Although this week’s installment hits another talk-heavy interlude, it is decidedly not a rehash of the “shock pathos” treatment from the third issue. God Emperor Doom is now covering the tracks of his kill-crazy rampage and showing increasing signs of reverting to his super-villain roots. Or, in the words of our national poet, Dr. Dre: “Y’all gonna keep f***ing around with me and turn me back to the old me”.
Clocking in at twenty briskly-paced pages, writer Jonathan Hickman takes slight intake pauses yet keeps on moving with big rewards, surprise and innovation awaiting at every turn. Even when he’s back-filling holes in his greater saga, it’s done with regard to impacting the current landscape. Without giving away too much, as much as there’s gratifying in-between-panel illumination from the last issue of New Avengers, the material’s really there to function as the once-and-future secret sauce of Battleworld.
Within this “aside” chapter, Hickman also employs a smart, microcosmic three-act structure. The opening five pages depict Doom putting on his “brave face” and co-mingling with other distressed mourners. There are glimpses of (perhaps genuine) remorse but his interactions seed more suspicion than relieve. While he doesn’t downplay his outright involvement or casually blow any alibi, those now closest to Doom are somewhat taken aback by the apparent mental switch-flipping occurring behind the mask.
Collecting himself enough, Doom launches into a more internalized “Phase Two”, featuring the aforementioned juicy reveal. Over the next nine pages, Doom erodes all the goodwill he may’ve amassed for his benevolent world-building; his “confessional” recasting him as the power-hungry egotist we’ve always known. Sure, there’s the inherent talking point that Vic’s most despicable trait is also (for the moment) the Marvel Universe’s greatest asset but there’s also evidence that Doom’s “omnipotence” is far less than complete. Suffice to say, failing to produce a sandwich from thin air may actually be grounds for up-ending the last planet in creation…
Reacting to Doom’s behavior in the first segment, Valeria and her super-science Foundation begin a self-contained crime scene investigation. Probably not what Vic was going for when he brushed the precocious youngster off with a vague yet firmly authoritative “Just do your job.” But oh well, no backfiring bad can come from that, right? Especially not when it leads to slick discoveries and in-story scientific discussions of “God Particles”. There’s even a few character deep-dives going back to Hickman and Dustin Weaver’s S.H.I.E.L.D. series- so, what’s not to love about that as well? These last six pages culminate in Val giving one heckuva Tommy Lee Jones “henhouse/outhouse/doghouse” speech over a montage of Final Incursion fugitives. Readers of Kieron Gillen and company’s side-series, Siege, should take particular note.
Also noteworthy are the visual contributions. Artist Esad Ribic delivers rock-solid narration with his layouts throughout but truly excels in developing the flashback sequences. Taking cues from Mike Deodato’s original New Avengers source material, Ribic runs with the “deleted scenes” in a fashion that more than sufficiently bridges any stylistic gaps between the two artists. True, we may never learn why Doom chose “office building” as the delivery system for his ultimate weapon against the Beyonders but its significance is now and forever codified.
Tying the whole affair together is color artist Ive Svorcina. Switching palettes on a dime, Svorcina consistently compliments each and every one of Ribic’s set changes (temporal or otherwise). The flashbacks possess a hazy, water-colored fade while a midnight setting is abstractly a dark vacuum accentuated only by figures doubling as cool white flares. The dynamic swings entirely the other way during the central exchange in the recurring “whitespace of nothingness”. Previously depicted as flat and featureless, here instead it’s a strangely comforting warm orange-y glow. There may not necessarily be new settings anywhere within this comic but it’s apparent that there’s no shortage of framing or filters.
Evident from the tongue-in-cheek title, “Owen Reece Died For Our Sins” is indeed a tale of perspective- highly subjective, meant to be taken with a healthy grain of salt and not always reliably accurate. More so, it’s a story about self-delusion and personal worldview. On the less-metatextually introspective, plot-driven side it just means Doom’s lid is really about to blow and it’s everybody else’s fault but his. With only three chapters left, slow burn drama may not have a lot of wiggle room but it’s certainly not above throwing some elbows in the remaining space. Again, to paraphrase from the other Doctor: he may’ve been low-key but Secret Wars will not forget about Doom!