Look who showed up to the party.
After weeks and months of delays, Secret Wars #9 is here. For the last few months, we’ve been reviewing the All-New All-Different Marvel comics, which canonically begin after the end of Secret Wars. It was all a bit nonsensical, and brought the flaws of linear time to the fore, but now that we’ve had the funeral, it’s time for the wake. It’s time to see how the saga ends.
It’s time for week 15 of the All-New, All-Different Marvel Rundown.
Secret Wars #9
Writer: Jonathan Hickman Artist: Esad Ribic Colors: Ive Svorcina
In re-reading the last issue of New Avengers, and seeing the last few moments that led up to Doom’s great power, it’s remarkable to think about how it built up to Secret Wars through the main Avengers franchise books. The Secret Wars experience is enriched by the amount of continuity built into it. The funny thing about this story is how it reads when one considers that this is the second event that was weaved out of the Hickman Avengers franchise. Infinity served as a midpoint (almost an appetizer) leading up to the main dish.
A large group of fans have accused Marvel’s (2015) Secret Wars event of having slowed down for the past couple issues. Gone, they say, is the momentum of the early event installments. Whether that criticism is true or not, this final issue should silence all the nonbelievers. It is full of plot twists, opening with a visually striking scene. This scene follows up on the threads seen previously with two characters, imbued with great power, challenging a Dr. Doom that has been branded as the savior of the world. The fight scene is a welcome change of pace for an issue that functions as a mostly character-driven affair. Stellar opening scenes have been an ubiquitous part of Secret Wars, yet this one rises higher than any of them. Seeing Ribic get a unique opportunity to toy with Jim Starlin-esque concepts while putting his own spin on them is definitive highlight in the issue– Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina have outdone themselves.
Hickman’s writing is strong enough to match wits with his prodigal artists throughout this issue– something we’ve come to expect of the 00’s Grant Morrison. While the opening sequence is bombastic and intended to carry the plot through in huge spurts, he leaves room for quiet character interactions as well, striking a balance between the bold and the beautiful. The Game of Thrones-inspired dialogue that reinforces some of the themes and ideas that Hickman wants to convey through Secret Wars are fully on display. At the same time though, while the dialogue reinforces themes and weaves in some interesting background lore, Secret Wars #9 is a story that could have been told in fewer words. Less instances of the words covering up the storytelling and more moments where Hickman and Ribic trusted each other to tell this awe-inspiring narrative with silent sequences would have helped this book ascend further still into greatness.
In addition, while Secret Wars #9‘s plotting succeeds on many levels, it falters (slightly) as it becomes unfocused. The narrative shifts around a vast number of characters that are each essential to the conflict. At times it’s still not sure exactly whose story this is from a heroic perspective. This issue has a clear spotlight on Reed Richards , but the creative team did not develop him with enough emphasis throughout the series in issues prior.
Another issue I had with Secret Wars #9, and the series as a whole, was the way that it promised to give important roles to secondary characters, yet rarely gave them a chance to truly shine. Even after reading the finale to this comic I never felt satisfied with the role of villainous Illuminati villain team. Hickman had wonderfully implanted them as shakers and movers behind-the-scenes, but they never truly got the chance to live up to their potential as Avengers rogues. Perhaps at some point, Hickman will be able to tell a story that focuses on Avengers villains. It’s also maddening to realize that Thane’s story was never resolved in a concrete manner (take a look at Thanos: A God Up There Listening for some additional context for that story.)
Despite these criticisms, the end of Secret Wars leaves me wanting more. The battle between Dr. Doom and Reed Richards, arguably the two smartest characters in the Marvel Universe, was addressed in the first installment of that fateful New Avengers issue that the comics industry enjoyed so thoroughly, but it wasn’t a Hickman story. I want a greater impression of the Marvel Universe from Hickman’s vantage point, more teases of the All-New, All-Different Marvel Universe and another 20-pages of quick vignettes from the different heroes. It’s hard not to beg Hickman to write another hundred issues of stories about these characters.
Here’s to the past 100+ installments of Hickman’s grandiose saga. Now it’s time to rip through some of those creator-owned comics to avoid the postpartum depression– The Nightly News might be a good place to start.