The Cabal take on a squad of Thors as the surviving members of the Life Raft come to terms with Doom’s godhood.
Secret Wars #4 packs plenty of punch with developments and explanations in key areas.
Dr. Strange brings his former allies and friends up to speed by naming the cause behind the incursion — the Beyonders. Doom, Strange, and Molecule Man could not stop the universes from colliding, but they did the next best thing: they killed the Beyonders and took their powers for themselves.
And while Strange balked at the prospect of becoming a super-powerful cosmic being, Doom accepted it and rebuilt the Marvel Universe as it is today — a patchwork planet called Battleworld pieced together from the remnants of the various universes.
While the Cabal hold their own against the sudden attack, one of the Thors calls out to Doom. Through the Thor’s eyes, Doom sees Strange enter the fight along with the heroes of the former Marvel U. The sight of Reed Richard’s appearance surprises Doom — variations of the heroes from the life raft exist in Battleworld in some shape or form, but no other version of Richards has been found until now.
Doom confronts the members of both life rafts, declares himself God, and displays his power. Things escalate when Cyclops, possessed by the power of the Phoenix, denies Doom and lights him on fire.
Strange moves to secure his friends and foes by teleporting them away in a rare show of rebellion. Doom commands him to return all to the battlefield, but Strange has convinced himself that this is all for the best.
The mini-series hasn’t disappointed thus far, continuing its streak of strong issues. We now have a new set of challengers working together to unseat Doom from his lofty position, and the stakes are incredibly high.
In one fell swoop, Jonathan Hickman shows just how powerful Doom is as he snaps Phoenix-Cyclops’ neck. Poor Cyclops — with all of the rumors about the X-Men being killed off, the lone mutant from the heroes’ life raft is the first one terminated. One wonders if he would have survived if circumstances were different and Marvel had the X-Men movie rights. Either way, one plotline is removed — for now. We all know the Phoenix never truly dies, and don’t be surprised if Phoenix-Cyclops makes a comeback, or the Phoenix binds itself with another mutant in Battleworld.
The writing overall is sharp with polished dialogue. Hickman’s lines keep the plot moving, and each of his characters have distinct and familiar voices. When Reed tells Doom, “I can’t help but notice you decided to put yourself on a throne,” a lot of history is brought up with that single line. For years, Reed has battled against a power-hungry Doom, and it’s no real surprise what’s happened — Spider-Man cracks, “Yeah. We’re all absolutely shocked by that. Just floored.”
It’s good to see Thanos being represented as the most powerful Cabal — Hickman maintains balance by building up the members of both life rafts. It adds one more conflict in the here and now to go along with whatever may happen when Reed finds out Susan is Doom’s royal consort, his children are Doom’s officers, and Galactus is a royal guard.
Hickman is building up to something huge, and the prospects are exciting, to say the least. Thankfully, Esad Ribic’s art is up to snuff with beautifully rendered panels that capture the scope of the story. When Strange and his heroes appear in a flash, the panel resembles something from the Sistine Chapel — the composition is epic and glorious. And when Doom breaks Phoenix-Cyclops, the sudden turn, which could have been anti-climactic with weaker art, carries dramatic weight — we see Doom’s surprise as his armor melts, and then his hand suddenly goes to Cyclops’ throat, holding him high before the twist of his wrist.
Ive Svorcina’s colors look wonderful as the pages go from brightly-lit to looming dark. The lighting adds plenty of contrast, and the palette is eye-catching.
Assuming the second half is better than this one, Secret Wars is shaping up to something very special. If Marvel is looking for another phase for their cinematic universe, this could be it — a Secret Wars movie or series that reboots the MCU with a new set of actors playing the Avengers we’ve been watching.
Don’t discount Secret Wars — the story and the art are great, and anyone considering the notion of giving up on the Marvel Universe should check this series out before abandoning it. The fact that this version of Secret Wars has already topped the previous volumes doesn’t say all that much, but to say it’s one of the best mini-series in recent history might change a naysayer’s mind.