Open Mike Night - Secret Wars

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By Mike Maillaro and Mike Weaver

Maillaro: Team Open Mike continues our mad quest to cover the front lines of Marvel and DC's huge crossovers.  This week, we hit Secret Wars (both the current one, and a quick glimpse back at Secret Wars 2).

Secret Wars (2015) #1

Written by: Jonathan Hickman
Art by: Esad Ribic
Colored by: Ive Svorcina
Lettered by: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover by: Alex Ross

Published by: Marvel
Cover Price: $4.99

Maillaro: All right, I will say upfront Secret Wars was a little better than I was expecting it to be.  Though, my expectations were SUPER LOW.  This still wasn’t all that great a comic, but there was enough good through this book to keep me from totally hating it.

Secret Wars is the culmination of everything Jonathan Hickman has been building in his Avengers books.  Months ago, the heroes had found out that Marvel’s alternate universes were destroying each other in a cascade effect.  Every attempt to stop this process has failed.  There are only two realities left at the beginning of this issue: 616 (traditional Marvel universe) and 1610 (The Ultimate universe). 

Both worlds try various ways to keep their own world alive, but it fails spectacularly.  In the end, both worlds are wiped out entirely, and a small group of heroes manage to catch a lifeboat into the nothingness.  Captain Marvel, Reed Richards, Cyclops, Spider-Man, Thor, and Starlord seem to be the only survivors.  The issue ends with a banner announcing the death of the Marvel and Ultimate Universes.

While this is going on, Doctor Doom seems to have tracked down his old buddy, The Beyonder…

Weaver: Doom, with someone I’m pretty sure is Dr. Strange, and no idea who the third was.  That side plot was actually the only really engaging part of this issue to me, and it was basically just Doom staring at Beyonder with the Look Of Doom.

Personally speaking, this was just as bad as I was expecting.  Big montage fight scenes, the Reed Richards of both worlds narrating a lot about how great they are and all their plans within plans within plans, subpar art...I can’t think of anything this had going for it other than a few great quips from Rocket and several panels of Doom giving Beyonder the stinkeye.  Worse, they wasted several pages with just pure white or pure black with just a couple words thrown on top.  I hate when comics pad like that.  I remember the padding of last week’s Fantastic Four being an issue, but at least that was padded with content, not padded with blank pages. Speaking of Fantastic Four, Reed grows a beard hella fast.

Maillaro: He’s been rocking a beard in Avengers/New Avengers for a while.  Secret Wars (and the lead up) takes place basically 10 months after other Marvel comics...which is even more confusing.  

The other guy hanging out with Doom is Molecule Man.  Seems like he always needs to be an integral part of Secret Wars...which probably explains some of the suckiness.

In you list of things you liked, you left off my favorite moment in the comic.  Punisher deciding that even with the world ending, he still wanted to make sure the bad guys died first. Him crashing Kingpin’s end of the world party literally dragged this comic from I hate this to I can tolerate this.

Weaver: Fair call.  It was a great classic Punisher moment, but I felt it was dragged down a bit by the jokey list of e-mail addresses of people Kingpin invited to his party.  That was a groaner and a half.

Ten months after other Marvel that to accommodate not having post-Secret Wars reveals until Secret Wars is actually over?  That would be pretty lazy.

Maillaro: I actually think it was so they can handwave a lot of the “how we got to this point” which is even lazier.   Like Reed’s beard for example.  

I think the main problem with this issue, for me, was that there wasn’t more character moments.  I think Hickman has a lot of big plot ideas, but can’t quite write characters in a way that convinces the reader we should care about what happens to them.  A perfect example was when the ship gets damaged at the end and Reed loses his entire family who he thought he had managed to save from the end of the universe.  This should have been a huge impactful moment...but I just didn’t feel anything.

Weaver: I felt the same way, or should that be...didn’t feel in the same way.  And what’s really odd about that is that the dialogue seemed like it almost got there, with Reed reflecting on everything, but I think I wanted more end-of-Empire-Strikes-Back style “NOOOOOOOOOOO!”  I realize that Reed Richards has an ability to rationalize no matter what, which would have made having him actually break down about it rather than reflecting on “Sucks that my wife and kids are dead” would have been nice.  I did like the moment right before where he refers to Sue as the strongest person he knows, which made it even more of a let down.

Maillaro: My wife had a real big question when reading this issue.  We see the Marvel universe desperately trying to find ways to get some people to survive.  The first lifeboat has 60 mostly scientists.  That fails.  The second life boat has a lame collection of superheroes.  Where the hell were they planning on going?  We’re supposed to believe that the entire multiverse was gone.   At that point, it probably just made more sense to go down with the planet.

Actually, this sort of contradicts a pretty awesome moment in All New All Different Avengers.  Kamala allows a villain to get away to save a single life, and the other heroes tell her that is what being a hero is all about saving every last civilian then can.  But despite this, as the universe was about to end, it quickly became “we’re going to save the elites...or ourselves.  Forget the other 7 billion people on this world (and presumingly the 7 billion on the Ultimate universe).”  

Weaver: I disagree that this necessarily contradicts that....I mean, you’ve got two liferafts which are the best you can do, at that point Reed is thinking that he’ll take whoever he feels can keep humanity going, although his hero group is pretty much a sausage party.  Six billion plus people are going to die no matter what you can do.

It seemed like Reed’s plan was to just kind of send the liferaft adrift floating around somewhere until a better solution presented itself, but I agree...where is it going to float if the whole universe is gone?  Maybe in the non-Earth parts of the incursioning universe?  But there’s already humanity there.  Also, the people he chose to survive, on the hero side, mostly were unaware that they were picked and were surprised by the teleport...but then were fine without further discussion.  It seems odd that the scientists had a chance to refuse, but the heroes really didn’t.

Maillaro: I had done a review for Sword of Sorrows earlier this week and I had commented that it was very fun to read.  Hickman basically does the opposite here.  Everything is just grim and depressing.  I don’t know why so often Marvel and DC seem to forget that comics should be fun...especially when it comes to events.  When you read the old Secret Wars comics, you can tell they are written with a love for the characters and the absurdity the medium allows.  Secret Wars (2015) seems more inclined to just bum you out.  Even Convergence made at least some effort to have some fun with the end of the world...

My wife’s other comment about this book was about the art.  There is a shot of She-Thor and she said, “When did Thor come back?”  When I pointed out that was supposed to be She-Thor, she couldn’t believe it.  She later commented that She-Hulk also looked like she was a dude.  Esad Rubin definitely didn’t seem up for the task of trying to draw all the characters that appeared here...especially females.

Weaver: She-Hulk wasn’t done particularly great, but I don’t think anyone really was.  When you have a big event comic like this, you want your artist to be someone who can work with all the characters at least enough to make them distinctive.  You don’t have to have George Perez, even though that helps.  Just someone who can give you enough information to know who is who visually because the writer can’t carry all of that himself in every panel.  There was actually a panel in here where I needed to look a few times to tell that a character was Black Panther, which really is a sad commentary.

As for comics being fun, I think there are ways to be sad and fun.  The best Convergence issues have done that, with juxtaposing the heroes’ drive with the grim reality of the world.  This...doesn’t do that.  I really think this comic failed on just about every level.  It had a relentlessly dour tone, it was hard to tell characters apart, character moments were few and far between, and Reed’s plans seem kind of half-assed, as does his reactions to things not going right in them.

Maillaro: I think the other big problem for me is that it’s really clear that none of this can last all that long.   It’s kind of hilarious to me that we’ve already seen All-New, All-Different at the least we know that Thor, Ms Marvel, Miles Morales, Nova, Iron Man, Vision all make it out of Secret Wars fine (none of those characters was on the lightraft...I think).  But even on top of that, there are 7 more issues of Secret Wars, and I doubt it will be 7 issues of them floating through white space doing nothing.

Actually scratch that...Hickman does move stories real slow...we might get a few issues of just that.  With Doom making Doomfaces at the Beyonders outside of reality.

Weaver: An issue of Doomface would be better than more of the rest of the same from here.  But only if he casually backhands Molecule Man while Doomfacing at some point.

I usually end up finding some things I liked in stuff that I went in expecting not to like.  There’s a few of those things here, but just not enough.  The confusing art, the pages of wasted space, the lack of character moments...sorry Secret Wars, but I’m not sorry.  You get a 2 for writing and a 1.5 for art from me.

Maillaro: I think I will probably go a pair of 2’s.  It’s hard for me to go below a 2 for any professional comic work.  That said, I am amazed they didn’t put another artist on this.  Axis featured a ton of characters and it was weekly so there were a bunch of different artists, all of whom would have done this far better.   

I am definitely concerned about what the Marvel universe is going to look like after all this...Hickman is definitely not my ideal choice for the architect of the new Marvel universe…  But hopefully, it will all be back to status quo after this ends.  Pretty sure I have never once said “OH MY GOD, I HOPE THIS EVENT CHANGES NOTHING,” but I actually really like what Marvel has been doing on a lot of titles, and I don’t have a lot of faith in change if this is the comic driving it.

Rom #72

Written by: Bill Mantlo
Art by: Steve Ditko and Bob Layton
Colored by: Petra Scotese
Lettered by: Janice Chiang

Published by: Marvel
Cover Price:

Maillaro: Before we even start talking about this issue and it’s ties to Secret Wars 2...I want it noted that Rom had at least 72 issues (it actually made it to issue 75).  And Bill Mantlo seemed to have been a writer on most of them.  I know he wrote issue 1.   Even odder was that this series seemed to go on for some time even after ROM was gone...

In this issue, Beyonder has recently just tried to merge himself with the consciousness of all life on Earth because he’s trying to understand the human condition.  This has brought him to become curious about three humans (Rick Jones, Cindy Adams, and Brandy Clark) who recently experienced great traumas during the Wraith War.  Brandy’s parents and fiance (Rom) were lost during the war.  Rick Jones has gamma cancer from all the time he’s spent hanging around heroes.  Cindy’s parents also died, and she somehow absorbed the memories of the Dire Wraith who killed them.  Beyonder decides that these people are incomplete and he wants to make them whole again.  Beyond appears to them as human, and after asking them what their biggest wish is...when they tell him...he reveals himself to be an awesome white suit.  Beyonder is basically able to give them all their wishes...including turning Rick Jones into a combo Hulk and Captain Marvel. In the end, Rick gives up his powers, but he does ask Beyonder to take his cancer away.

