SECRET WARS #1 Review: “There Is No Dana, Only Secret Wars!”

It’s difficult to eulogize a fictitious entity. It’s especially difficult when that “thing” serves as the backbone of modern mythology. However, despite being more popular now than ever, the Marvel Universe dies this week along with its last alternate, the “Ultimate Universe”. Delivering both bang and whimper, the opening salvo of writer Jonathan Hickman’s epic “final level boss battle” closes as many doors as it opens windows.

Birds, snakes and helicarriers! It's the end of the world as we know it!
Birds, snakes and helicarriers! It’s the end of the world as we know it!

Without spoiling anything, bring a hanky. And if you have a favorite or a pre-existing soft-spot for anyone: do not get attached! That being said, as gut-wrenching as the many character deaths are, they should by no means be taken at face value. This is but the first of eight issues and upcoming solicits for the various spin-off titles already show a great number of the early casualties alive and well. Granted, their respective stories may not pick up exactly where they left off but it shows that they are not truly gone nor forgotten.

Remember, Vic- if they ask if you're a god, you say "Yes"...
Remember, Vic- if they ask if you’re a god, you say “Yes”…

In terms of ground-floor accessibility, Hickman is fairly successful in making things as new reader-friendly as possible. Yes, there certainly is a distinct “missing a few reels” flavor as there’s literally volumes of backstory directly informing the mega-event but relatively speaking, he fares better here than last week’s baited double-cliffhanger close on the Avengers franchise. There’s an immediate callback to the finale of New Avengers but Hickman repurposes it as a framing device- clearly picking and choosing without getting bogged in the minutiae of “Previously…”.

Uh... nuff said?
Uh… nuff said?

Along those lines, the issue’s actual page count may be a little subjective. Making a thematic return from 2013’s Infinity, the “Hickman Event Book” blank white pages are inserted into the over-sized proceedings. Offering dramatic chapter-break pauses, they are refined and delivered far more effectively than in the past. Sparingly, one operates as the briefest of Star Wars-type crawls while the other punctates like a tombstone. Also, kudos for Jonathan Hickman finally being acknowledged as “Designer” for all the flourishes typically accompanying his books.

Now's maybe not the time for the commentary, Rocket...
Now’s maybe not the time for the commentary, Rocket…

In its own right, the presentation of the issue’s artwork is also quite the thing to behold. From Alex Ross’s painted cover and its gloss-finished upgraded cardstock, to the interiors by art and color team Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina, the book itself is beautiful in spite of its brutal subject matter (and a faintly Dragon Man-esque Ben Grimm).

There you have it: "Best War Ever". That's an official standing, right?
There you have it: “Best War Ever”. That’s an official standing, right?

If there’s one hiccup, it’s in the actual delivery of the “head-to-head” plot point. On paper, the inherent logic as to why it has to happen is apparent. However, “in-story” it just doesn’t translate organically. The Ult U just look like aggressive thugs. It would have been a nice touch if somebody reached out before the breaking-loose of all hell. Instead, it goes down like a fight on an elementary school playground: two scared kids being pushed into something that neither of them really wants. One’s even clearly being manipulated by an older bully (The Maker- “Evil” Reed Richards plus Thanos’s Cabal).

"Don't look, Marion!"
“Don’t look, Marion!”

Entitled “The End Times”, the inaugural chapter of Secret Wars deals it out as promised. No punches pulled, the months of foreshadowing hyperbole are indeed to be heeded! It’s been quite a while since Marvel’s had an event truly worthy of “capital-E” standing. Like it or loathe it for fear of the unknown, this is the new cornerstone all the same. On to Battleworld!

11 Replies to “SECRET WARS #1 Review: “There Is No Dana, Only Secret Wars!””

  1. Weird Ben Grimm! Totally agree. Would not be altogether upset if that was actually intentional and Dragon Man has been posing as Ben for months, although no clue where that would get us now…

    Very enjoyable issue, although I also thought the Ultimate U’s conviction to annihilate Earth-616, on the advice of the shadiest Reed ever, was a little too comic book “let’s fight without even trying to use our words!” Then again, I’m overwhelmingly excited about a series in which “Battleworld” is used prominently, so what am I saying.

    I’m also pretty excited for the inevitable Avengers World issues that showcase Cyclops’ time spent mother-henning a Phoenix Egg. Do you think he sang it to sleep, and if so, did he just sing Phoenix’s “LIstomania?” I sure hope so.

