Give Marvel credit. After years of ostensibly earth-shattering events that ended up changing nothing, Secret Wars actually seems to be living up to its own hype. The final page of Secret Wars #1, heralding the death of the 616 and 1610 universes, felt momentous and chilling, perhaps because it broke the fourth wall and gave us extradiegetic start dates to the worlds we’d just watched end.
Last weekend, numerous panels at San Diego Comic-Con suggested that the 616 isn’t quite so dead as all that, though precisely how it will be resurrected, and which of the cataclysmic events we’ve witnessed over the past months will remain canonical remains to be seen. The numerous tie-in books under the Secret Wars banner thus carry with them a sensation not typically ascribed to alternate universe or what-if stories, because any or all of them may be “real” (perhaps, more accurately, remembered) when the crisis ends and a normal existence resumes.
Presumably, this means that even if you like “this” version of, say, Kamala Khan, you’re also hoping that “our” version of the young Ms. Marvel will return despite her not being one of the select few 616 survivors who made it onto Reed Richards’ raft. Meanwhile, if Secret Wars has resurrected a long-dead character you loved (or introduced alterations that you’re pretty fond of), you’re worrying that come October the character will be lost again for good. And it does seem that both the hopes and the fears are warranted; though true clarification will come down the line, for now it sounds like who stays and who doesn’t will be a matter of mere editorial caprice.
Nevertheless, it sounds like Marvel is being very intentional about making this autumn’s #1 issues more legitimate jumping-on points for new readers than ever before, and with the magnitude of the events of Secret Wars and the wild divergences occurring in the various Battleworld and Warzones titles I’m prepared to actually believe them this time. If you take a step back from these miniseries you’ll notice that they have a truly transitional spirit: just similar enough to what has come before that if you’re an established reader you’ll recognize the characters, but also new enough that even if you’ve never read these characters before you don’t feel like you’re missing decades of backstory.
Below, I’ve described the few Secret Wars books I’ve been trying to keep up with; trying being the operative word, since I have to wait for my monthly shipments to come in and thus I’ll be pretty behind on most of these. If you happen to be reading any of these and wouldn’t mind loaning me digital redemption codes, I’ll review them as they come out and send you my codes when I get my shipments!
Few things entice me quite as much as Alex Ross covers, and I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t part of what got me to decide to pick up the first issue of the main event book. Yet it’s Hickman’s truly gripping story, combined with stellar art from Esad Ribic, that kept me coming back. From page one, Secret Wars feels meticulously planned and executed. Doom is both surprisingly human and shockingly cruel, and his godlike sway over “good” characters makes for intriguing confrontations between people who would normally be working together against him. If you’re following Marvel at all right now, this is a book worth reading; and if you aren’t, consider this a neatly-contained eight-issue miniseries showcasing some of the company’s highest quality work.
Secret Wars: Battleworld: Inhumans: Attilan Rising
Other than a couple Inhumanity issues and the obligatory tie-ins with Ms. Marvel (and, more lately, ABC’s Agents of SHIELD), I honestly know very little about Inhumans, which makes Attilan Rising one of those books I went into rather blindly. I’ve really been digging John Timms’ art, but what truly hooked me was the neo-noir vibe of the story Charles Soule is telling. Black Bolt is operating a rebellion from the basement of a rather classy speakeasy, and Medusa has sent her spies to infiltrate and shut down the operation. Toss in 1602 Matt Murdock and an adult version of Kamala Khan, and you have plenty of excuses to at least give the first issue a shot.
Secret Wars: Warzones: A-Force
This book probably already has sufficient fanfare, as it was prematurely trumpeted as an all-female Avengers book well before it was treated as a Secret Wars tie-in. Probably anyone who has looked at the cover of the first issue already knows whether they want to be reading this book, as love for these ladies is the driving force of the title. Perhaps the other best reason to try out A-Force is its new character (thus far unnamed) who is both comically silent and cosmically powerful. Solicits suggest that this character (and the mysterious portals opening around her) will continue to matter post Secret Wars, so there’s that, too. I should note that the art has been hit-or-miss for me, but on the whole it’s decent.
Secret Wars: Warzones: Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows
Certainly the title that makes me most nervous, Renew Your Vows promises to see Peter Parker and Mary Jane back in the throes of marital bliss, only to shatter their world immediately thereafter. The verdict is still out on whether this book ends up being the epitome of “be careful what you wish for,” but the prospect of supporting a title that reunited a marriage that
never should have been broken up in the first place has been missing for years was enough to rope me in. Of course, it’s being written by Dan Slott, the guy who has been helming Spider-Man books for a few years, so if you’ve read anything spidery anytime lately you already have a sense of what you’re getting yourself into.
Secret Wars: Warzones: Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps
Doom’s word is law across the domains of Battleworld, or so we are told in so many of these books. But while the sovereignty of the erstwhile villain is merely window dressing for several books, it is the crux of this one. Carol, stubborn as ever, oversteps her orders a bit too much, and what she discovers forces her to question not only the chain of command but the very nature of her existence. The banter between her team of flying aces is classic Kelly Sue DeConnick, but surprisingly the plot is actually surpassing the characters for me right now.
Secret Wars: Warzones: Giant-Size Little Marvel: AvX
Do you hate joy? If so, move along. If not, then GSLMAVX is worth your money. Skottie Young’s delightful chibi-esque versions of Marvel characters have graced variant covers for years, so if you’ve ever smiled or laughed at one of those just amplify the sensation tenfold. The book technically takes place in yet another region of Battleworld, though in reality it remains a place unto itself, a perpetual schoolyard showdown between the two eponymous cliques. GSLMAVX is cute and frequently laugh-out-loud funny, and rewards fans with a self-awareness typically reserved for the likes of Deadpool; the first issue ends with “twins” arriving and both the Avengers and X-Men claiming ownership.
Secret Wars: Warzones: Inferno
I’ve never read the original Inferno story, so I can’t speak to how well Dennis Hopeless is capturing the essence of the event this title homages, but the story of Colossus and a crack team trying to rescue an Illyana who may not actually seek rescuing has been pretty entertaining. The art is spotty and sometimes goofy, at times seeming at odds with the darker themes and events, but the overall feel is still solid. I’m also a fan of seeing Domino just about anywhere, and with Cable recently thrown into the mix it almost feels like an X-Force reunion. Just, you know, in hell.
Those are all the Secret Wars books I’ve been following. Are you reading these too? Have any questions? Any books you think I ought to have on this list but don’t? Let’s chat!