Weaver: It’s pretty interesting that ROM is basically the anti-Team America.  ROM was a toy that a tie in comic was hastily ordered for, but the comic far outlived the shelf life of the toy.  And was generally pretty good.  I’ve only read maybe 10 issues of it, but I have never read a bad one.

Throughout this story, a lot of attention is spent on how the Beyonder just doesn’t think about the full picture.  He sets up this story where he’s a hiker lost in a storm...but he’s not even damp when he’s rescued.  He agrees to move a mountain around...and doesn’t understand why people don’t like the cute furry animals falling off of it to their deaths.  He doesn’t understand why people can’t be fulfilled and then just be happy forever, why new desires replace old ones.  There’s also a great deal of “be careful what you wish for,” with an obligatory Monkey’s Paw reference and all.

Also, despite the suit, I think we should discuss the truly epic part of the Beyonder design.  That hair.

Maillaro: I have no idea if Jewfro is a politically correct term (I assume not), but it’s the only way to describe Beyonder.   

But, you are 100% right.  There is a lot of stupid stuff in Secret Wars 2, and some of it is real hamfisted, but I do think the comic posed a lot of interesting questions in a way that I really haven’t seen dealt with too much in comics.  You often get the “powerful being who is too childlike to understand the consequences of his action,” but it is dealt with on a very surface level.  Secret Wars 2 really took the time to explore what that would look like and how that would affect people around the powerful being.  

Secret Wars 2 was also pretty sweeping.  Even Rom and Micronauts got crossovers (the Micronauts one was not quite as good as this issue), and managed to integrate the main series into some very interesting stories.  Some interesting good...some interesting bad.  

Weaver: Secret Wars 2 was definitely sweeping and going to every corner of the Marvel universe, which brings up one problem I have with it and with the other issue we reviewed.  There’s a certain amount of people that should get focus in a big story like this, and that number is not “every title we have right now.”  That, to me, hurts the smaller titles more than helps them, because I know I’m not alone in quickly becoming disinterested in a title that is constant crossover bait, especially if those crossovers do nothing favorable for the titles in question.

But it did something favorable for ROM.  This issue was a good exploration of those underlying questions about unintended consequences and what it means to be human and how that relates to Spaceknights and Dire Wraiths.

I do have to mark it down a bit when neither adult character could recognize such an omnipresent song as “When You Wish Upon a Star.”  That was such a terrible moment.  I understand why it happened to a degree, but it was terrible.

As for the art, Ditko was Ditko.  He’s never the best artist around, but never the worst either.  You get a pretty middle of the road job, a little above average.  I’ll go a 3 on art, and a 4 on story.

Maillaro: It never even occurred to me until after your reading your comments.  I wonder how someone who was reading ROM at the time would have felt about this issue...we have all these characters dealing with some serious issues, and they are all kind of resolved by “wizard did it.”  Yeah, comics often have DEM solutions, but it is kind of odd to see those solutions coming from someone who has no involvement at all in the situation.  

Weaver: ROM was on the path to cancellation.  I think wrapping the people up, even with wizard did it, was better than just cutting away from their miserable existence with no resolution.

Maillaro: Probably a very good point.  

I actually liked Ditko’s art here, especially Captain Hulk.  I will almost reverse your scores.  4 on art.  3.5 on story.  But, I will say...compared to Secret Wars (2015), this was frickin’ Shakespeare drawn by Van Gogh…  Which sounds like a Doctor Who episode waiting to happen…

Maillaro: I don’t know about you, but I need a break from Marvel and DC for next week…  Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey  have a new series coming from Image called Injection that looks kind of cool (they kicked ass on their 6 issues of Moon Knight).

Once upon a time, there were five crazy people, and they poisoned the 21st Century. Now they have to deal with the corrosion to try and save us all from a world becoming too weird to support human life. INJECTION is the new ongoing series created by the acclaimed creative team of Moon Knight. It is science fiction, tales of horror, strange crime fiction, techno-thriller, and ghost story all at the same time. A serialized sequence of graphic novels about how loud and strange the world is getting, about the wild future and the haunted past all crashing into the present day at once, and about five eccentric geniuses dealing with the paranormal and numinous as well as the growing weight of what they did to the planet with the Injection.

Weaver: I like the sound of it.  Any ideas of something to pair it with?  I’m going to be kind of limited next week, since I’m going on a trip.

Maillaro: I'm thinking Saga Volume 1. I am shocked to say, we've somehow never managed to get around to reviewing Saga...

Final Scores


Maillaro – Story (out of 5)

Weaver – Story (out of 5)

Maillaro – Art (out of 5)

Weaver – Art (out of 5)

Secret Wars (2015) #1





Rom #72