Front Lines - Secret Wars (Week of July 1, 2015)

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Secret Wars #4 by Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic

Summary: The Cabal are fighting Thors.  Doctor Strange explains to the liferaft survivors that the old multiverse was created with order by alien entities.  Battleworld was more of an act of desperation with Doom taking the shattered remains of the broken Earths and pulling them all together. The new world is unnatural, and survival is its first and highest purpose.  In needs a god with a firm other words, it needs Doom.

The survivors think Strange is insane.  Strange reveals that Doom and Strange killed the Beyonders.  But Strange could not bring himself to take their power, which allowed Doom to do so. With that power Doom saved all that was left to save.  Strange does say that some of 616 Wakanda was saved as well as both Ultimate and 616 New Yorks.  He also admits that the world falls far short of what he hoped it would be, but it is real and it still exists, so that has to count for something.   The “new” Thor that was recruited in issue 2 sees his hammer start to glow.  Strange says that means their attention is needed elsewhere.

The Canal are dispatching the Thors easily.  The Thors on the scene are calling for reinforcements, from Doom himself.  Doom uses “sight beyond sight” to monitor the fight.  He at first dismisses this threat, but Sue is convinced the Cabal is a lot of danger.  Doom tries to comfort her by saying “Stephen has arrived.”  But when he sees the survivors...especially Reed...Doom decides he needs to head out there and get more hands on.  We also find out that Doom had been watching Battleworld carefully for any Reed Richards to appear.

Doom arrives and challenges Reed.  Reed admits that Doom’s world is amazing.  Doom declares himself God and offers them the chance to bow before him. Cyclops tries to attack Doom using the Phoenix Force.  Doom shrugs it off and then snaps Cyclops’ neck.  

Strange teleports the others away to save them from Doom’s wrath.  Doom then kills Strange for daring to stand up to him.

Gina Maillaro: The ancillary realms of Battleworld have left much to be desired in the grand orchestration of SECRET WARS, so in order to give this “event” the true benefit of the doubt I decided to immerse myself in the thick of it.  The main title, as a driving force, sets clear rules and has a fascinating conflict.  Although I was perplexed by the “friendship” between Strange and Doom, it offered a grounding in what was referred to as the “Old World,”  which as a reader, I needed to relate to characters who have the same experiences that I have.  This may also explain my discomfort with the characters and rules of the other realms.

The overall tone in book comic was stiff, and created a strain amongst the characters that may or may not have been intentional.  Unfortunately, it caused the relationships amongst the characters to appear superficial (which again may have been intentional since the entirety of this reality is superficial, but it does not make for a great read).  Even Spider-Man’s banter was a bit strained.  Even worse, the depictions of Susan and Valeria were almost identical, and since their respective dialogue was so lifeless, it was nearly impossible to determine who was speaking.

All in all, I think that the central plot to Secret Wars is better than I expected, but the execution leaves much to be desired.  There are also ridiculous character uses, like “Thanos and his Rag-Tag Team Up” and Cyclops with Phoenix Power (and either he has no idea how it works, or every other writer has been grossly over-stating its severity).  With 4 more issues in this arc, I cannot say with confidence that they can pull this story line off well, but it may not be too painful to watch them try.

Mike Maillaro: For my money, I’ve thought the tie-ins were a lot more enjoyable than the core series, and a lot of that is purely the creative team.  Hickman has never written a comic that didn’t completely bore me.  Enid Rubic is fine, but I agree with you entirely about Valeria and Sue...apparently all blond women look alike, no matter how many years apart they are.

The most messed up part of this comic for me was the fact that with all that Doom did right, Strange seemed willing to turn a blind eye towards the fact Doom basically stole Reed Richards’ family.  And as far as I can tell, this is the real Sue and Valeria, I assume Doom snatched them out of the void when they were tossed from the Liferaft.  If you thought Reed was pissed now, wait til he finds out who’s sleeping in his bed…

Score: 3/5

A-FORCE  #2 by Marguerite Bennett, G. Willow Wilson, and Jorge Molina

Summary: She-Hulk and company are waiting to hear back from the Atlanteans.  The Atlanteans have found a massive portal.  Through the portal, we see glimpses of the other domains.  The portal collapses in a violent implosion.

