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. [Read more…] about SECRET WARS #3 Review: “Behind Doom Eyes”
Leaning heavily into the “anything goes” conceptual free-spiritedness of Secret Wars, writer Sam Humphries and artist Marc Laming take an inspired twist on a recent classic. Trading on the namesake of the Jade Giant’s highwater fable, the current volume finds an unlikely protagonist in gladiator Steve Rogers. Even more unlikely, The Captain’s current combat/life-partner is a giant red T. Rex!
As outlandish as this may sound, there’s a methodical pedigree to these disparate components. The common thread is that they all spring from the mind of industry revolutionary, Jack Kirby. Cap first appears in late 1940 as the product of The King and writer Joe Simon. The Hulk, of course, comes from his early Marvel days with Stan Lee but the “terrible lizard” is Devil Dinosaur, from Kirby’s wild- and widely unchecked- final run at Marvel in the late 1970s. Making rare appearances since, Devil is usually accompanied by a simian protohuman named Moon Boy. Subbing for Moonie is Steve The Barbarian. In any event, they have more of a “Ka-Zar/Zabu” thing going on and it’s a cool, welcome change-up.
Also refreshing is the plot twist. Instead of being met with the de rigeur punishment of defending Battleworld on the Shield, Rogers’s cunning and defiant fighting spirit are rewarded. Sure, the dangling carrot is extremely loaded but what Doom offers is strategy above pure survival. In keeping with the cut across genres, Planet Hulk can add “war movies” to the list. Granted, the literal “War Hero” is present but it’s a far different version than usual. This sort of “remove Colonel Kurtz” mission may be right up his alley.
While not possessing a ton of big league credits, artist Marc Laming also seems the right man for the job. So far, the layouts are of standard comic book pedigree but his figures are thick and rightfully carved. Doctor Strange may seem a little round but then again, he’s not native to the Kirby-verse.
Also accruing notoriety is color artist Jordan Boyd. Fresh off a stint on the Cold War retro-fashioned Operation S.I.N., Boyd lets loose with the most gamma-vibrant credits spread imaginable.The rich reds of Devil’s hide and the Captain’s armor are sharp contrast from the drab backdrop of the previous series.
Also along for the ride is writer Greg Pak and artist Takeshi Miyazawa. Contributing an eight-page back-up (nine, if you count the faux cover by Leonard Kirk and Tamra Bonvillain), this doomsday “day zero” tale amounts to what would’ve been a “What If?” short of some nature under different circumstances. In case anyone needed a backstory for “continent of Hulks”, this is where they came from. It’s eight pages of amazing tragedy that will delightfully horrify and sadden.
The unexpected personal motivations revealed in the lead’s back-half make for better return than straight-aping the gladiatorial tropes of the original. There’s also every bit of the classic Rogers grit decidedly reinvented. The movie elevator pitch would be: Apocalypse Now with Dirty Dozen overtones in the vein of Spartacus, Conan The Barbarian and The Beastmaster. But with super-hero iconography. And a frikkin’ dinosaur!
P.S. props to cover artist Mike del Mundo for delivering the Chuck Norris-esque Hulk mega-fist onslaught against the good (yet puny) Captain!
Remember the cartoon “Super-Friends”? If not, the Saturday Morning staple of the 1970s and 80s saw DC Comics’ heavyweights imposingly handing down life lessons on an episodic basis. While considerably more nuanced, the debut issue of Marvel’s loosely-based all-ladies Avengers squad also succumbs to being a quasi-amorphous mass of capes doling out a public service announcement. Of course, it is in the name of God Emperor Doctor Doom, so take that for what it’s worth. [Read more…] about A-FORCE #1 Review: “Public Service Friends!”
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”…
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. [Read more…] about SECRET WARS #1 Review: “There Is No Dana, Only Secret Wars!”