In Review: Secret Wars #9

The visuals outshine the story, but this is still a worthwhile saga to read.

The covers: Six covers to collect as this series closes out. The Main cover is by Alex Ross who has created a stunning (and now that I think about it, when isn’t his work this adjective?) cover showing Doom and Richards slugging it out. The energy spilling out of their battle is taking the form of a familiar character from this limited series. Each bolt of energy is creating a panel which Ross has filled with an episode or character from the Marvel Universe’s past. It’s beautiful and will have fans straining their eyes for hours trying to identify every image. The first Variant cover is by Sara Pichelli and Jason Keith. Against a colorless background, Spider-Man walks with the younger Spider-Man, the senior’s arm on the younger’s shoulder as he says, “You’re gonna do great, kid.” It’s a simple image, but hits all the right buttons, giving me goosebumps as I write this review. Simone Bianchi and Simone Peruzzi do the next Variant and it’s a devastating image: the end of the Fantastic Four. Ben Grimm stands, his head to the skies as he cries in anguish. He’s holding the smoldering body of Johnny Storm, whose flames are going out. In the debris before him, on a bed of skulls and other bones, are a battered Reed Richards and Sue Storm. A powerful illustration that also pushes all the right buttons. Though knowing some of the politics going on between Disney and Fox, this piece does lose a bit of steam. The Skottie Young Variant is also on a white background, but this has Reed and Doom fighting over Doomworld, squeezing it so much that the planet is starting to come apart. Cute, but not for me. The incredibly popular action figure Variant covers by John Tyler Christopher adds Iron Man and his Secret Shield to the collection and it’s just as amazing as his previous works. The final Variant cover is a welcome addition: Fred Hembeck and Rachelle Rosenberg have the Beyonder coming through a door, with Deadpool holding him back. “NO!! No way!! Anything but THAT!!…sob…anything…” I grew up loving Hembeck’s work, and seeing his work grace a comic book is like manna from heaven. Overall grades: Main A+, Variant Pichelli A+, Variant Bianchi A-, Variant Young C, Variant Christopher A, and Variant Hembeck A+

The story: Namor and the Black Panther, who’s wearing the Infinity Gauntlet are confronting Doom. T’Challa uses the weapon to turn Doom into glass and Namor throws his trident, shattering the self-created god. Namor says, “It can’t be that easy,” to which the Panther replies, “It won’t be.” The pieces of the ruler of Battleworld reassemble like a Terminator-1000. “That. Hurt,” Doom says as he reforms, blasting a fist of energy at this attackers. Realizing their abilities are equal, Doom states, “Let us finish this…and do so as gods…” The land they are on explodes with the debris falling everywhere, causing even Galactus to pause and look to see what’s occurring. Writer Jonathan Hickman is not about to let this saga go out on a whimper. While the “gods” are fighting, Reed is trying to get Sue to remember who he is, what they were, but it’s not going to be easy. With the assistance of the Maker, Reed goes to find the one individual who could change everything. There’s a great betrayal on Page 9, that takes a shocking turn in the final panel. The smackdown of all smackdowns goes on between arch enemies Reed and Doom, that does not end as one would expect. Another individual makes a last second decision to restart everything, and saves humanity. The book then moves forward eight months, showing a scene with very little dialogue that left me misty eyed and cheering. The five pages that follow this incredible moment didn’t please me. It was sad. Not because of what happens to the characters that are so beloved, but what comes off as a corporate cop out. All I read was the bitter fruit of CEOs, lawyers, and stockholders, and it made me sad. I don’t blame Hickman for these pages, but those above him. The final two pages were okay, but, having been a Marvel Zombie for so long in the 1980s, I’ve seen this ending before, so it came off as “meh.” This conclusion was adequate. It hit some high marks, but fizzled out in the end. Overall grade: C+

The art: The high point of this issue, and this series, has been the phenomenal artwork of Esad Ribic. The opening four pages are spectacular — it truly is like witnessing gods battle. Things start small with the sides staring one another down, but the energy grows with Doom’s transformation (I love the undeads’ reaction to his change) and shattering. The glomming together of Doom’s pieces is creepy, but the turn of page has the leader of Latveria delivering a devastating blast of energy, that T’Challa is barely able to divert. The scenes with Reed and the Maker are equally impressive for the many changes that are shown. My favorite panel of the book has to be the super tight close-up of Doom in the third panel on 11 — I can think of no better combination of text and art. When Reed and Doom tussle, Ribic has Richards look monstrous as his limbs twist about Doom like an anaconda. The layout and execution of 16 is stunning.  The remainder of the book, essentially the resolution, is fine, though the story doesn’t provide Ribic with anything earth shattering to illustrate. Though I did like the text for Pages 24 and 25, I didn’t like the point of view Ribic used for the latter; the charactesr should have taken priority over setting, and they don’t in this illustration. Still, that’s only one page image out of 32 pages that doesn’t work. The rest of this book looks terrific. Overall grade: A

The colors: It would be impossible not to mention the sensational work done by Ive Svorcina on this book. The opening pages of this book are tan and brown, accentuating the wasteland the characters are in. When the energy of the characters spring to life on Page 4, Svorcina uses terrific bold yellows and otherworldly pinks to make their magic seem real. The nocturnal meeting between Reed and Sue is wonderful, with the scene darkened just enough to show the reader the time, but bright enough for Ribic’s artwork to be clearly seen. The shading of characters’ faces is staggeringly beautiful, with Reed and Doom dominating each panel they appear in. The colors on 7 – 9 are also fantastic, making the reader realize that the location is no ordinary place. Svoricina’s best page is 16, with the characters and backgrounds combining to make this image one that will be talked about and revisited for years. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Dialogue, yells, character identification, the Maker’s speech, screams, whispers, scene settings, and the final two words are all brought into existence by Clayton Cowles. His work is good, such as the Maker’s dialogue and one character’s whisper, but I wish he’d been allowed to do a bit more with sounds, especially as things were blowing up, but that was not his decision. Overall grade: A

The final line: An okay conclusion, with one group of characters leaving the Marvel Universe, while others enter. The visuals outshine the story, but this is still a worthwhile saga to read. Overall grade: B

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” and he’s reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

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