SECRET WARS #3 Review: “Behind Doom Eyes”

After clearing the decks and some involved establishing of the new status quo, this week’s installment lightly taps the actual plot of Secret Wars into play. The pieces may now all be on the shiny new board with parameters defined but how writer Jonathan Hickman will proceed from here is not yet an illuminated projection. Compacting back to regular-sized, “The Eye of Doom” crosses the line of scrimmage effectively in twenty pages but doesn’t deliver as satisfactorily as either of the previous chapters.

Does Battleworld have internet memes?
Does Battleworld have internet memes?

If anything, it raises far too many questions. Aside from cover painter Alex Ross depicting Jean Grey on the among the “castaways” (was she cut last minute? creative leeway? total oops?), there’s cover-to-cover teases of missing scene allusions and demand for clarification of character motivation/origin. Case in point and without saying too much, if this Sue Storm isn’t a mind-controlled/alternate reality/recreated-by-Doom version and is indeed the “classic” incarnation of the character? Wow.

No, Vic- it's "Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?" Ugh. Do they not have cheesy pick-up lines on Battleworld?!
No, Vic- it’s “Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?” Ugh. Do they not have cheesy pick-up lines on Battleworld?!

Furthermore, Doom himself is not wholly unlikeable in his current capacity. And it’s not just a “root for the bad guys”-type characteristic that makes him redeemable; he seems almost benevolent. If there’s some hand-wringing going on under there, he and Hickman are playing it very close to the vest. As is, God Emperor Doom is surprisingly emo. He’s always been gothic- European monarch and all- but now the crushing weight of Battleworld has reverted him into a mopey teenager. Almost feel bad for him when Reed Richards catches wind of what’s happened to his family.

Spider-Men reunion.
Spider-Men reunion.

Indeed, inserting the surviving wildcard factions from the first issue into mix is the real grist of the piece. Juxtaposing the “fish out of water” outlook of the “616ers” against the reinvented politics and interactions of Battleworld will certainly prove interesting- particularly as the wheels churn the second Strange tells them who’s in charge. Before that, there’s a brief moment of wonderment not all thematically dissimilar to the black-and-white/color transition in The Wizard of Oz. Except Dorothy’s house is stored in a secret island holding facility for three years. Oh, and Kansas is gone. So yeah, guess it’s even more like “no place” now…

"The Molecule Man: Gave His Life In Service of the Plot"
“The Molecule Man: Gave His Life In Service of the Plot”

The visual team dial the spectacle back from previous outings as well, shifting to darker tones and more personalized settings. Color artist Ive Svorcina gives a good deal of depth to a muddier palette. Of particular note is the green/purple faux-bronzing effect on the Molecule Man “statue”. There is a tragically creepy story just swirling below the surface of that texture. Ominous.

Guessing Gene Simmons didn't make it to Battleworld to consult, huh?
Guessing Gene Simmons didn’t make it to Battleworld to consult, huh?

Artist Esad Ribic’s facial expressions are at times hit and miss. Faces are a prominent motif in this issue. Yes, it’s largely one of them “talky” comics, so that kind of a given- but really, there is one panel that you simply cannot unsee! Let’s just say, it’s why Doom overcompensates in the armor. Gruesome.

The mic, she is dropped...
The mic, she is dropped…

However, for every unfortunate “hangover-face” (Reed), Ribic nails a pitch-perfect pissy-faced Strange. The absolute coup de grace, though, has to be the above-mentioned dead-silence reveal to the gang about the “God of Battleworld”. The proverbial needle scratching off the record at the party. Classic.

Thanos, the Mad Optimist...
Thanos, the Mad Optimist.

So, the score? We now have a great shopping list for a story. It’s just too bad that we haven’t really gotten to any of it yet. The extended page counts in the first quarter may have spoiled/skewed experience and expectation for subsequent issues. It may be a matter of slightly off-balance pacing as well but twenty pages just doesn’t seem like it’s cutting it for this epic. Small forward progressions are made that will have huge potential but the broader strokes lack in the immediate. After such exceptional strides, it feels like the foot is coming off the gas a little.

4 Replies to “SECRET WARS #3 Review: “Behind Doom Eyes””

  1. I really enjoyed this issue, although I agree with a lot of what you’re saying.

    I’m like 98% always pro-Doom (those murderous, tortuous impulses getting in the way of the other 2%), but this version is genuinely the hero. I don’t want Reed and the 616-ers to “win.” Probably we’ll begin to see some cracks (There’s actually a really weird moment in X-Tinction Agenda #1 where Doom says “Mutants are a blight” and it feels both extremely out of character and classic Doom), but for now All Hail Doom!

    As for the pacing, I think reading all the tie-ins like a complete lunatic has me more at ease with the main story. After reading a cyborg General Ross / War Machine in Arcade’s Killesium, it’s actually kind of nice to hear Doom throw medieval pick up lines at Sue. Also, the kids are playing on a Galactus hand. We’re all winners here.

  2. As some trying to get back into Marvel after years I have to ask, are these writers on Shrooms?!? I’m so lost and this site has been the only way I can get a clue (Marvel should comp you) When this is all settled and done will I be able to pick up a chosen Hero and follow a straight story path ever?

    1. Secret Wars is extremely dysfunctional as a jumping on point. I think Hickman has joked the main series is actually a jumping off point, and it’s not hard to see why. I love the event as a whole, but I’m also pretty invested in the whole thing and have been for a while.

      It looks like Marvel is actually going to make a big effort after this event to make single Hero stories easier to follow. So you should be in luck around, say, October.

      As for Marvel comping me, I fully support this campaign 🙂

      1. I really liked this issue and have thoroughly enjoyed secret wars. However, I’m finding hard to be attached to some of these “alternates”. If you haven’t read all of hickmans stuff leading to this, it is a horrible jumping on point.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *