth every single penny of its $4.00. And then some.