  2. So are they ending all stories and starting fresh or is this just another event that will come and go like the others?

    1. I feel like some writers are just going to do what they want after this. Basically there will be no continuity within the marvel universe. The universe, or in fact multiverse is dead.

      The funny parallel is the movie universe dilemma with studios.

      These connections are what I love about marvel, and I am sad to see them go.

    2. The way the event has been described, they are really starting (somewhat) fresh following Secret Wars. Marvel has avoided calling it a full-on reboot, so we won’t know for sure until it’s over.

      My best guess is that a LOT of Marvel continuity will carry over, and that the remaining characters will remember Secret Wars as an event in their universe. Time will tell.

  3. I am with Shaw: “I worry…” If Marvel wipes out its “mainstream” continuity…we are in for a HUGE mess.

    And I am also confused. Is Marvel pulling the plug on its “mainstream” universe permanently? I do not particularly care for or about the Ultimate Marvel Universe, but I do care about the “mainstream” Marvel reality, and I am attached to a lot of the characters in that universe. It was the first one, and if the “mainstream” reality gets torched for the foreseeable future (as in, the writers stop keeping it going from now till eighty or so years down the road, if they ever take it up again), then they will be hearing from one very angry Marvel fan. Could you explain where this whole Armageddon/Ragnarok-style story is going, please?

    Thank you for your time.

    The Mithril Guardian

    1. It doesn’t seem that they’ll be pulling the plug on the mainstream U. Some of the Ultimate U characters will merge over, but otherwise it looks like we’ll still have the Marvel Universe, just impacted by whatever happens here. I think they saw DC’s New 52 and know better than to wipe the slate totally clean.

  4. Thank you for clearing that up, Dave! I sure hope Marvel does not go on to wipe the slate clean – the fact that they have not done so has been one of the reasons why I prefer Marvel to DC comics. They have kept their original reality going while branching out to “upgrade” their characters in alternate universes, instead of giving us Earth 2 – Earth 52, as DC has done.

    Of course, I suppose that we still do not know exactly where the writers are going with all this. We will probably have to wait until it is all over to understand what they are doing now.

    So the Ultimate Marvel Universe will be merging with the “mainstream” Marvel universe? How? Will Ultimate Cap, Ultimate Iron Man, and the other Ultimate characters unite with their original Earth 616 counterparts to become one character, or will characters not original to the Earth 616 universe – such as Miles Morales – end up joining the original Marvel reality while the main characters in the Earth 616 reality stay as they are?

    I have to say that I do not at all like the idea of the Ultimates merging with their original counterparts to become one character. Mostly that is because I like the originals as they were before the AXIS storyline (and other changes) took effect; I would rather the not-so-heroic Ultimates stayed away from – and out of – the original Avengers, X-Men, and other “mainstream” Marvel heroes.

    Do you know how they are planning on “merging” the Ultimate and “mainstream” Marvel Universes? I really, really hope they are not planning to make the “mainstream” Marvel characters become one with the Ultimate characters. But at this point, I am ready to believe the Marvel writers’ capable of doing anything they think will help them sell their stories. They are tearing their multiverse to shreds right now – what will they NOT do to make a buck?

    Once again, thank you for your time. I appreciate all your help.

    The Mithril Guardian

    1. Is anyone else finding it hard to get invested in these other marvel books? The end of guardians and f4 were just so mundane.

      Don’t get me wrong….. I am loving secret wars, and seriously looking forward to guardians 3000 going forward.

      Robinson’s invaders was a perfect example of something that could have led to an amazing arc (I get it. It didn’t sell enough) so why didn’t he do something huge with f4? Also, now he’s doing the armor wars part of secret wars, so I’m sure it’s scrapped.

  5. So it turns Earth 1616’s Iron Man and Nick Fury and the rest are all bad guys…they just wittingly killed a ton of innocent Manhattaners, and wanted to blow up the whole 616 world too – an act none of the 616 heroes were capable of. I thought this was out of character for the Earth 1616 characters, and was disappointed. Anyone else feel let down by this? I thought the Earth 1616 heroes were meant to be straight-up good guys?

    1. It didn’t seem like the ultimates really had a chance to ponder what was happening like the 616 universe did. But, yeah they seemed pretty trigger happy.

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