Meanwhile, Nico has brought the strange “Star child” back to her home.  “Star Child” seems unable to communicate with Nico. Nico’s adopted mother, Loki, finds them and says they have to tell Baroness She-Hulk about her.  Nico hesitates, especially after her foster sister Miss America had been exiled last issue, but Loki insists.

Loki brings “Star Child” to the leaders.  She-Hulk, Captain Marvel, and Medusa are suspicious about this new arrival.  Medusa intimidates the young girl, and another portal opens, this one dropping a Sentinel into Arcadia.  Star Child seems happy about the portal’s appearance.  She works to teleport civilians and A-Force to safety.  A-Force manages to defeat the Sentinel.  Medusa believes that his girl is causing the portals to appear, and insists they have to turn her over to Doom. She-Hulk decides to go into the portal to find the source of the attacks.  Star Child gives She-Hulk the ribbon from her hair and sends her through the portal. She-Hulk finds herself in a completely demolished city.

Mike Maillaro: One thing that is important to note about this series is that it revolved around creating and developing this Star Child who we already know will be in the A-FORCE series that comes out after SECRET WARS ends.   There is nothing particularly wrong about using a tie-in this way; it just gives the book a strange flow to me.  The idea of an all-female island is kind of cool…but that doesn’t seem to be what Arcadia is.  We see male characters here, just not heroes.  Well, except for Namor.   Something about the idea of Namor as the only guy here is hilarious, but I am not 100% sure that was intentional….

Score: 4.5/5

FUTURE IMPERFECT #2 by Peter David and Greg Land

Summary: This issue starts by giving us the origin of Dystopia’s version of The Thing.  There was a space flight with Talbot and Ross, and the ship encountered cosmic rays.  Talbot ends up turning into glass and dies.  Ross ends up becoming the Thing.  Army troops see him when he crash lands, and they think he’s a monster.  He ends up running off.

In the present, Maestro attacks his old enemy.  Meanwhile, the other rebels work to relocate their base.  They hope that Thing will be able to hold him off, but it’s uncertain.  The two have a brutal battle. Ruby joins in, blasting Maestro from behind.  But that just makes him angrier, and as we all know, an angry Hulk is a stronger Hulk.  One of Maestro’s men attacks Ruby in some kind of robot dog construct.  Maestro knocks Thing out and brings him in as a captive.  Ruby’s attacker tries to convince Ruby that they are on the same side.,  She reveals herself to be Layla Miller.

Maestro tries to make a deal with Thing.  Maestro will leave Dystopia to Thing...and go to the Palace of Doom and take control over all of Battleworld.  Thing seems willing to listen.

Mike Maillaro: This was a very cool issue.  I loved the twists with Thing being Ross and Layla Miller showing up.  I’ve always like Layla, especially when Peter David is writing her.  It was also great to see Maestro plotting against Doom.  There were a lot of different things going on here, and I think they all worked together real well.  We’ve already seen that Maestro will be around after SECRET WARS, so I hope that FUTURE IMPERFECT ends up becoming a major part of this crossover.

Score: 4.5/5



Summary: The kids of Marville are picking sides to play dodgeball.  They end up picking Avengers Vs X-Men...a common occurrance.  It quickly devolves into absolute chaos.  After recess, they head back to class where they are introduced to new students, the twins we met at the end of the first issue, Zachary and Zoe. Both teams try to recruit them aggressively.  They are invited to each team’s secret treehouse base.  But when they arrive, the teams are fighting a massive battle against each other.

Gina Maillaro:  Marville continues to be the beacon of light in this otherwise muddled universe.  As always, the tone of the book is light and playful, just like it should be for a bunch of super-powered kids,  My favorite part was Professor X as the classroom teacher (totally heard Patrick Stewart’s Mr. Woolensworth in my head). The recruitment tactics from the Avengers and X-Men, the glimpse of the Watcher going to bed, and the deadpan dialogue from the twins makes this the best SECRET WARS comic yet.

Mike Maillaro:  The whole “going to bed” page was hilarious, especially with Ghost Rider having to apologize for his actions during social studies.  It was just such a random moment that I couldn’t stop laughing about.  I also loved that they go through all this work picking teams for dodgeball, and it ends up being Avengers vs X-Men anyway.   I can’t help but think there is some commentary there about the way Marvel has been doing their events the last few years...

