Written by: Jonathan Hickman
Art by: Esad Ribic
For possibly the most important event Marvel has put out since their inception and the cap on arguably one of the best Avengers runs, it’s beyond unfortunate that Secret Wars has been plagued by constant delays. We’re already 3 issues deep into a bunch of All-New All-Different Marvel series that take place in the newly created post-Secret-Wars universe, but we still have no idea how this universe will even come to be or if any of the major players we’re seeing are new iterations or their old selves. With all the new action already well under way, it’s getting harder and harder to stay excited for a new issue of this event in between the ever-increasing gaps in between.
That being said, the penultimate issue is starting to deliver on the promise of epic confrontations made by earlier issues, and this is one of the better Secret Wars installments of the last few months. After what seemed like a few issues of filler after the very strong start to the event, things are now really coming to a head in Battleworld, and although the end still seems unpredictable, it’s getting clear that Doom will probably not be on the winning side of Marvel history here.
There are a number of meetings between characters and crossing of different story strands that take place, and some more satisfying than others. The Ben Grimm/Galactus fight foreshadowed by this issue’s cover months ago and hinted at with the finale of the tie-in Siege falls flat and ends somewhat anticlimactically. Sue and Reed are finally reunited, albeit for a few seconds at the end of the issue, and Black Panther and Namor (with an army of the dead and an infinity gauntlet to spare) also show up at Castle Doom, so we’ll have to wait for the tacked-on issue 9 to get some closure there. However, that’s more than made up for by a few epic moments (I hate using the word epic, but damn it, there’s no other way to describe them). A face-to-face meeting between Doom, Thanos, and Annihilus, three long-time Avenger adversaries, acts as the highlight to the issue, and is one of the more exciting moments to happen in this event over the last few issues. There is also a very satisfying surprise appearance by a certain Guardian of the Galaxy that works toward getting me pumped for the final issue due out in January.
As always, Ribic’s art is fantastic and perfectly suits the tone of the event. It’s also a plus that Marvel has managed to keep the art (and artist for that matter) consistent over the course of Secret Wars, an issue that kept me from 100% enjoying Hickman’s Avengers and New Avengers runs that preceded this. The fact that this was supposed to be the final issue before a ninth one was added by Marvel later on is not entirely unnoticeable. The pacing of the event lately has felt strange, especially after the first few issues which were relatively dense, story- and world-building-wise. Ben Grimm’s role plays out and wraps up so quickly it’s a wonder he even received as much set-up as he did. Other parts of the issue feel like Hickman trying to quickly wrap up certain threads before the finale.
It’s hard to tell if any of this would be a problem if the series had stuck to its monthly schedule and avoided long and frequent delays. When we get one issue of Secret Wars every couple months, maybe we hold it up to more scrutiny. The writing and the art are still for the most part fantastic (no pun intended), and I still believe in the future this event will be looked back upon very favourably when judged as a whole and not by its individual parts.