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


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.



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?


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.


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.


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.


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!

Monday Morning Secret Wars 7: Come and get me, you mugs!

Infinity Gauntlet #1

Possible marketing line: “This ain’t your dad’s Infinity Gauntlet!” And it’s not. It’s a genre mixup, with bits from The Walking Dead, Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind, and The Last Starfighter mixed in. Ron Lim is nowhere to be found, and Jim Starlin isn’t walking through that door anytime soon. He’s too busy working on his Thanos novel…

I enjoyed the story here, expertly crafted by Gerry Duggan and Dustin Weaver. But I am curious about the two gems found.

There’s one….
and another one…

Are these real Infinite gems? We haven’t seen those since they were destroyed in an incursion during New Avengers. Has Doom found a way to hide them in Battleworld? Did he do this on purpose? Does he know they’re there? This has to be resolved for the overall story to succeed.

Verdict: THUMBS UP.

Inhumans: Attilan Rising #1

“John Timms speaking.”

“John, this is Charles Soule-7. I wanted to talk with you about this Inhumans book we’re doing.”


“Yeah, I cloned myself. Got a deal with some second-rate mad scientist in the Bronx. I’m writing a lot of books right now. But anyway, listen. This book we’re doing for Secret Wars?”


“I need you to draw me a thirties version of the Ghost Rider, looking and talking like James Cagney, driving a Studebaker or something classy like that. Think you can handle that?”



“Good. Can we get the rest done by Friday?”

Very cool.

And that’s why I love comics.

Verdict: THUMBS UP.

M.O.D.O.K. Assassin #1


This book has a skeeviness to it. The main character is a MODOK unit. How do you make a MODOK, you ask? You do unspeakable things to someone’s body until the head is superbig, and the other limbs are basically useless. Slap that biological nightmare in a combat suit, and ewwww yuck.

The primary color scheme of the book, pink and banana yellow, made me subliminally ill. And the ending, where our protagonist finds himself slobbering over a fallen Angela like an eleven-year-old who just found his dad’s Playboy. The book evokes strong emotions, but not pleasurable ones. I need a shower.


Master of Kung Fu #2

I’m still in love with this book. This might be the best of the Secret Wars books coming out. It has fantastic, stylish art by Dalibor Talajic and Goran Sudzuka, the sort of art that takes you back to Master of Kung Fu‘s artistic heyday of Paul Gulacy and Gene Day. And Haden Blackman is accomplishing the impossible, taking this cursed, dated concept and making it fresh and compelling.

This issue has a bit less humor but much more gravitas, and it’s needed. Shang-Chi might be a barely functioning alcoholic, but he’s a damn good fighter, and he has to be if he’s going to free his land from the oppressive reign of his father. To do that, he’s going to have to use all that he’s learned not only do win a tournament (The Thirteen Chambers! ), but become a mentor to his ragtag band of students that have dragged him into this mess.


Take a good look at that panel. Look at the hands, nearly Ditko-like in design. The swirling blacks for the magic. The curl of the dragon. That’s great storytelling.

It’s compelling, it’s gorgeous, and it’s wonderful.

Verdict: THUMBS UP.

Old Man Logan #1

Up front: Didn’t like the book.

But this is now the second Bendis book that I’ve given a thumbs down to in the Secret Wars pile, and I don’t feel good about that. Bendis is a great writer, a fantastic constructor of dialogue, and a real evangelist for comics. I’ve been frustrated by some of his stories before, namely his Avengers stuff and some of Powers, but I always appreciated that he got a reaction out of me. And at his best, Bendis can hit homers like Barry Bonds on roids.

I read an interview with Bendis about Old Man Logan, and it was clear that he loved the source material, the Mark Millar story with Steve McNiven on art. That was a fantastic Wolverine story, one of the best ever. I can understand why Bendis loved it and wanted to fold the concept into Secret Wars. But he can’t, and he never had a chance.