And thank you for the Chicken Little reference, wifey.  I’ve been marathoning SCRUBS lately, so that was kind of awesome.

Score: 4.5/5


RED SKULL #1 by Joshua Williamson and Luca Pizzari

Summary: This story starts in Killville.  Electro is in a bar bragging about the time he stood up to a couple of Thors harassing him at the border between the Warzone and Doomstadt.  He claims that he told them the only law he follows is Red Skull’s law.  A heavily-armed man enters the var, killing many of the patrons, He’s able to deactivate Electro’s powers and drag him onto a transport helicopter with other depowered villains, including Magneto, Moonstone, Jack O’ Lantern, Lady Deathstrike and Winter Soldier.   All of them have committed crimes against Doom, so Doom has chosen them for a mission to redeem themselves.

Apparently back in the day, Red Skull tried to rise up against Doom and was sent over the shield wall to die.  But there are rumors that Red Skull survived and is planning another uprising.  Their captor is revealed to be Crossbones, who shifted his loyalty from Red Skull to Doom.  Their assignment is to bring back proof of Red Skull’s death.  They have been outfitted with inhibitor collars to restrict their powers, except for Winter Soldier who volunteered for this mission.  They have 24 hours.  If they bring back proof of Red Skull’s death, they go free.  Otherwise, they are left behind the wall to die.  

Soon after their arrival, they are attacked by zombies.  They are rescued by Red Skull, who offers to help them escape Doom’s control.

Mike Maillaro: There was a lot of Suicide Squad and Secret Six in this one.  All in all, it was a pretty good story, it just felt like something I have already seen quite a few times before. It might have helped if the characters were given a little more personality.  When I saw the mix of characters involved, I was definitely interested, but for the most part, they were all just there.  Very few characters actually even had dialogue, and the dialogue they did have was real generic.  These types of books live or die based on the characters involved, and unfortunately we didn’t get much of that here.

Score: 3.5/5


Who Killed Tony Stark? by Frank Tieri and Richard Isanove

Summary: In Old Town, Detective Logan has been charged by Petter Potts with figuring out who killed Tony Stark.  Stark was stabbed by a Chinese knife, the kind used by the Mandarin and his Triad goons.  Stark had recently found a Fin Fang Foom statue, and Mandarin had claimed it belonged to one of his ancestors.  The statue seems to have been stolen when Stark was murdered. Logan heads to Chinatown, the Ten Rings Club.  Logan smashes the place up. Mandarin says that he was not involved in Stark’s death.  Logan realizes this isn’t the Mandarin he knows.  Mandarin’s eyes start to glow, and he is about to attack Logan, but Frank Castle Jr arrives and kills the Mandarin.  Castle reveals that earlier in the day he had encountered an alternate version of Whiplash, similar to Mandarin.  Castle says three people came over from another domain.  Logan realizes that the third is Pepper Potts, and she was the one who killed Stark and stole the statue.

The Smashing Cure by Scott Aukerman and RB Silva

Summary: Outside Greenland, Doc Samson is helping Gamma-infected people cope with the changes in their lives, including Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne.  We got a lot of insight on daily life in Greenland. Samson is starting to wonder if he is serving any purpose at all.  Peter Parker comes into his office.  Since his uncle was murdered two months ago, Peter has had trouble controlling his temper.  He wants to find the man who murdered his uncle and kill him “Hulk-style.”  Samson calms Peter down and helps him work through his own feelings of anger and guilt.  Peter leaves the session feeling much better, and Samson is finally starting to feel some optimism.  

Mike Maillaro:  The opening story here was a fun detective story.  I really enjoyed Logan in this role.  It did get a little convoluted for such a short story, especially with including the Punisher, but I still liked it a lot.  The quick glimpses into the other domains and how they overlap was a nice touch, especially for domains like Old Town that don’t really have their own titles.

The Doctor Samson story was one of the best short stories they have done in SECRET WARS JOURNAL and SECRET WARS BATTLEWORLD.  I have been a fan of Doctor Samson for a while, and it was insightful seeing his struggles dealing with a world gone Hulk.  The way Samson helped Peter Parker was creative and just gave me a warm feeling.

