Secret Wars Review – Everything lives

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Billions died, universes were extinguished and Doom ruled over all in Marvel’s Secret Wars series. The biggest crossover event in the history of the publisher, Secret Wars was the culmination of years of planning, big thinking and a story that would affect everyone in the entire history of the 616 and Ultimate comic book universes.

But in the end, it all came down to just two men who were responsible for building the foundation of the  Marvel universe.

Spoilers ahead

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Right now, Marvel is already several months into a newer and more streamlined universe. An older version of James Howlett AKA Logan AKA the Wolverine is finding out if he’s still the best at what he does. Miles Morales is New York’s resident Spider-Man while Peter Parker has reinvented himself as a tech-savvy wallcrawler who fights crime on a global scale now.

Deadpool is running a profitable empire built on his personal brand, Venom is now a cosmic space-knight and Groot just went on one hell of a fantastic road trip. The biggest change however? The Fantastic Four are a distant memory. Ben “The Thing” Grimm is now a Guardian of the Galaxy, Johnny Storm is off being a hero for a different team and the rest of Reed Richard’s Future Foundation has vanished into the Omniverse. Is Reed dead then, a failure who believed that he couldn’t even save his family from the Incursion event and was left a broken man? Not even close.

“No. Let us finish this…and do so as gods”

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You’ve got to give writer Jonathan Hickman credit for Secret Wars. It’s a  big series, a grand stage where everything was at stake thanks to Victor Von Doom attaining godhood and policing his Battleworld with an army of zealous Thors.  With the Beyonders defeated, he was the ultimate power of all of reality, an omnipotent and untouchable being who could have anything he ever wanted.

And what he wanted, was to be the one thing that he hated the most. With Richards out of the way, Doom stole his life and family. And it’s this character study, of a weary god set amidst the backdrop of a world at war with itself, that made Secret Wars so fascinating on both a micro and a macro scale.But it’s the heartbreaking moments, when Richards realises just how much that he has truly lost in his attempts to survive a multiversal extinction, that gave the series the emotional resonance that it was aiming for.

“I dare quite a bit”

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The real treat however, comes in the hidden layer of commentary about how Marvel is internally changing to suit a broader paradigm for its mega-successful cinematic universe. Marvel is now more than just a publisher of comic books. It’s a multimedia conglomerate owned by the house of mouse, with each department serving the needs of the other in some massive interconnected circle that feeds itself an endless loop of material.

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The comic books serve as the source of all that, feeding a cycle of movies, toys, cartoons and TV series. Secret Wars may not be the total reboot that you were expecting, but it certainly did fulfil its purpose to rewrite the Marvel universe into a more coherent and tweaked reality that’ll lay the groundwork for a bigger vision for the company.

“You think that you are better than I am…Don’t you?”

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That also means that properties such as the X-Men, owned by Fox for the foreseeable future of its cinematic money-making potential, are going to be swept aside for Disney’s greater good. You might see that change as being a superficial grab for money as the publisher reconfigures its landscape. And who knows if those claims are even true, but the evidence is certainly there.

But as a pure comic book series, Secret Wars succeeds in its attempt to reposition the Marvel Universe as something larger and more dynamic than what it previously was. Esad Ribic’s gorgeous pencils and colours carried this series, from the Hulk-infested plains of Greenworld through to the Wall that held back the horrors of the Annihilation wave, the roaming undead of the Marvel Zombies and Ultron’s endless march for perfection with his robotic army.

“You wanna go beat up some bad guys, Spider-Man?”

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It’s also a series about coming full circle, with Hickman going back to the groundwork laid out in the first issue of New Avengers, while acknowledging that the Fantastic Four helped shape the Marvel landscape way back in 1961. 55 years later, and it’s only fitting that Mister Fantastic, Susan Storm and the rest of the Future Foundation should be shepherds of new universes as they leave the world they knew behind.

As Richards himself puts it:

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It’s that sense of finality, which makes Secret Wars a success. After Dark Reigns and Secret Invasions, the Marvel Universe feels fresh and alive again, without having to sacrifice the work of so many creators who contributed so much to it.

Last Updated: January 14, 2016

Darryn Bonthuys

Something wrong gentlemen? You come here prepared to read the words of a madman, and instead found a lunatic obsessed with comics, Batman and Raul Julia's M Bison performance in the 1994 Street Fighter movie? Fine! Keep your bio! In fact, now might be a good time to pray to it!

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