Monday Morning Secret Wars: Another Timeout

Monday Morning Secret Wars 10: So Much Comics

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All right, let’s get a couple of review out there! (It’s more fun when I’m behind, right? Right?) Warning: I think I gave out more Thumbs Down than normal.

Age of Ultron vs. Marvel Zombies #1

I suspect that when picking up his Secret Wars assignments, Robinson said to Marvel management. “You know, I’m kind of tired of doing all the Golden Age stuff I’m known for. I need a change. Can you give me the goofiest concept you’ve got?”

And thus Ultron vs. Zombies. Even then, he can’t help showing off his knowledge of old comics. He knows the difference between different Ultron versions, which should make my podcast partner happy. There’s also a Timely region of Battleworld. Timely, of course, is the former name of Marvel. And Steve Pugh is on art, which makes me so happy. I met Steve once- he has the nicest handshake of any man on the planet, and he’s a fantastic artist.

As for the plot…it’s got a new version of Hank Pym that I dig, and there’s a neat surprise at the end, so why spoil it?

OK, that's funny.
OK, that’s funny.

Verdict: THUMBS UP

Armor Wars #2

Here’s a quick hint to how I grade these. The first issue of these series has to show that the particular Battleworld concept is worth reading. The second issue has to show that the creative team is taking full advantage of the concept.

Armor Wars is basically a one-note joke- let’s put all your favorite heroes in cool armor! But it’s a good joke, and Robinson adds just enough gravitas to make it succeed. A murder mystery can be a tough device to pull off in a superhero comic (unless you’re Alan Moore writing Watchmen). but it’s effective here because we really don’t know the background of the characters enough to pre-judge who the murderer is.

I’m a bit surprised how well Marcio Takara’s art is working for this book. With a concept like Armor Wars, you’d expect an artist to use sleek, curvy lines. Takara goes the other war- chunky figures with splotchy blacks that might have been inked with a Sharpie. But it works, because this isn’t a sexy robot story. It’s a horror story, how humanity can take technology too far. It’s dystopia all the way.

How To Draw Horror 101.
How To Draw Horror 101.

Verdict: THUMBS UP

Black Widow #19

So this is as close to a Red Skies book as Secret Wars has had. Supposedly, this is one of the Last Days Of books that shows how the heroes cope as the Marvel Universe ends…but we only get one page of that. Instead, it’s a story of Black Widow’s past set in Cuba. I felt like I was missing some details in the issues that came before it, so I don’t feel qualified to grade it. It didn’t thrill me for what it was, but it’s not fair to give it a Thumbs Down when I haven’t read the other stories, so…

Verdict: THUMBS TWIDDLING

Captain America and the Mighty Avengers #9

I LOVED this issue. Simple and effective concept: How do the Mighty Avengers spend their final minutes on Marvel-616? Doing hero stuff.

Forget Secret Wars #1- this is the real Last Minutes of the Marvel Universe. Every hero takes on the Incursion from the Ultimate Universe. Obama speaks to America, asking us all to believe in the heroes. Monica has to ask herself if she can go through with killing everyone in the Ultimate Universe to save Marvel-616. Every hero goes out fighting- heck, every human on earth goes out fighting. It’s a fantastic end to the Marvel Universe, and is a must read for Secret Wars fans. (And Marvel announced today that the series is continuing post-SW as the Ultimates, and I’m so happy to hear we’re getting more Al Ewing!)

Ultimates! Ultimates are next!
Ultimates! Ultimates are next!

Verdict: THUMBS UP

Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars #2

Nope, still not laughing. Sorry. If you love Secret Wars in-jokes…well, I’m still not sure you’ll like this book. Blegh.

This joke is so bad, it wouldn't have made it on the Pat Sajak show. And half of you don't know what that is.
This joke is so bad, it wouldn’t have made it on the Pat Sajak show. And half of you don’t know what that is.

Verdict: THUMBS HOLDING MY NOSE AT HOW BAD THIS BOOK IS

E is for Extinction #1

The high concept: Take Grant Morrison’s New X-Men, add a twist to take out Xavier (and do it in two panels for maximum impact), and show what it’d be like in a few years if the concept played out. Add in an artist doing his best Frank Quitely impression, and stir.

Hey- it works! Granted, it wouldn’t work if Chris Burnham didn’t understand the source material so well, and if Ramon Villalobos didn’t do a damn good job of aping Quitely. It doesn’t hurt that the original material were fantastic comics, as good as anything in the X-Men line since Claremont and Byrne’s heyday (and maybe better). Burnham’s on fire here, adding extra snark whenever necessary (hint: always) and laying down tons of plot lines in this issue.

By the way: forget Old Man Logan. I want Old, Busted Healing Factor, Cool Jacket Logan in post-Secret Wars. Please?

That is the best haircut Magneto's ever had.
That is the best haircut Magneto’s ever had.

Verdict: THUMBS UP

Infinity Gauntlet #2

Oof. What happened here? Everything that worked in the first issue falls apart in the second issue. Bickering parents, multiple Thanoses (Thanosii?), a Guardians of the Galaxy pairing that’s evil…there’s no charm, nothing likeable, nothing that pulls you in to the story. And no, that includes Nova Dog. Sorry, this one just lost me.

And your little dog, too.
And your little dog, too.

Verdict: THUMBS DOWN

Korvac Saga #1

This is what happens when you try to read all the Secret Wars comics.
This is what happens when you try to read all the Secret Wars comics.

On the podcast, Glenn and I both talked about how we both didn’t care for the original Korvac Saga in Avengers 167-177. This version isn’t much better, despite the best efforts of Dan Abnett and Otto Schmidt. As much fun as the original Guardians can be, it’s not fun to read neutered versions who don’t know about stars because of Doom’s machinations as creator of everything. There’s also quite a bit of fake sci-fi speak (“Holy Flark!” and “weaponized meme”), and the fight scene runs incredibly long to little consequence. It’s a book that tries to be of consequence but fails.

Also, I don’t like Michael Korvac. And why is Simon Williams dressed like Captain Marvel? Did they need to refresh a trademark or something?

Verdict: THUMBS DOWN

Loki: Agent of Asgard #15

Why Al Ewing Is A Genius- Reason #102

In the middle of a fight between Asgardia and Hel at the end of the Marvel Universe, Ewing works in the origin story of Verity Willis, a girl who swallows a magic ring as a baby and thus can always tell when people are lying to her. He uses a story element from an old Walt Simonson Thor to pull this off. In the process, he makes Verity as interesting a character as there is in the Marvel U. Seriously, I would pay good money for a Verity Willis comic book post-Secret Wars.

And this doesn’t hurt either:

BLARRRRRRRRR
BLARRRRRRRRR

Verdict: THUMBS UP

Okay, that’s nine books down, another ten to go. See you later in the week!

Monday Morning Secret Wars Rain Delay

Monday Morning Secret Wars 9: Weirdworld is Awesome, and So Is Marguerite Bennett

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X-Men ’92 #1 and #2 (Infinite Comics version):

I am 44. In 1992, I was 21 and a member of Generation X. Here is a partial list of things that people alive in 1992 need to apologize to future generations for:

  1. MTV’s Kennedy.
  2. Billy Ray Cyrus. (Miley’s okay, but Billy Ray is a sin against music.)
  3. Mad About You.
  4. Barney the Purple Dinosaur.
  5. Overwritten X-Men comics.

You can argue the first four- I was not a TV or music executive in the 1990s. But I bought a lot of those exposition-laden X-Men comics with the scratchy lines and the impossible anatomy. Those books were the cutting edge of superhero books, despite the fact that, in retrospect, they were terrible. We didn’t care. We bought the books by the metric ton. And as a result, Fox made a cartoon about the X-Men, and that was also, in my opinion, hot garbage.

Chad Bowers and Chris Sims clearly disagree with my opinion. They must, because X-Men ’92 is a loving, worshipful tribute to the comics and show of that era. I knew Chris Sims loved the show, because he wrote an extensive episode guide on Comics Alliance. But I never realized that he and Chad were so devoted to the show until I read the books.

I like sharing panels of comics with you, my beloved audience, but you might want to turn your heads or scroll down, because if you’re not cool with overwrought verbiage, your head will explode at the gnarliness of these comics:

Don't turn your head. Look at those word balloons. LOOK.
Don’t turn your head. Look at those word balloons. LOOK.
The horror...the horror.
The horror…the horror.
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Try reading that dialogue out loud. You can’t. Humans don’t talk like that.

I’m not complaining about this book. If you’re going to do a book called X-Men ’92, this is how you do it. You get X-Men fanboys obsessed with the sheer ludicrousness of those books and take it to the nth degree. This comic is as X-Men ’92ish as anything can be. It’s absurd performance art, and everyone involved should be applauded for it. But Marvel, please don’t do it again, or I’m siccing Tabitha Soren and the surviving member of Kriss Kross on you all.

Verdict: THUMBS UP.

Spider-Verse #2

What???
What???

Do you know what Gen-X is responsible for? The Internet. Seriously, forget Al Gore, my generation built this thing. And it’s a good thing, because without the Internet, I would never have known that Peter Porker is telling the truth here. He really was a spider who was bit by a radioactive pig and became Spider-Ham.

Huh. You learn something every day!

Verdict: THUMBS UP.

Ultimate End #2

I’ve given very few Thumbs Down verdicts in Secret Wars, but damn it if Ultimate End doesn’t just keep piling them up.

Here’s the story beats for this book. Ready?

  1. The Thors all come together and tell the combined Ultimate/616 charactes to do nothing. Seriously. Nothing. The 616 Hawkeye complains, so the Thors kill him. And by extension, Bendis has killed more Hawkeyes than anyone else on the planet.
  2. 616 Tony Stark tells Ultimate Iron Man to stop drinking. So he does.
  3. 616 Peter Parker says hi to Ultimate Aunt May, which would be charming, except we’ve seen this before in Spider-Men a few years ago. This book is way too late.
  4. 616 Hulk and Ultimate Hulk have a fight near the Raft, and inadvertently break out Ultimate Punisher.

That’s the book. Yep. $3.99 for all of that.

And that's why Ultimate End #2 gets a verdict of...
And that’s why Ultimate End #2 gets a verdict of…

Verdict: THUMBS DOWN.

Weirdworld #1 (Note- this review is peppered with foul language. You’ll see why in a moment.)

OK, so here’s a warning. I record GAR! this week with Glenn, probably on Wednesday night (I’m typing this on Tuesday). We never plan ahead. The podcast is completely off-the-cuff, no notes, no plans. We just riff off whatever we feel like.

But this week (if my podcast partner lets me get away with it), I’m going to read as much of Weirdworld #1 out loud as I can. Because Weirdworld #1 is FUCKING AWESOME.

It’s not just the concept (“Hi! I’m Arkon, and I’m going to run around a strange land and have adventures!”). It’s not just Mike Del Mundo channeling Bill Sienkiewicz.

NICE.
NICE.

It’s Jason Aaron. Jason Aaron gives Arkon the most pulpy inner dialogue I’ve ever seen. It’s sharp, crisp, masculine, and muscular. It’s also paranoid, exhausted, and cranky, just like Arkon is after weeks of running around the insanity that is Weirdworld.

This book is like the methed out husk of PKD merged with Robert E. Howard. It’s insane, and it’s the new contender for best Secret Wars book. The hill just got steeper.

I don’t curse much on this blog, but fuck it.

FUCK YEAH.
FUCK YEAH.

Verdict: GODDAMN. STOP READING THIS AND GO BUY IT.

Where Monsters Dwell #1

I love Garth Ennis’s writing.

I love Russ Braun’s artwork.

I love crazy time-displaced stories about ne’er-do-wells trying to fly in a strange land who are also trying to get in bed with a smarter-than-she-looks bombshell.

I love dinosaurs.

You see where I'm headed, right?
You see where I’m headed, right?

Verdict: THUMBS UP.

X-Tinction Agenda #1

Did you know that in the original X-Tinction Agenda, Genosha had the power to digitize people, transport them by phone line (copper landlines!), and force them into a live of slavery?

Here’s where it gets interesting. The human body contains 150 Zetabytes (a real thing!) of genetic data. If you scrub the data for redundancy, you could compress that data to about 1.5 GB (again, according to the Internet, and what would it lie?) The fastest modem in 1988 was probably 9600 baud. So it would take about a half-year to send over a fully compressed human being in real life (if it were possible to do that to a human being).

Sadly, that’s a more interesting fact than anything here. This book isn’t for me.

Also, I really don't want to see Havok and Rahne in bed. Not like that. Nope. Call me old-fashioned.
Also, I really don’t want to see Havok and Rahne in bed. Not like that. Nope. Call me old-fashioned.

Verdict: THUMBS DOWN.

Years of Future Past #1

Marguerite Bennett might be the new Charles Soule. She’s writing a LOT of books.  This is good, because writers need practice and paychecks, and (hopefully) she’s getting a lot of it. All of her published work have come in the last two years.

What’s amazing is that I can’t think of a bad book she’s written. Look at all of that material in two years time. She’s still coming up with tons of fresh material despite her workload. It’s amazing. Look- she has Wolverine punch a tiger!

BAM! A TIGER!
BAM! A TIGER!

Look at that panel. She doesn’t overwrite the thing- Wolverine pops in, punches the tiger, and by the next page, we’ve moved on to exposition. That’s how you’re supposed to write fun, punchy comics (and by punchy, I mean “having an immediate impact”, not just tiger-bashing).

Getting to play in the “Days of Future Past” toybox sounds like a plum assignment for most writers, but really, it’s not. I’ve read tons of bad rehashes of the classic Byrne/Claremont story. Some writers will make Katherine Pryde too dry. Some will overplay the “old Wolverine” hand (sadly, like Bendis does in Old Man Logan). Some writers will try to build up the Sentinels as a daunting threat, forgetting that the Sentinels are a tired concept in 2015.

Bennett takes what she’s given and comes up with a fresh plot. She gives what could have been a dull retake a fantastic plot twist. She gets great work out of her artist, Mike Norton. And she gives us Wolverine punching a tiger.

And that’s why Marguerite Bennett has written a ton of books in the last two years, and why she’s a writer worth paying attention to.

Verdict: THUMBS UP.

And with that, folks, I’m finally caught up! Next Monday, I’ll be reviewing the new slate of Secret Wars stuff. Don’t miss out!

Monday Morning Secret Wars 8: It’s All-New, All-Different

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1602: Witch Hunter Angela

That's Angela killing Wolverine with a stick.
That’s Angela killing Wolverine with a stick.

I haven’t read the Marvel 1602 series in a number of years, so I cannot say whether or not this book is consistent with that world. But I can say that this book stars famous playwrights Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, and William Shakespeare,. That has to mean something, right?

This is basically an X-Men book in disguise. Angela (the character that Neil Gaiman got from Todd McFarlane in his lawsuit settlement) is a hunter of Witchbreeds, 1602-slang for mutants. She also hunts something called Faustians, and I’m sure that maps to something in the Marvel U, but I don’t know what. Either way, she spends the book hunting and killing these things, until she has an encounter with the 1602 Enchantress full of foreboding.

It’s incredibly ironic that two of Neil Gaiman’s creations (the 1602 world and Angela) have been mushed together into this book. Marguerite Bennett and Kieron Gillen come up with a cute script that appealed to the AP English survivor in me. I’m curious to see what they continue to do with the concept, especially as we’re promised the Guardians of the Galaxy (!) in the next issue.

Verdict: THUMBS UP.

Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps #1

Sometimes, it’s very hard to come up with a winning concept for these Battleworld areas. Sometimes, though, it’s not.

When Kelly Sue DeConnick revamped Carol Danvers a few years ago, she made it clear that Carol wanted nothing more than to be a pilot and to hang with other pilots. Here, Carol Danvers heads up a squadron of women pilots protecting their Battleworld area from border incursions. But she cannot protect her squadron from their gnawing suspicions that the science of their world doesn’t make sense. Even though questioning their environs means committing blasphemy against God Doom, Carol and her squadron must pursue the truth.

David Lopez draws the heck out of the concept, and probably has one of the nicest Secret Wars covers so far. This is a must-buy for Secret Wars fans.

Nice cover!
Nice cover!

Verdict: THUMBS UP.

Ghost Racers #1

So…who’s your Ghost Rider? Is it the original, Johnny Blaze? Is it Danny Ketch from the 90s? Is it one of the new ones, Alejandra Blaze or Robbie Reyes? Or is it the old cowboy, Carter Slade? Doesn’t matter- you get all of them here!

The high concept is that Arcade has set up an arena for these Ghost Ride– er, Ghost RACERS to race in a trap-laden arena. It’s a bit weird, especially when you see Slade as ghostly centaur taking on three cyclists and Reyes in a deathmobile, fighting each other and the various M.O.D.O.K.s, Sentinels, and other hazards in the arena. Think Mario Kart, but more supernatural and a bit crazier.

The entire concept is way over-the-top; while champ Reyes lives the life of luxury, the other four are kept chained in a basement by Arcade, who now plots to defeat Reyes, too…because he’s “too good for his own good”. This could have been a better book, but I’m not sure it has enough gas to make it to the finish line.

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Verdict: THUMBS DOWN.

Inferno #2

Someday, someone is going to explain to me how this book got approved.

Don’t take it the wrong way- I really don’t have anything negative to say about Inferno. The writing is clever, the art is dynamic and sexy, and it will appeal to a lot of the Secret Wars audience. But why this crossover? Why did Inferno get a book instead of, say, Operation Galactic Storm or Mutant Massacre or Acts of Vengeance? Why no love for Maximum Security?

I was reminded just how weird and confusing the original was by this joke:

Heh. Nice.
Heh. Nice.

Yes, it took me a full minute to remember that Madeline Pryor was, in fact, Cable’s mom. And now I have the song lyric Cable’s mom/Has got it going on in my head. The sacrifices I make for my audience.

Verdict: THUMBS UP.

Inhumans: Attilan Rising #2

Hey, there’s a continuity glitch! See these guys?

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Yeah, they’re the sons of Banner from the original Old Man Logan. Thing is, they were killed in the original book. In fact, all of the Hulks from that book were killed. So how are they alive and trying to get into The Quiet Room? I know we’re a little helter skelter continuity-wise, but this seems to be a big deal. I might have to write to Marvel and see if I can get a No-Prize or something. (More likely, a punch in the nose from some poor, abused assistant editor for pointing out the error.)

I really do still dig this story, though. I haven’t read the Inhuman series or Ms. Marvel, but this book really makes me want to go back and see what I was missing, and I didn’t feel like I was in the dark too much. Glenn and I had a discussion on GAR! the other week where he stated his opinion that a good book should be immediately accessible to anyone who picks it up. I feel differently- a book should be good enough that the reader wants to go back and find the source material.

There’s nothing as visually tasty as the Ghost Rider from the last issue, but the Quiet Room is a nice concept, a gathering area for people travelling between the regions of Battleworld. And I loved Dave Johnson’s cover. Really nifty.

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Verdict: THUMBS UP.

Battleworld: Marvel Zombies #1

So apparently, Ulysses Bloodstone is the worst parent in the Marvel Universe.And as a result, his daughter, Elsa, must go out and kill zombies, and lots of them.

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Elsa Bloodstone was a great character in Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E., and Spurrier throws her into the impossible challenge of surviving the zombie horde that lurks outside the Shield in Battleworld.

That's a LOT of zombies.
That’s a LOT of zombies.

No matter how good this book is, this will probably end up being second in quality to author Simon Spurrier’s incredible zombie story Crossed: Wish You Were Here (which you can read for free here). That doesn’t mean this one isn’t good- it is. I always like artist Kev Walker, and he’s really good on this book. The art’s crisp and dynamic, and this book really is a lot of fun.

Verdict: THUMBS UP.

Mrs. Deadpool and the Howling Zombies #1

I did read this book. Really.

But I didn’t read the rest of Gerry Duggan’s Deadpool. I tried it, because I’m a huge Deadpool fan. I’ve been a fan since Joe Kelly’s run in the 90s, and also really liked Daniel Way’s long run. I just didn’t connect with Duggan’s run.

And I don’t think I’m going to connect with this run, either. The “Mrs. Deadpool” character doesn’t do much for me, and the Howling Commandos- basically just Marvel’s normal monster squad of Werewolf By Night, Man-Thing, The Living Mummy, and Frankenstein, with a Venom-like minotaur thrown in- also left me cold. When you’re pulling out not one, but TWO “Man-THING” jokes in the same issue, you’re not winning me over.

Here's a tip- read this book, Mrs. Deadpool, and you'll get there pretty quick.
Here’s a tip- read this book, Mrs. Deadpool, and you’ll get there pretty quick.

Verdict: THUMBS DOWN.

Secret Wars 2099 #1 and #2

So according to The Beat, this is how Spider-Man 2099 sold before Secret Wars:

07/14 Spider-Man 2099  #1  -  90,690  
08/14 Spider-Man 2099  #2  -  47,512 (-47.6%)
09/14 Spider-Man 2099  #3  -  43,418 ( -8.6%)
10/14 Spider-Man 2099  #4  -  40,755 ( -6.1%)
10/14 Spider-Man 2099  #5  -  40,880 (  0.3%)
11/14 Spider-Man 2099  #6  -  38,634 ( -5.5%)
01/15 Spider-Man 2099  #7  -  38,455 ( -0.5%)
01/15 Spider-Man 2099  #8  -  37,484 ( -2.5%)
02/15 Spider-Man 2099  #9  -  34,374 ( -8.3%)
03/15 Spider-Man 2099 #10  -  33,528 ( -2.5%)
04/15 Spider-Man 2099 #11  -  31,665 ( -5.6%)

SPIDER-MAN 2099 VOL.1 TPB: 2,556

That’s not a good sales pattern. Granted, The Beat doesn’t include things like foreign sales or Comixology numbers, but it doesn’t appear that this is a book that was keeping its audience before the mega-crossover.

Peter David is a smart cookie; he worked in Marvel sales before starting his comics writing career. He knows when a book isn’t selling well. So I don’t think it’s a surprise that Spider-Man 2099 isn’t a key character in Secret Wars 2099. Instead, we get…the Avengers 2099!

So why wasn’t this book called Avengers 2099? Dunno. But when the book focuses on the adventures of a corporately sponsored Avengers team in 2099, and the Avengers are the hottest thing going, wouldn’t you think that Avengers 2099 would make for a more attractive title than Secret Wars 2099? Ah, what do I know.

It is a fun book. I particularly enjoyed the addition of Hercules, and the weirdness of a brainwashed Captain America. I do wish Will Sliney’s art would show more creative layouts. There’s a few sequences where the camera angle he uses in continuous panels stays static, and there’s a maddening scene where the Black Widow pops a barely-visible claw that’s nearly impossible to see.

The camera angle is too static here...
The camera angle is too static here…
And here. This needed a close-up.
And here. This needed a close-up.

Sliney has great linework, but does need to work on his layouts. But overall, I enjoyed Aven- er, Secret Wars 2099.

Verdict: THUMBS UP.

Secret Wars Journal #1 and #2

Love this cover image for issue 1.
Love this cover image for issue 1.

The bad news is that this is another Secret Wars anthology book. The good news is it’s actually good! I couldn’t tell you why this one is better than the other, but SWJ has much stronger material than the Secret Wars Battleworld book.

Issue 1 has a lovely Young Avengers story that’s meant as a lead-in to Secret Wars: Siege (another book named after a mostly forgotten crossover. Seriously, why not Secret Invasion or Dark Avengers? With Dark Avengers, Doom would have some buddies to hang out with). The back-up story’s a little weak, unless you ever wondered what would happen if the X-Men ever confronted Moon Knight diety Khonshu and his band of Werewolves By Night. (Seriously, there’s a lot of Werewolves By Night in Secret Wars. Was there a group discount? Did they lose a lawsuit and now want to monetize the settlement? I’d love to know that.)

Issue 2 is FANTASTIC. The first story, “The Hunt”, pits Paladin and Misty Knight in Killville (home of M.O.D.O.K. Assassin), and everything’s given a Miami Vice patina. If this is Marvel’s idea of a post-Secret Wars Heroes for Hire book, count me in.

"Misty and the Paladin." Book it, Marvel!
“Misty and the Paladin.” Book it, Marvel!

And the second story is easily one of the most memorable in the entire Secret Wars catalog, an O. Henry-style Daredevil and Elektra tale where he’s forced to take the exotic animals she kills for their masters, the legion of clones of Mister Sinister, and make tasty dishes to serve every night. It’s a riveting tale.

Well, you might not think it's tasty, but Mr. Sinister does.
Well, you might not think it’s tasty, but Mr. Sinister does.

Seriously, if the Marvel editors keep up the quality on the rest of SWJ, this could be the best Secret Wars book.

Verdict: THUMBS UP.

Come back tomorrow where we finally get caught up!