Score: 4.5/5

ULTIMATE END #3 by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley

Summary:  Doctor Banner is being held in the Triskelion after his battle with the other Hulk damaged the Vault and allowed a lot of super-powered criminals to escape.  616 Stark tries to stand up for him, but Ultimate Fury blames the heroes for pushing things close to the tipping point.

Banner starts to explain what brought him to this point.  He finds out his counterpart was working to try and unfold the two realities.  He tries to warn Doc Green that he is just going to make things worse...all Hulks can do is smash.   Doc Green refuses to listen.  This pisses Banner enough to turn into Hulk and they throw down.  

Fury decides to keep Banner subdued and sends the other heroes away.

Meanwhile, the two Punishers face off.  They each assume the other is a Skrull and one of them kills the other.  In Brooklyn, Bombshell is fighting the Wrecking Crew by herself.  The surviving Punisher arrives to kill the Wrecking Crew and then targets Bombshell himself.

Back at the Triskelion, there is a power failure, and the captured Banner vanishes.  Stark sent a remote armor to liberate him, claiming he needs Bannet to help him fix all this.

Mike Maillaro: This is still a very slow moving series.  There have been a lot of great character moments, but not a lot of story or action to hang them on.  I also thought the fight between the two Punishers seemed like a huge stretch.  They would have more likely found common ground than deciding to take each other out.  This has been a pretty weak way to send off the Ultimate Universe, assuming that is how this story ends...

Score: 3/5

X-TINCTION AGENDA #2 by Marc Guggenheim and Carmine DiGiandomonico

Summary: Rachel and Beast are discussing Beast’s experiments with time travel.  Beast has been attempting to bring X-Men back to life by pulling them from the timestream before they have died.  He has already done this with Wolverine, Banshee, and Thunderbird.

Genoshan forces led by Havok and Wolfsbane have come to X-City looking for a cure to the mutant virus attacking Genosha.  This fight is pure chaos.  Mystique manages to infiltrate the medical lab disguised as Dr. Reyes to capture Triage.  The Genoshans manage to teleport out, taking several captives with them, including Wolverine.

One of the Genoshans is plotting on using Triage’s powers in concert with Hodge in order to eliminate mutant kind entirely.  Beast is worried that the Genoshans have exposed X-City to the mutant virus.  Rachel decides to rescue the mutants that the Genoshans captured.  She declares war.

Mike Maillaro: I loved the pure chaos of the battle sequences in this issue.  At first, I was a little bothered that I couldn’t tell who was on which side, but I realized that actually made perfect sense in the context of the story. It was friend Vs friend, and that enhanced the story being told.  I did think there was a little too much going on here, which made the story unclear at time.  The whole opening with Beast and Rachel talking about time travel just seemed indulgent.  That would have made more sense in YEARS OF FUTURE PAST then here.  But all in all, this was still a pretty good read.

Score: 3.5/5


YEARS OF FUTURES PAST #2 by Marguerite Bennett and Mike Norton

Summary: This issue starts by showing us the parallel lives Christina Pryde and Cameraon (Wolverine’s kid) lived before they met.   In the present, Sentinels arrive, driving the mutants into the sewers to hide.  Mystique is pissed that the X-Men sold her and Blob out by staying safe in their base while humans experimented on other mutants.

The mutants manage to escape the Sentinels to a safe place called Centrum.  They start to piece together what is going on, including the fact that Kelly is staging attacks to make mutants look bad.  Suddenly, Doom Sentinels arrive.  Kitty gets her secret weapon ready: a giant Lockheed.

Elsewhere, Rachel Summers is trying to find out what is powering the new Sentinels.  She finds out that it is a captive Storm.  Rachel rescues Storm, realizing how evil Kelly is.

Mike Maillaro: This book really suffers just from the sheer number of X-Books that came out as part of SECRET WARS.  There really wasn’t anything wrong here, but I would much rather read INFERNO or E IS FOR EXTINCTION.  The biggest problem here was they seemed to want to introduce a lot of characters in a very short time, and it just made characters feel rushed and underdeveloped.   All in all, this issue failed more than it succeeded, which is a real shame.

Score: 3/5