Secret Wars #5 (of 8)
Writer & Designer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Esad Ribic
Color Artist: Ive Svorcina
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Review by Joey Braccino
“We live our lives defined by the choices we make. And in the end, the high cost of living is death.”
Secret Wars #5 takes things down a notch or ten after the climactic events of the previous issue that saw (spoilers from a month ago!!!) the murder of Stephen Strange (and Scott Summers! #neverforget) at the hands of God Emperor Doom. Writer Jonathan Hickman takes a moment before launching into the second act of this epic Marvel event to reflect back on some of the lingering questions from his New Avengers series regarding the origins of the Battleworld of Doom.
This chapter’s title—“Owen Reece Died for Our Sins”—reaches back to the end of New Avengers #33, where Dr. Doom, Dr. Strange, and Owen “Molecule Man” Reece were on a mission to confront the Beyonders and stop the Incursion events from happening. The issue (and series) ended with a flash of light—a flash which in turn kickstarted the events of Secret Wars #2 and the introduction of Battleworld, linking the two together. Here, in Secret Wars #5, Hickman answers all the questions, revisiting that moment when Doom and Strange and Reece came face-to-face with the Beyonders and made the most important choice in the entire Marvel Universe. Almost the entire issue revolves around this flashback through an extended conversation between Doom and (surprise!) Reece, who happens to be living underneath a set memorial statues to Strange and to himself. It’s all quite morbid, I suppose, but the weirdness of it all makes it quite riveting.
The rest of the issue revolves around Doom’s mission for young Valeria and the Foundation: find the “culprits” for Strange’s murder. Who has Doom blamed for the good sheriff’s demise (in lieu of himself, of course)? The survivors of Earth-616 and -1610. Our heroes and the cabal. Intrigue abounds, leading to a rapid montage sequence at the end that shows some heroes on the run, some captured, and one about to do something terrible. Cliffhanger!
What’s left to be said about Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina’s gorgeous, luscious, cinematic artwork? It’s simply wonderful and rustic and visceral. It’s perfect for the scope and feel of Hickman’s Secret Wars setting. The merging of sci-fi and high fantasy and medieval influence is uncanny. I suppose we could still be critical of the “duck lip” phenomenon that pops up every once and a while, but at this point, this is one of the best looking (and consistent) event comics to come out of Marvel in years. And relatively on-schedule, too! (knock on wood)
BUY. Secret Wars has been a riveting, engaging, imaginative event comic from issue #2 onward. The reason why I say #2 is because that’s when Hickman and Company let loose with the Battleworld premise. Issue #1 was a continuation of Avengers and New Avengers, which in turn impaired the enjoyment for new readers. I suppose this issue might also suffer from that same continuity hitch, but at least Hickman does a good job of handling the exposition and laying out the sequence such that the big “reveal” about the origins of Battleworld hits. And the final pages promise an exciting final act for Secret Wars!