Secret Wars #2
Writer & Designer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Esad Ribic
Color Artist: Ive Svorcina
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Review by Joey Braccino
**MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD. Skip ahead to the VERDICT if you want to stay completely spoiler free!!!**
“BELIEVERS CALL IT GOD’S KINGDOM.
BUT EVERYONE ELSE—WE COMMON FOLK—
CALL IT SOMETHING ELSE.
WE CALL IT… BATTLEWORLD.”
Now that time has completely, entirely, absolutely run out, what could possible come next???
Only… the SECRET WARS!!! ::cue Game of Thrones theme song::
Whereas Secret Wars #1 served primarily as a finale to Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers and New Avengers series, Secret Wars #2 actually feels like the beginning of the actual event. In some ways, perhaps much of the angst and criticism surrounding last week’s debut issue could have been mediated had the actual events and explosiveness of the Incursion event been presented in a Secret Wars #0 or Avengers: Finale, especially considering the fact that Secret Wars #2 is very much a completely different setting/tone/style/story from the last issue.
But alas, whatever you thought about Secret Wars #1, trust me when I say that Secret Wars #2 is very much a cool, engaging, enthralling bit of world-building comics storytelling. Hickman (in classic Hickman fashion) drops us into Battleworld in media res, with the boundaries and “nations” and rules of the world very much established and in action as though they always have been. Instead of leaving us to muddle our own way through the complicated politicking and Barons and sheriffs and the like, Hickman wisely creates an audience access point in the character of a new Thor, who learns the ropes of Thorhood from Old Thor which allows us to travel through the layers of Battleworld and gain an understanding of how everything works.
Let me back up a bit here: the Thors of Battleworld are the guardians who safeguard Doom’s realm.
Let me back up a bit more: Doom is God, the All-Father of Battleworld.
Heck yeah. Classic Doom. And it makes total sense both in terms of the character as well as the final sequences of Secret Wars #1 and New Avengers #33.
So anyway, this new Thor is christened one of the Thors and goes on his first ride out into Battleworld to bring in Baron Sinister, lord of Bar Sinister, because of some spat he has had with the Braddocks, the lords of High Avalon. The Thors bring Baron Sinister and Baron Jamie Braddock before Doom and Sheriff Strange (yes, and also a throwback to Dr. Strange’s status at the end of New Avengers/Secret Wars #1) for judgment. Hilarity ensues.
It is through this sequence that Old Thor fills in the new Thor (and, in turn, Hickman fills us in) on the rules and layout of Battleworld. For fans of Game of Thrones, it should all be very, very familiar. We’ve got different realms/kingdoms that are lorded over by various Barons. As long as said Barons play by Doom’s rules, everything’s cool. If they don’t play by the rules, the Thors mete out justice. More often than not, said justice includes seditious Barons being sent to The Wall Shield where they
serve as the Night’s Watch do battle against the undead and the symbiotes and the robots and all the other terrifying creatures that go bump in the Marvel night.
The parallels to GoT are fairly obvious, and many readers have already pointed out the similarities on social media and on the internet, but that doesn’t mean the story is any less effective. One of the things that makes high fantasy like GoT so darn appealing is the sheer scope of it, which Hickman and art team Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina are more than prepared to handle and create on their own for Secret Wars. I know some readers were critical of Ribic’s facial work last issue, and while there are still instances of the “duckface” here, the book overall is absolutely stunning in its breadth and innovation. Ribic and Svorcina (and perhaps designer Hickman?) create gorgeous and sumptuous visual landscapes that are distinctive and ineffable. It’s also sorta supercool to see a concept like The Wall translated into Marvel, but that might just be me.
Meanwhile, a strange structure resembling the Life Raft from the end of Secret Wars #1 is discovered undernearth Utopolis (Baron Hyperion’s land, obvs) by alternate versions of the Future Foundation. Valeria receives news of the discovery and is bothered by the readings that it predates the “universe” of Battleworld, which again alludes to one of my observations from last week that all is not as it seems regarding the whole “end of the Marvel Universe” angle. Strange opts to quarantine the site due to its potential threat to Doom’s godhood and… well, I won’t spoil the resolution of this plot thread, but it is absolutely shocking.
I really can’t say this enough: Secret Wars is bananas: B-A-N-A-N-A-S. While last week’s first issue was insane in its wholesale destructiveness, this week’s Secret Wars #2 is a legitimately insane bit of high fantasy meets sci-fi meets imagination. Really cool.
BUY. Hickman and Ribic are telling a truly grandiose, utterly insane sci-fi fantasy comics event. Borrowing from high fantasy epics like Game of Thrones, Secret Wars #2 introduces readers to the contours and complexities of this new Battleworld, and it does so in a relatively accessible, thoroughly enjoyable single issue. In many ways, Secret Wars #2 is a bit more “new-reader-friendly” than Secret Wars #1 in its completely clean (universal) breakaway from Hickman’s Avengers line. Hickman’s use of familiar characters in refreshing, exciting new ways demonstrates exactly what Secret Wars can be moving forward. Check it!