Review: Secret Wars #1 – What the f*$% did I just read?

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Secret Crisis of Infinite Wars #1 Review
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Esad Ribic, Ive Svorcina
Rating: What the f*$% did I just read?

This is how Earth-616 (the original Marvel Universe, for those not keeping score) and its “Ultimate Universe” end: Not with thunderous applause, but…

Mass confusion.

What did I just read? I mean, I haven’t exactly kept up with Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers or New Avengers runs. I read the first 14 or so issues of his Avengers, but got bored and disinterested once all of the weird Starbrand and Captain Universe stuff started happening, picking it back up again only during the “Infinity” and “Original Sin” tie-ins to become even more confused. Though I did gather the whole notion that Marvel’s various multiverses were collapsing in on one another, because people played with time machines too many times — or something.

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And maybe I would have understood what was going on more in this first issue of Secret Crisis of Infinite Wars (more on that in a minute) if I had seen whatever sort of prologue Marvel had out on Free Comic Book Day this past weekend. That’s a whole other can of worms, because my local shop was all out of the Marvel freebie by the time I showed up. I’ll be damned if DC didn’t have hundreds of copies of their own FCBD giveaway available everywhere, though.

I could digress here and rant about how much I hate Free Comic Book Day because of situations like this, but the key thing to note here is this: FCBD issues should, at the very least, be available under the “free” section on digital platforms the same day.

Anyways, back to the issue at hand. I came into Secret Wars expecting to have some level of confusion. The problem I’ve always had with Jonathan Hickman’s writing is that his stories are so dense and drawn out, you can’t just jump into any of them at any point. Despite having read maybe 20 issues total of his Avengers run, along with Infinity and its New Avengers tie-ins, I’m still thrust into this story with no background provided for what’s going on. Good luck, new readers who saw that big “#1” and decided this was a good place to start.

We begin with Dr. Doom, the Molecule Man, and what looks like Dr. Strange standing on some platform talking to God or the Beyonder or whatever that white electrical cloud in space is. Then, we’re given Ultimate Nick Fury deciding to blow up the original Marvel Universe because his universe is colliding with it and evil future Reed Richards said doing so would be a good idea. And oh, hey, Evil Future Reed’s hanging out with Thanos and a couple of characters I thought were dead (Corvus Glave and Namor) hanging out in “The City,” because evil future masterminds have run out of things to call their homes.

From there, it’s just a bunch of stuff blowing up and (SPOILER ALERT) everyone in both universes dies.

Or not, because there are seven more issues. And I’ve already been promised some scenario where numerous versions of these characters are inhabiting a place called “Battleworld,” a premise that doesn’t seem too far from DC’s concurrent, halfway-finished Convergence. (Hence the Secret Crisis of Infinite Wars jab above, because the whole destroying and rebuilding your characters’ universe is totally DC’s thing with all of its Crises on Infinite Earths.)

The bottom line is this: Just like DC’s “New 52” gave me a reason to read more of their comics beyond the handful of Batman graphic novels I owned, Marvel’s Secret Wars may very well be my jumping-off point on that end. It’s been a fun ride for the last 20 years, but I’ve found myself enjoying omnibuses of Spider-Man and X-Men issues from 30-50 years ago more than most of the company’s modern books. The death of that universe seems like the most fitting place to step off the train.

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Roger Riddell
Essentially Peter Parker with all the charm of Wolverine, he's a DC-based B2B journalist who occasionally writes about music and pop culture in his free time. His love for comics, metal, and videogames has also landed him gigs writing for the A.V. Club, Comic Book Resources, and Louisville Magazine. Keep him away from the whiskey, and don't ask him how much he hates the Spider-Man movies unless you're ready to hear about his overarching plot for a six-film series that would put the Dark Knight trilogy to shame.