I mentioned in a post about Letterman’s last show how much I love the movie The Late Shift, which chronicled the whole Letterman-Leno fight of the early 90s. At one point, just before Letterman jumps to CBS, NBC offers Letterman the Tonight Show…sort of. Letterman always lusted to follow in Johnny’s steps, and was heartbroken that the gig went to Leno. When Leno’s numbers dipped early on and Letterman’s intention to defect to CBS was known, NBC tried to keep everyone happy by offering Letterman the Tonight Show, but with stringent conditions (it wouldn’t happen for 18 months, the ownership of the show would stay with NBC, etc). A friend tells Letterman, “They are not offering you the Johnny Carson ‘Tonight Show’. It’s gone forever. They’re offering you damaged goods. They’re offering you the Jay Leno show…it’s leftovers, it’s shoddy”. 

And this is Bendis’s fate with Old Man Logan. That book was fresh because Millar presented the audience with a Wolverine who wouldn’t pop his claws or go into berserker mode. He had a family he wanted to protect, and he had the memories of the X-Men that he was fooled into slaughtering. Millar also gave us a fantastic sidekick, an aged Hawkeye who needles Logan about his refusal to fight, and who gets all the good jokes. But (and there be spoilers here) by the end of the story, Hawkeye’s dead, Logan’s family is dead, the claws have been popped, and Logan’s back to being, well, Wolverine.

And that’s the Logan Bendis is stuck with here. He might be older than the Wolverine we remember (and he might talk with this weird Clint Eastwoodian dialect that he didn’t have in the original book), but he’s basically plain old Wolverine, popping claws and killing fools. At one point, he kills a man for wearing Daredevil’s old costume. That’s a total turnaround from Millar’s approach, and it’s not the Old Man Logan that Bendis remembers. It’s a stale approach to Wolverine, and despite the fantastic art by Andrea Sorrentino and amazing color work by Marcelo Maiolo, it never rises to the level of the source material.


By the way, I am very much aware that my favorite book in Secret Wars is the Master of Kung Fu book, and my least favorite book are the two books I was really interested in going into the event (OML and Ultimate End). Elevated expectations can really make reading comics no fun sometimes.


Five more books in the backlog (Secret Wars 2099 #1, Secret Wars Journal #1, Where Monsters Dwell #1, X-Tinction Agenda #1, and Years of Future Past #1), and then we get to this week’s new books. Friday will be a Rock and Roll Friday, and we’ll finish the backlog Saturday. And next week, we’ll be on time again! Woot!

Monday Morning Secret Wars 6: OK, it’s Tuesday, sue me.


I am committed to catching up on all the Secret Wars books this week. I should be committed for thinking this is a rational thing to do, but hey, Horton said it best- “‘I meant what I said and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful one-hundred percent!”

Yeah, yeah, tell it to your audience, Dumbo.
Yeah, yeah, tell it to your audience, Dumbo.

Amazing Spider-man: Renew Your Vows #1

Marriage-related passive-aggressiveness! Here's my $4, Marvel!
Marriage-related passive-aggressiveness! Here’s my $4, Marvel!

Why does this story exist? I’m really left scratching my head.

First of all, from a corporate, Marvel editorial viewpoint, I have no idea why Marvel would pick at a scab that had healed over years ago. When Joe Quesada decided that the Spider-Marriage should end because it was a creative hindrance, fanboys (myself included) decried the move as a cop-out. It didn’t help that the story vehicle used, One More Day, was an out-and-out mess, with the writer of the title having submitted a script that supposedly didn’t match all of the story endpoints that were agreed to by Marvel. The script had to be rewritten on the fly to get the book out the door, and it showed.

But then, Marvel won the argument. The long arcs that followed, Brand New Day and the epic Dan Slott run that included Big Time, Spider-Island, Superior Spider-Man, and Spider-Verse, showed that yes, Marvel wasn’t kidding around when it said that there was a world of stories that could be told with a freer Spider-Man. The book has been on a sustained creative high since MJ whispered those words into Mysterio’s ear.

