After the universe-ending uncertainty of last issue, this week’s installment serves as the true kick-off to Marvel’s summer mega-event. Clocking in at over forty pages, writer Jonathan Hickman gets right into the business of world-(re)building, easing the reader through the new status quo. Fully examining the denseness of scope, the writer addresses not only some of the logic behind the makeover but the means by which it can (and probably will) unravel.
This epic tome divides into two plot narratives: the “A Plot”, a serviceable vehicle by which the overarching parameters of the mish-mash “Battleworld” are defined, and “B Plot” wherein the surprises and snags are seeded. In both, there’s a great deal of comforting familiarity- characters and general background tropes functioning recognizably as spiritual callbacks to former iterations. Indeed, fans of Marvel’s other stylized “alternate reality” overhauls (Neil Gaiman’s Elizabethan 1602, the mutant-centric Age of Apocalypse, et al) will feel right at home. Even down to some of the cast keying-in that something’s inherently “off” about the world around them.
“A-Plot” is a bit more than a cursory guided tour, though. Instead, it’s a “slice of life” study by which the new governing properties are literally brought into play. Really, what better way is there to learn about a strange place than to watch its government in action? Thankfully, instead of C-SPAN, we’re treated to “Law & Order: Thor Corps Edition”. Specifics as to how and why things are this way are withheld but if there’s one quality this issue possesses in no short supply, it’s ritual. That, and a whole lotta paying up the hierarchy…
Speaking of tribute, just as many accolades belong to the other creators. Art, coloring and lettering are all top-notch throughout. Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina’s offerings are decidedly more somber than last week’s action-fest opener but they more than compensate with loads of subtle expressiveness and expert detailing. Veteran letterer Chris Eliopoulos not only skillfully peppers the dialogue with idiomatic speech bubbles (the Thors, “Zombie Venom”) but methodically emboldens word emphasis within the normalized balloons. It’s definitely a swing element in maintaining the pace and keeping the text from getting too heady.
One quarter of the way through the story and everything is firing like clockwork. That may not be a direct metaphor but forging bold hybrids is certainly the order of the day. No small feat, Secret Wars is defying expectation and cutting through the hype with something for Marvel fans new and old alike. There’s even an appeal to enthusiasts of broader genre fiction. Suffice to say, it’s difficult to track the Gods of Thunder without humming the theme to George RR Martin’s TV/book phenomenon. Capping the proceedings with a completely declassified map just seals the deal. Substitute the subplot for an equivalent mantra and verily, “secrets are coming”…
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