I have to admit that I have a natural bias against big event tie-in titles. They are usually nothing more than pedestrian reads. Mere cash grabs by a hungry publisher milking the last drop of blood from their big event. However, Secret Wars: Battleworld #1 was an entertaining read! In fact, most of the Secret Wars tie-in titles that I have read have been great. I have been pleasantly surprised. Will Secret Wars: Battleworld #2 continue that trend? Let’s find out!
Words: David F. Walker
Art: J.J. Kirby
Colors: Matt Milla
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Words: Donny Cates
Art: Marco Turini
Colors: Frank D’Armata
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 4.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with Blade (A funky 1970’s version of Blade. Actually looks pretty cool.) stalking another vampire. Blade mentions how weird this part of the world is. We then see that Blade is in New Quack City. (Home of Howard the Duck!) We see a duck version of Dracula attacking a female duck. Blade attacks Duck Dracula. The two fight. Their fight ends up sending both of them crashing through the front window of a local bar named The Dirty Mallard.
We see Howard the Duck at the bar. Howard sees Blade beating up Duck Dracula. Howard springs to action as he exclaims that he is sick and tired of seeing humans mistreat ducks. Howard smashes a bar stool over Blade’s head. Duck Dracula uses this opportunity to slip outside and summon his “pets” while our two heroes fight. Blade and Howard square off against each other. Blade is highly trained through his years of fighting vampires. Howard has taken a few classes at a local martial arts studio and watched a ton of Kung Fu movies. Howard tells Blade to prepare to feel the full-feathered fury of his quack-fu.
The two start battling each other. Howard says he is sick of humans picking on ducks. Blade replies that he was not attacking a duck. Howard says that if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck then-but before he can finish Blade yells he was fighting a vampire. Their fight takes the two of them spilling out of the window of the Dirty Mallard and onto the street.
There our heroes see that Duck Dracula has assembled his duck vampire bats and is ready to attack them. Howard tells Blade is sorry for the misunderstanding. Blade says that he has fought the real Dracula and now he is fighting ducks. Blade says this is so humiliating. Howard and Blade begin battling the duck vampire bats.
Suddenly, Duck Blade appears on the scene and says “Some &^%$*# is always trying to skate up-hill” and stabs Duck Dracula through the heart with a wooden stake. 1970’s Blade says that he has to remember that line. Duck Dracula dies. Duck Blade says that his work is done and then he disappears.
1970’s Blade and Howard walk off together. Howard apologizes for hitting Blade with a bar stool. The two formally introduce themselves to each other. Blade mentions how here he comes from ducks do not wear suits. Howard replies that where he comes from humans don’t wear goggles as fashion accessories.
Howard says that fighting vampires makes him hungry. Howard asks Blade if he wants to get something to eat. Blade replies “You mean like bread crumbs?” Howard replies “That’s wrong man. How’d you like it if I asked you if you wanted a watermelon?” Blade answers “Sorry. Never thought about it that way.” Howard says “It’s okay. Just don’t let it happen again.” Our two heroes walk off together. End of story.
The next story begins in Arcade’s Killiseum. Nico Minoru wins the fight against Carmilla Black. Carmilla is then fed to the three zombies chained up in the arena. Nico walks into the locker room area where Taskmaster slaps her and then whips her with his electro-whip. Taskmaster is pissed that Nico didn’t put Carmilla away in the fifth round like planned. Nico cost Taskmaster a lot of money. Next up in the Killiseum is General Thunderbolt Ross who has been turned into a massive cyborg courtesy of Forge’s technology. Ross is now the unkillable War Machine. Ross is the hero of the Killiseum and the most popular fighter.
We cut to later that night at Arcade’s after party. Taskmaster is angry with Arcade. Taskmaster wants Ross gone. Arcade disagrees and says Ross is incredibly popular and his quest to find his daughter’s killer is a great story. That Arcade wants to keep Ross around until he is done telling this story. Taskmaster calls Arcade a “clown” and tells Arcade to shut Ross down or Taskmaster will.
We hop to the next day with The Captain (Steve Rogers) approaching Ross in the Killiseum locker room. The Captain and his dinosaur at the most feared fighting team here. (Devil Dinosaur?) The Captain says that a lot of the kids here could use someone like Ross to talk to. To give them hope. Ross tells the Captain that he isn’t interested.