Marvel decided to go al out on this book, with top creators Slott and Andy Kubert. In this book,the Spider-Marriage was never annulled and Peter and MJ are married with a kid named Annie. And that would be fine- and fun- if it wasn’t for the other baggage assigned to Peter in the story. Not only does Peter have to fight out an escaped Venom who views his kid as the best way to get back at Spidey, but every hero in this Battleworld region gets annihilated by a new super-baddie, Regent. In response, Peter does two things that would make Uncle Ben cringe- he kills Venom, and he retires from the webs, deciding that his responsibility is really for his wife and daughter.

It’s a bad story, and it shouldn’t have been. Slott and Kubert are amazing creators, and I expected a better story than what I got. And that’s without touching the question of why God Doom would create a Battleworld with giving Peter Parker back his marriage in the first place. In current Marvel continuity, the decision to sacrifice Peter and MJ’s marriage was wiped out of the minds of everyone. Mephisto might remember, but he isn’t around. Peter doesn’t remember, and we really don’t know if MJ does. So how did Doom even know about OMD to create this Battleworld? It’s a strange question, and it’s not the only one of its kind in the Secret Wars crossovers.


Armor Wars #1

I dunno about this book. A world where everyone dresses up in armor? Why does this make sense? I know Armor Wars was a good Iron Man story, but this concept is really stretched thin–


Wait- is that “Happy” Hogan? Did someone remember that Happy is an integral part of the Marvel U, and should be brought back?

Well, that’s cool and all, but still, everyone’s in armor, and–


Oooh, Arno Stark razor shoulders. Always cool. I love those things.

OK, fine, there’s some cool elements here, but the story is really exposition-heavy, and–


–and you punched a hole through Spider-Man as your cliffhanger.

OK, fine, I’m easy.

Verdict: THUMBS UP.

Future Imperfect #1

Did you know people love Greg Land? That people think that he’s one of the best artists at Marvel, and possibly in all of comics?

I know, obvious joke.
I know, obvious joke.

OK, no, when you can Google an artist and one of the first links is a hate Tumblr, you’re not beloved. Greg Land makes a lot of mistakes in his art, and he traces obvious poses, and his women are oversexualized…

But if you get past that, he’s one of the best artists at adding sheen and polish to his art. He draws fantastic muscular figures. And in this issue, I found out something that I’ll never forget:


He can draw a heck of a Ben Grimm. Never mind the flaws in the picture- I mean, he’s floating! His right foot makes no sense in relationship to the background! But that is a DAMN good looking Thing. Tie goes to the runner.

Also, Peter David is writing the Maestro, the older, cynical, corrupt Bruce Banner. And he’s fantastic here. I loved the original Future Imperfect, and this issue is almost as much fun.

Verdict: THUMBS UP.

Giant-Size Little Marvel- AvX #1


Every mega-crossover usually has an epilogue book that tries to put a funny spin on the whole thing. Without it, we wouldn’t have books like Ultimate Civil War: Spider-Ham #1 or Blasters. But during the crossover?

It’s a little weird, and a bit excessive (especially with two Deadpoool books also coming out during the same time). Skottie Young is an immensely talented artist, and if you like his stuff, you’ll like this book. It does have some funny moments, and by my standards, it deserves a thumbs-up. But I am a bit weary of all the forced humor going on here.

Verdict: THUMBS UP.

Inferno #1

Here we go.

Once upon a time, not long ago

When iPads didn’t exist and modems were slow

Where bad guys were bad and heroes good

And comics were monthly like they oughtta good

There lived a comic book that was Number One

Outselling every other book under the sun

Claremont and Byrne were making the cash

Then other artists would come in and bust a splash

Uncanny X made money with ease

but Marvel didn’t stop, it’s like they had a disease.

They made another and another with variant covers

Soon there was a ton of clones and Summers brothers

Liefeld on the book was drawing erratic

Every hero in the book except for DC’s Static–

Okay, that’s it, I’m done with this joke. Sorry. I apologize.

If you like late 80’s X-Men, you’ll like this book. Good plot, nice art, exactly what you want. And no bad parodies of “Children’s Story.” That’s on me. Sorry.


I’m down to ten books! Yay!

Wait- tomorrow is new comics day?



Monday Morning Secret Wars 5: The Destruction of the Fantastic Four


Secret Wars 3 is a really frustrating book, a book left me wanting to punch the entire enterprise in the face, flush it all down the toilet, and go blog about something else.

But a promise is a promise. And if you’re like me, a lifelong Fantastic Four fan, you just can’t ignore Secret Wars and the effects on the Marvel Universe’s First Family, even if they twist my stomach in knots.

Mind you, I’m not accusing the author, Jonathan Hickman, of being a bad author; far from it, actually. He is skillfully weaving a tale that is breaking the last remaining Marvel taboos and isn’t playing games. Doom is a hero in Secret Wars. He really did save the universe, but at a painfully high price, his face.

So, did the Beyonders cut off Doom's nose to spite his face?
So, did the Beyonders cut off Doom’s nose to spite his face?

Bleeding Cool was the first I saw that pointed this out, that this is one of the great Marvel taboos, showing Doom’s scarred face under the mask. Of course, this really might not be the same thing. Marvel held off on showing what happened to Doom’s face when he first put on the mask, leaving open the question as to whether Doom’s face was ravaged during his college years, or whether it happened as an act of hubris when putting on a molten-hot mask for the first time. That question may now be moot, as his face may now have been damaged because of his confrontation with the Beyonders. And this is an act Marvel can always redress post-Secret Wars.

But I doubt they can put this back in the box.

Pretty picture, but my stomach is turning.
Pretty picture, but my stomach is turning.

While the question of how deep the relationship between Sue and Doom really is in Secret Wars, Hickman makes it clear that Sue chose Doom, that she admires the man he is now, and that she so cares for him that she has consented to the torture of her brother for defying him.

"He is the sun." Chilling words.
“He is the sun.” Chilling words.

And as weird as it is that Doom is now the good guy of the Marvel Universe, it’s even weirder that Dr. Strange is going along with him, even as it’s clear that he recalls what Doom used to be. And has been doing so…for EIGHT YEARS.

That’s right- the events between Secret Wars 1 and 2 happened eight years apart, as least as far as everyone but those outside the magic pods are concerned. For those who came in through the back door, it’s been an hour.

One long hour for Reed Richards.
One long hour for Reed Richards.

And Reed doesn’t take the news very well..and he doesn’t even know about Sue yet.

Marvel took time to give us all a peek at their new post-Secret Wars publishing lineup…and there was no Reed, Sue, or Johnny present. And that’s probably a good thing, because any such announcement would spoil the ending of Secret Wars, and no one wants that. But there was a teaser that Ben Grimm would join the Guardians of the Galaxy. And if Ben’s in space, he can’t be hanging out in the Baxter Building…so what will happen to the FF after Secret Wars? Moreover, what will happen to the family Richards/Storm? Will Secret Wars deal with the ramifications of the DoomSue coupling, or will it be washed away in the restoration to come?

Verdict: THUMBS UP.

Secret Wars: Batterworld #2

Spoiler alert.

This is the closing joke for the first story in this anthology. That’s Howard the Duck, a duck, and Blade, a black man who kills vampires.


I just finished a half-hour shower trying to figure out the words I could use to explain why that is such a terribly, unfunny, insensitive, indefensible line of dialogue. And then I looked up the author (David F. Walker), and realized that his sensitivity on the subject is probably different than mine. After all, he wrote this. He’s made a movie like this. Chances are, he doesn’t have to read articles about why the watermelon trope is actually horrible.

But I still found the story unnotable. The difficulty with these Secret Wars stories is that it’s so easy to slip into sub-What If? level stories, and this one is well below that line. So even if I give a pass for this joke because the writer’s comfort zone and mine are different, I can’t excuse dullness. (His twitter feed is a lot more fun, though.)

Wasn’t a fan of the second story either, but at least it didn’t make me take a 30 minute shower.


So by my count, I have fifteen more books to review…so let’s hit you with that tomorrow, okay? OK.

Monday Morning Secret Wars 4: Al Ewing and the Crossover Affect


First of all, an apology. I’m a bit behind on the reading and writing of Secret Wars. That violates the covenant I made with you, my audience, to keep up with the weekly deluge of Secret Wars books. I’m working on catching up, and I’ll try to be better on this in the future.

Second, I want to mention Al Ewing, who’s writing two critical books during this crossover: Captain America and the Mighty Avengers and Loki, Agent of Asgard. If you only read Marvel comics, you might think Al’s a newcomer to comics, as these have been his only two series for Marvel (along with the Mighty Avengers series that preceded CAATMA). But he’s not a rookie at all- his first published comics work came back in 2002 (for the British weekly 2000 AD), and he’s written six novels. His American debut was on Garth Ennis’s Jennifer Blood book four years ago. He’s worked with big artists, including one of my all-time favorites, Brendan McCarthy, on Zaucer of Zilk.

Most of his previous work would not be considered superhero work (unless you consider Judge Dredd comics to be superhero books, and I sure don’t). But it’s clear from his work in the Avengers books he’s penned that he understands the genre well. His books are fast-paced, peppered with witty dialogue, and feature plots where characters have to grow or move past an inherent flaw to succeed. For example, Power Man (not Luke Cage, but a newer character) has to spend countless hours reading and studying history to fully utilize his powers. Luke Cage (no longer Power Man, but the head of the group) has to reconcile with his estranged father to save Blade. Blue Marvel has to fight his one son and possibly kill his other son to save the Earth.

Notice the lead to the page and the character intros. Great tools for new readers.
Notice the lead to the page and the character intros. Great tools for new readers.

In addition, Ewing really understands the mechanics of the comics page. In both Avengers and Loki, he’ll start a story beat by utilizing a quick caption box with the name of a character and a quip that’s both funny and provides a bit of exposition. I’ve also noticed that, in Cap/Mighty 8, he borrowed an old trick that I’ve always attributed to Christopher Priest back in his Quantum & Woody days. He’d give subtitles to sections of the issue and open the comics page with a black panel with a strong white font. It’s really the same trick that’s used in Law & Order- you hear the “dum dum” sound, screen goes black, and a time stamp is shown to the viewer. It’s a great technique to tell the viewer (or in comics, the reader) to pay attention, because here’s some new stuff for you. It doesn’t get used by a lot of comics writers, and I always wondered why. I think most comics writers get so caught up in the story mechanics (what’s my theme? where’s the witty dialogue? what’s the objective of this issue) that they miss out on little tricks that can be used to make it easier for the readers to get sucked in. Ewing, though, will use those tricks, and his work is well-served by it.

Why am I pointing out Ewing this week? Because I’m talking about crossovers, and man, does Ewing have to know about crossovers.

As of this writing, Marvel’s published 22 issues of either Mighty Avengers title penned by Ewing. More than HALF have been tied to one crossover or another. Many comic writers will complain that it’s hard to write comics when your book has to serve the company’s need for a big crossover story; Ewing has had no choice in his run. Check it out:

  • Mighty Avengers 1-3: Part of the Infinity crossover (they get to fight Thanos’s minions)
  • Mighty Avengers 4.INH and 5: See that weird issue number? It meant that it had to tie in with the Inhumanity crossover that was running through Marvel that month (even though Inhumanity was only a two-issue prequel that led to the Inhuman series). The Inhuman stuff is actually pretty essential to the plot.
  • Mighty Avengers 6-9: Crossover-free!
  • Mighty Avengers 10-12: Tied to Original Sin, and DEEPLY tied at that, since Blue Marvel had been established as a friend of the murdered Watcher, and the “original sin” that Luke Cage had to deal with involved his estranged dad.
  • Mighty Avengers 13-14: Crossover-free, although these issues have to wrap up all the “season one” threads from this run, because AXIS was coming!
  • Cap and MA 1-3: Deeply tied to AXIS, where because of a thingy thing thing, the new Captain America (was the Falcon) is brain-addled and acting like a bad guy, so he’s working with similarly affected Tony Stark to defeat the Mighty Avengers. Again, the crossover is a deep part of the plot.
  • Cap and MA 4-7: Crossover-free again!
  • Cap and MA 8 on: Tied in (deeply) with Secret Wars.

And he’s not free of this on his Loki book, either. There’s been fourteen issues of that title, and four were tied to Axis. #14 starts the Last Days run. So not as problematic as MA, but still, five out of fourteen.

Ewing never seems to complain, though. In fact, you can argue his books have been better when they’ve been part of a crossover event. He seems to rise to the occasion when he has to work the overarching story into his books. The Original Sin books of MA were fantastic. Blue Marvel vows to find the killer of Uatu, but instead is reminded that he’d be better helping play godfather to Uatu’s still-gestating child. Ewing also gives us a nifty 70’s blaxploitation sequence with Luke Cage’s father that ties into the Original Sin theme. And as I mentioned last week, the Cap and MA #8 issue tying into Secret Wars was fantastic, hitting a home run by having these characters confront Reed Richards on keeping the end of the world secret from others.

Al Ewing is using the Secret Wars event, and others, to show the world that he’s a great superhero comics writer. He’s hoping that Marvel is paying attention and gives him a juicy assignment in the post-Secret Wars universe.

Good. Glad we got that settled.
Good. Glad we got that settled.

As for the rest of last week’s books:

Loki, Agent of Asgard #14:

Look at that recap page! That’s an awesome recap page when your book is in the middle of an “Everything Dies” storyline- no running gags or cartoony characters. Black background, stark text, no games involved. Nicely done.

Loki #14 does a fantastic job of introducing new readers to the book, which is great, as I’m sure this book got a sizable sales jump for playing in Secret Wars waters. It’s actually principally focused on Odin, Loki’s sorta dad, as he’s exposed as the Chicken Little of the Marvel Universe. He’s told everyone that everything is ending so often that this time, no one believes in. It’s a great use of the Odin character, and the reader is left with the impression that this book is important to the crossover. Another strong outing by Ewing.

Verdict: THUMBS UP.

Magneto #18

Here’s what you don’t want to see in a Magneto comic:

Not the best monologue.

This issue seemed really heavy on the exposition/talking heads, actually busting out a nine-panel grid of Magneto talk to his long-neglected daughter, Polaris. There’s a lot of angst here- not only is Magneto a bad parent, but he never really did save the mutants from the scourge of humanity, did he? But now, he’s got to fight! Fight for…what exactly? Dude, universe over. Go have a tea party with your daughter. This is a strange book, and I can’t figure out why someone thought this was a good idea.

Magneto might be the worst parent in comics, actually.
Magneto might be the worst parent in comics, actually.


Master of Kung Fu #1

One of the mandates of Secret Wars is to take old, outdated Marvel concepts, give them a new spin, throw them against the wall, and see if they stick. This is really hard to do; most of the time, the revamped concept is still just as dated, and now has the baggage added by the remix. An example of this is DC’s Gen13 book, a white-hot book when it first came out 20 years ago. Nowadays, however, any book with these characters dies on the vine, because there’s just no way to scrub out the totally awesome gnarliness of the stuck-in-the-90s premise.

As a veteran of crossovers, I’ve seen Marvel try more than once to re-ignite the Master of Kung Fu book. It’s a doubly hard challenge; not only did the Kung Fu craze die out in the 70s, but Marvel can’t use the book’s original villain, Dr. Fu Manchu, as they no longer hold the license from the Sax Rohmer estate. It’s like trying to write a Fantastic Four comic without Dr. Doom, or Superman without Lex Luthor. That hasn’t stopped Marvel from trying; he’s been involved in Heroes for Hire, Shadowland, Secret Avengers, Killraven (!), House of M, Marvel Zombies, Spider-Island, Ultimate Marvel, and even Marvel Apes. And yet, every time, no matter how earnest the attempt, the audience just doesn’t fall in love.

This time, Marvel tries a Drunken Fighter spin on the character, and it’s incredibly fun. Haden Blackman, best known for his Star Wars work, brings a crassy edge to the book, and uses characters not seen in a Marvel book recently (Callisto! Moondragon! Typhoid Mary!) to give it the perfect feel. Blackman’s Elektra book was a critical darling but a commercial failure. Perhaps this book will get him the success he deserves at Marvel; either way, it looks like a fresh, fun ride.


Verdict: THUMBS UP.

Planet Hulk #1
It’s got Captain America riding Devil Dinosaur.

Also, he talks like Clint Eastwood. What more do you want?
Also, he talks like Clint Eastwood. What more do you want?

Verdict: THUMBS UP.

(Okay, I’m not trying to get away with one, but I loved the book and will talk more about this when #2 comes out.)

Secret Wars: Battleworld #1
In a crossover this big, you’re going to get a few stinkers. This is one of them. The book’s made up of two stories, and neither are compelling or essential to the overall story.

The first one involves Punisher hosting Dr. Strange’s soul to get across the Battleworld areas, and never gets going. The second one is an all-MODOK story, and yet I never felt like I cared about any of the MODOKS, let alone all of them. It’s possible that if these concepts had more room to breathe, they would have succeeded, but they don’t, and the book is an inconsequential trifle.

The nice thing is that it’s an anthology, so just because this issue didn’t work doesn’t spell doom for the entire series. Perhaps the next one will be better.


Spider-Verse #1
I’ve talked about my love of Dan Slott on GAR! I think he’s one of the top five superhero writers working in comics today. His run on Amazing Spider-Man (and Superior, of course) is one of the best, if not the best, Spidey runs of all time. Spider-Verse was Dan playing to his strengths. He took numerous characters that were either new or marginal to the audience and had everyone deeply caring for them by the end. When the story was done, I wanted more.

And here we are- we got more! Unfortunately, we don’t have Dan on this book (his Secret Wars book, Renew Your Vows, is coming soon). But we do have Mike Costa, who’s a very good writer on his own (and did a great job on the Scarlet Spiders book during the Spider-Verse event). And we get Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Pig. So I’m in.

Also, why wouldn't you buy a comic where punches are emphasized with the actual word "punch"?
Also, why wouldn’t you buy a comic where punches are emphasized with the actual word “punch”?

Verdict: THUMBS UP.

Ultimate End #1
And finally, we save the best for last. Right?…right?

Sadly, no. This, in fact, might be the worst of the first round of Secret Wars books, and it’s a damn shame.

This book has the big guns- Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley, the superstar duo who shepherded Ultimate Spider-Man to success. This book has every Ultimate character known to man (except Miles Morales, the current Ultimate Spider-Man, because he’s in the main book, I presume). It’s got Ultimate Alcoholic Tony Stark meeting Marvel 616 Tony Stark (but is he still Superior?). And it’s got Bagley on art, presumably drawing most of these characters for the last time.


And yet, it’s a stinker. It’s a galling stinker, because these guys have made tons of good comics before, and yet, working together for the last time on the Ultimate Universe, they whiff. Multiple pages where the gag of Spider-Man’s exposed identity in the Ultimate Universe bombs. An unbelievable opening sequence where the Ultimate Punisher laments not killing off the Ultimate characters sooner (if that’s a metajoke, it doesn’t work, especially since he killed Ultimate Peter Parker). And a sequence where both universes’ characters meet that reads more like “Who’s On First” than a pivotal moment in comics history.

For years, Marvel held off on crossing the two universes over. That’s probably a good thing (and it led to the Marvel Zombies concept, which made them a ton of money). But any novelty or coolness that would have come from this moment was long ago squandered by the neutering of the Ultimate line, and there’s really nothing here to get excited about. Even the alternate cover by Skottie Young showing Bendis doing a mic drop feels overplayed.

Don't take credit for this one, Spidey. Let it ride.
Don’t take credit for this one, Spidey. Let it ride.


Coming up- last week’s books reviewed! Thanks for reading. Drop me a line in the comments, or send me a tweet at @raycornwall.