In Review: Secret Wars #3

This is a giant Marvel "What If?", with a solid story and sensational art.

The covers: The Main cover is by artist extraordinaire Alex Ross. The image is split down the middle showing the heroes and villains of the this series. On the left is Reed Richards, sans beard (Thank you for that, Mr. Ross!), Ms. Marvel, Black Panther, Sue Storm (I believe), two Spider-men, Thor, Starlord, and Cyclops Phoenixed up. On the right is The Maker, Terrax, Proxima Midnight, Corvus Glaive, Thanos, Black Swan, Maximus, and Namor. All characters are major players in this series, and revealing if they’re in this issue would spoil things. The first Variant cover is by Marguerite Sauvage and it’s a white cover with a silhouette of Reed Richards on it. Within the outline are the familiar twists and turns of Fantastic’s arms, with the good Doctor close-up, looking at readers. Excellent cover design with equally impressive colors. A very slick job. God Emperor Doom is holding his “royal consort, Sue Storm. This cover by Tomm Coker would be a serene scene with the pair in white, if it wasn’t Doom holding her and their background wasn’t a cluster of gnarly trees. I don’t care for this pair as a couple, so I’m not loving this. Bob McLeod has done a major fight themed cover for his Variant cover, featuring a plethora of characters going at eat other on a rocky world. The Thing and Thanos are about to exchange blows in the center of the image, while on the outside edges Spider Gwen is taken out as Iron Man comes in for the kill. Decent, but looks really 1980s. Dr. Gwendge is how the next Variant is listed online, created by Nick Bradshaw. Gwen wears Dr. Strange’s robes and has conjured some very large nasties out of a portal below her that are swarming out to destroy the first thing they encounter. Extremely well done job that had me thinking I was looking at an illustration by Art Adams. Excellent coloring on this as well. The next Variant is by Simone Bianchi & Simone Peruzzi, and this has also got a lot of characters on it. The cover is dominated by a giant Thor head that reveals itself to have a mechanical face, the X-Men are at the top, Death is shrugging by the God of Thunder’s head, and Captain America is punching out a baddie at the bottom. It looks nice. The final Variant is by John Tyler Christopher, who continues to do retro action figure covers. This one features Doctor Octopus and his Secret Shield. Very cool and funny, since I remember when this packaging was actually used on the action figures. The final line: Main A-, Variant Sauvage A-, Variant Coker B-, Variant McLeod C+, Variant Bradshaw A+, Variant Bianchi B+, and Variant Christopher B+

The story: “Affairs of State” opens this issue by writer Jonathan Hickman. Dr. Strange, law enforcement for God Emperor Doom, is reading his lordship a list of the latest problems to appear on the world the villain has created. Doom is bored with the trivialities of what the sorcerer is saying, and the two walk in Doom’s private garden, discussing the course of this new world, that Strange could have taken the power that Doom has, and that the God has full confidence in Strange after all this time. This is said before the corpse of the Molecule Man, that has been changed into a statue. Strange has one more thing to discuss with the God but he receives word of trouble in Doomgard. The Thors report that some group came out of a ship and attacked a man. They moved too quickly to be followed, but Strange sends them out searching for the mysterious group, and once alone says, “As for our hidden friend…You can come out now…We are alone.” And someone comes out of the ship. Once this character is revealed and the information he has is given, I got really interested in this story. I liked how there were several revelations, specifically about loyalties and time, and this encourages me enough to want to keep buying this series. Granted, my expectations are low, granted I have a feeling how this will all end up by the end of Issue #8, and this seeming to follow DC’s Convergence that recently wrapped up. That said, what occurred in this issue had more weight than the competition’s opus. Overall grade: A-

The art: The visuals on this book are stunning, with the art being done by Esad Ribic. The determining factor in my purchasing this comic was to look at the illustrations and I was sold. Doctor Strange’s face is unbelievably detailed, with stand outs being his questioning look on Page 1 and the top two panels on Page 2 showing a good change in emotion. The character that first appears on Page 7 is photorealistic, with Strange’s eyes again communicating a lot of emotion. Page 11 reveals something that was best left hidden, but I expected something different, since I consider John Byrne’s origin of this character’s face as canon. Still, that is quite the sight. The reveal on 13 is as good as comic books get! If this were a movie, there would have been immense cheering.  The anguish that comes off of characters on Page 17 is superb. Mention must also be made of the backgrounds in this book. Doom’s transforming of the walls on the opening page is a great way to show power, before leading into the standard castle garden setting. I also like that Doom’s chair is made out of a gnarly old tree. A different portion of the castle is shown in “The Disquiet Heart of God.” One could get lost in the superior backgrounds. My favorite setting is the hidden Isle of Agamotto, with its too brief exterior and awesomely vast interiors. If Ribic were to illustrate a map of Battleworld, I’d buy it in a heartbeat. He can illustrate characters and locations with unbelievable precision, making this book truly spectacular to behold. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Making the art stand out so superiorly are the colors by Ive Svorcina. The shading on Strange’s face in the opening sequence is magnificent, as are the godly blues used by God to manipulate a wall. The greens are gorgeous on Page 3, though the statue of the Molecule Man is an appropriate brown stain on the landscape. Excellent shadow work at the bottom of that same page. The first panel at the Kingdom of Utopolis is brilliant in teal, setting of the Thors’ capes handsomely. The character that appears on 7 looks to be a photograph because of the lifelike coloring. There’s a lot of white used for the next chapter, due to the characters’ garb and the light colors of the structure, but Svorcina mixes things up with a darker blue sky, the color of one character’s hair, and the appearance of one character and his new location. Page 13 is a beauty for details in colors. I really like how the light behind the characters is so realistic, creating a shine on them. There are no flaws in Svorcina’s work. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Chapter titles, dialogue, opening title and credits, cast information page, scene settings, Thor speak, and characters from Earth-1610 speak are created by Chris Eliopoulos. There are no sounds in this issue–Well, one, but I’m fairly sure it’s done by Ribic–so there’s a lot of dialogue. However, Eliopoulos is such an ace at his job, none of his dialogue balloons step on any important artistic contributions. My fingers are crossed that next issue sports some action so he can unleash some patented Marvel noises. Overall grade: A

The final line: This is a much better series than I expected, though I believe all will return to normal by the last issue. This is a giant Marvel What If?, with a solid story and sensational art. Will please any fan of comic book heroics. Overall grade: A

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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