We sip forward to the next day. Ross is introduced to the Killiseum crowd. Arcade says that they finally found the killer of Ross’ daughter. And the killer has been hiding amongst them this entire time. Arcade says that the killer is Taskmaster. Taskmaster is stunned. Ross starts attacking Taskmaster. Taskmaster tells Ross that he did not kill Ross’ daughter. Ross says that Taskmaster did kill his daughter. That everyone did. Taskmaster, Arcade and Doom. The who damn world killed his daughter.
Ross then pushes Taskmaster over to where zombie Sabertooth, zombie Green Goblin and another zombie are chained up. The zombies then attack Taskmaster and kill him. Ross says that the Captain was right. There are always bigger monsters out there. And they all can be broken. We see Doom watching this on a television. Doom gets angry and crushes his wine glass. End of issue.
The Good: It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. No, you haven’t suddenly been transported into a literary review for Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities. It is just that Dickens’ classic opening line applies nicely to Secret Wars: Battleworld #2. This issue was a tale of two stories. One was great and one was pedestrian at best. Let’s focus on the good at this point.
I loved the Howard the Duck/Blade team-up story. It was a fun and entertaining read that put a smile on my face. It is great whenever you get a story from either Marvel or DC that is nothing but pure fun. It does not happen often so I always praise it when I see it. Walker delivers a flat out entertaining story. This was a well paced story. Walker hits the ground running and whips up a story that is compressed and moves with a purpose. The story is exceptionally balanced as Walker delivers plenty of humor and action for the reader. The story never drags nor does it feel too rushed. The flow is simply spot on as the reader falls into the story quickly and enjoys the ride.
A proper blend of action and humor is almost always a winning formula. And what was so great about the fight scenes in this story is that they were more than just mindless action. Some writers view fight scenes as nothing more than escapist entertainment. A part of the story where they can coast a bit. However, Walker shows that fight scenes can often be the perfect vehicle to pull off some quality character development or to introdcue a character’s backstory or personality. That is what happens in this story.
Walker uses the fight scenes to give the reader a great sense of both Blade and Howard’s personalities. During the fight scene the reader gets a perfect sense of Howard’s irascible personality. Walker is able to effectively convey Howard’s distrust for humans and his easily offended pride about being a duck. Walker is able to perform strong character work on both Blade and Howard in such a short amount of time. Walker also gives just enough backstory in introducing both Blade and Howard that a reader with zero experience with either character can still easily enjoy this story.
Walker’s dialogue was hilarious. Both Blade and Howard had well crafted unique external voices. The good character work and nice dialogue help to create some fantastic chemistry between Blade and Howard. These two character play off of each other in an entertaining fashion. Blade and Howard definitely made for a great buddy team.
Humor is what powers Walker’s story. This is the tough part in critiquing this story. I find it easy to tell the difference between good and bad action, good and bad drama and good and bad mystery. But, humor? That is so subjective. Personally, I love the style of humor that Walker dishes out in this story. But, I get that some readers may not be into the Howard the Duck style of humor.
Kirby’s art was the perfect match for Walker’s story. Kirby created fanatic facial expressions for the characters. There is no doubt that Kirby’s art helped to bring Walker’s humorous story to life in a fine fashion.
Now, let’s take a look at the Ross story. It definitely had plenty of action. Fans of violent action will enjoy the brawl between Ross and Taskmaster. The Ross story was also not slow at all. Cates packs in plenty of plot progression in a small amount of pages. It is actually quite impressive. And to top it all off, the story never feels rushed at all despite being rather compressed.
The Bad: I have zero complaints about the Howard the Duck story. The Ross story? Cates’ story was generic and not particularly creative at all. I felt that I was reading a mash up of common comic book tropes. The entire story felt so uninspired and tired. The characters. The conflict. Their motivations. All of it. It all seemed so well worn. The dialogue and character development were formulaic. It seemed that Cates dashed this story out without employing much imagination at all. The Ross story was easily the most unimaginative look into the setting of Battleworld that I have seen up to this point. This is a story that had a paint-by-numbers feel to it and was truly nothing more than filler.
Turini’s artwork was sketchy and rushed looking. None of it looked dynamic. Even the fight scene seemed static and unexciting. The colors were unappealing. I understand that the attempt was to create art that was dark and edgy as the tone of the story. But, this art wasn’t dark. It was muddy and muted. There is a difference.
Overall: Secret Wars: Battleworld #2 was a step several notches down from the debut issue of this mini-series. The Blade/Howard the Duck story was excellent. However, it is hard for me to recommend buying a comic book for just half of the contents. The fact is that the Ross story really is not worth the price of admission. For $4.00 a comic book has to deliver more than just half a comic.