The third installment of Marvel‘s Secret Wars answers some questions, but also leads to more. I have been slowing diving into the series despite my initial misgivings. I can say that my patience is slowly being rewarded.
The multidimensional patchwork Battleworld presents a fascinating landscape. I can’t help but see it as a parallel to our world. A deeper reading of this event will show connections to many of the geopolitical events facing our world today, where issues of sovereignty, conflict containment, illicit trans-border flows, and disease are the norm. I am pleased that Marvel has kept with its tradition of drawing some inspiration from real world occurrences, it really gives credence to the Marvel Universe being “your universe”.
Issue 3 opens with Doom being briefed by Sheriff Strange, on the various goings on in Battleword and he appears bored with the report. Doom seems a bit overstretched, perhaps burnt out. Although he has achieved, some manner of Godhood, establishing and perhaps maintaining the current metaphysics of Battleword appears to have drained him. There is an interesting exchange he shares with his Royal Consort Susan Storm, where he confesses his feelings of being flawed, and lamenting at not being able to heal his scarred face. I found this very interesting, as it shows a new take on Doom’s character. Doom usurping cosmic variations of power has been a constant trope for the character. Here we see Doom having achieved everything he has always worked towards, namely world domination and he is markedly bored and burdened by it.
Strange continues his role as our defacto tour guide to new world. He reveals to us that there are some remnants of the 616 marvel earth, in this new multidimensional hybrid. He also informs us that it has been 8 years since the final incursion. The scene where strange stumbles upon the incursion life raft was very reminiscent of the crashed shuttle scene from the Secret Invasion event years ago. The reactions I have to this scene are a bit reminiscent of Secret War as there is small degree of suspension of belief on my part. With so many multidimensional versions of key characters it is really hard to parse who is really who. I love good exercise in worldbuilding, and the creation of battle is an example of this par excellence. What I find so interesting about this new status quo is that Battleworld stands as both a testament to Doom’s ingenuity/power but also a significant challenge to it. After a quick browse of some of the tie ins, there are two Phoenix avatars, (at my count) multiple mutant kingdoms, at least one with dangerous mutant plague pandemic and an inhuman teleportation/smuggling network. What happens when these self contains worlds clash will be very interesting…a definite powder keg to be dealt with. Doom has a his work cut out for him and I am very interested in seeing how the venture of Battleworld plays out.
That said, I do have some reservation. Knowing that very soon the giant reset button will be pushed on this event leading to a new status quo has led to some suspension of investment on my part. Marvel’s storytelling cycle is clearly evolving. Secret Wars has been likened to a “soft reboot” or Marvel’s “New 52” this is a fair comparison. Marvel’s rich and clear continuity has always been (at least for me) a defining hallmark and strength of the company’s stories. Marvel is taking a risk in its dilemma to attract new readers while staying true to their long term loyalists. This has left me hoping Marvel does not throw out the baby with the bathwater.
Esad Ribic‘s exotic landscapes are the perfect complement to the uniqueness of battleworld, I am reminded of his artwork depicting the world from the Uncanny X-Force series, that said my one long standing gripe with his work are his isomorphic facial depictions, they tend to look very uniform.
Doom not being able to heal his face makes me question the upper limits of his powers. Has the creation of Battleworld weakened him?
Strange occupies an interesting position between his loyalty to Doom and his salvaged allies., it will be interesting to see how this plays out in future issues.
Story: John Hickman, Art: Esad Ribic
Story 8 Art 9 Overall 8.5 Recommendation: Buy!