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Secret Wars #1 by Jonathan Hickman & Esad Ribic Review

Comics Reviews Secret Wars
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<i>Secret Wars</i> #1 by Jonathan Hickman & Esad Ribic Review

Writer & Designer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Esad Ribic
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Release Date: May 6, 2015

For background information on the developments and story arcs that preceded Secret Wars, check out our Secret Wars For Dummies feature with commentary from Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort.

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Considering how many big, goopy Marvel and DC event crossovers have been tagged as the ones that “change everything (seriously this time!)” by now, it requires some next-level naivete to take take the hype surrounding Secret Wars seriously. But writer Jonathan Hickman appears to understand something cynical readers might not: It doesn’t matter if we aren’t convinced that the events of Secret Wars will meaningfully alter the Marvel Universe. And we know for certain that Secret Wars won’t end the Marvel Universe, because of course it won’t.

But that doesn’t matter if the characters believe it will, and behave accordingly. Especially the smart ones, like Fantastic Four patron Reed Richards, who Marvel clearly hates now, for example.

Even if the company’s ire, business or personal, towards the world’s smartest elastic being has something or other to do with movie licensing rights, this newfound wrath is well-timed. After all, since the classic Marvel-616 Universe started with a Fantastic Four story, that’s probably how it should end, and how it does in the inaugural chapter of Secret Wars.

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Secret Wars #1 Art by Esad Ribic

Much needed emotional gravitas surrounds an otherwise bombastic tale when Mr. Fantastic—who in a previous life, was the only guy in the universe who found a way to thwart the planet-devouring giant Galactus and save his species’ orbiting space rock—pretty much says, ‘We’re screwed. World’s ending. Tried everything to stop it. Nothing worked. Let’s throw up our hands, load a spaceship with as many of the best-and-brightest as we can, and start the human race over somewhere else.’

Driving the point home further: Richards’ megalomaniacal, amoral counterpart from the Ultimate Marvel line, The Maker, says pretty much the same thing. He just doesn’t seem to mind the situation quite as much.

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Secret Wars #1 Art by Esad Ribic

This doesn’t mean mainstream Reed is written as the saintly scientist of Marvel tradition. Throughout most of Secret Wars #1, millions of people, and a handful of folks he’s known for years, are shuffled loose from the mortal coil in nasty ways. But Richards doesn’t emote much, until the book’s final few pages that, thanks to Hickman and artist Esad Ribic, should scan as tragic and moving, even to the cynics among us who find this whole event unnecessary.

But if Reed doesn’t care about the end of the world until, or unless, it impacts him on a personal level, this prompts the question—were all of Mr. Fantastic’s previous efforts to save the world based only on self interest? Has Mr. Fantastic secretly been a dick this whole time? Is that the real “secret” of these Secret Wars? We’ll see.

Secret Wars #1 boots up the eponymous event slated to carry on through the next handful of months. Incursions between parallel universes, which force various universes’ respective Earths to collide and destroy one another, have seemingly squashed all incarnations of the multiverse save Earth-616 (the normal Marvel earth) and Earth-1610 (the aforementioned Ultimate earth). That statement stood true in the storylines of Avengers and New Avengers up until the events of this comic book, in which Earth-616 and Earth-1610 don’t look like they’re going to be okay, either.

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Secret Wars #1 Art by Esad Ribic

If the endgame of Secret Wars is, as has been speculated, to make Marvel Comics a brand more easily accessible to those familiar only with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Hickman and co. appear to be compensating by cramming in as many elements from the last few decades of comic continuity that would never work in a movie. This is a nice thing.

Examples: Issue #1 includes what could be the start of a redemptive arc for the widely misunderstood and underappreciated Scott Summers. Meanwhile, as existence itself is being extinguished outside the window, a who’s-who of street-level baddies get wasted and celebrate the deaths of the same heroes they’ve been trying and failing to kill for years. That is, until the Punisher shows up, and announces that he is in possession of quite a few bullets he won’t be able to take with him to the afterlife. (Granted, I doubt The Punisher would stand much of a chance against Bullseye, The Sandman, The Absorbing Man, Scorpion and the Kingpin working in tandem. Bullets don’t even hurt most of those dudes. But eh, maybe Punisher has a plan, and it’s a clever couple of panels.)

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Secret Wars #1 Art by Esad Ribic

The Maker’s deadpan delivery and ice cold pragmatism in the face of end-times makes me wish I hadn’t lost interest in the Ultimate Marvel Universe back when he was still galavanting around and calling himself Mr. Fantastic.

So maybe we’ve seen superheroes slaughtered en masse, extinction-level catastrophes, over-the-top crossover stunts, and really, in all of the stuff present in Secret Wars #1. But that’s okay, because a good version of anything is still good.

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