Secret Wars #9 – A Second Opinion

Written by: Jonathan Hickman

Art by: Esad Ribic

Publisher: Marvel

Finally, the final issue of Secret Wars, the big event of the summer/autumn/winter, is in our hands after suffering months and months of delays. A lot of my personal excitement for the finale of the event has simmered away, but even without delays it would have been hard to keep the public tantalized over the time it takes 9 issues to release normally, even for an event with such a promise of grandiosity.

For the most part, the ultimate battle played out how everyone expected it to. There were no big twists in this last issue (a number of smaller ones over the course of the last 8 issues help to make up for that), but it didn’t necessarily need any. We all knew (even before the first influx of All-New All-Different Marvel titles) that Doom was going to have some kind of tragic come-uppance and a new universe would rise out of the flames of this event; there’s really no other way Marvel could wrap this up. It’s not the “what happened” that matters in this final issue though, as much as it is how it was presented to us, and given the guidelines that 1. Doom will fall and 2. New universe will start, I’ll say that Hickman and Ribic do about as good a job as can be done with the climax and wrap-up.

The art is good, as it has been through all of Secret Wars. The visuals and aesthetics in this issue are great, and it seems a little more effort was put into this than in previous issues. Particularly, the checkerboard page featuring part of the conversation between Reed and Doom stands out, and the trippy battle between T’Challa and Doom over a series of panels was great at trying to portray a battle between what are essentially gods that our minds can’t even comprehend.

A lot of loose ends aren’t tied up as tightly as I had wished they would be with the end of the event. Many of these are just small aspects of Battleworld that will most likely never be revisited, and didn’t seem to serve much importance to the overall plot. The brainwashed (?) Captain Marvel in league with Sinister (Captain Sinister, if you will) was interesting enough of a premise that I’m surprised was never explained more thoroughly or tied into the main plotline. Similarly, Maximus’ role as the mysterious prophet whose identity reveal was drawn out over a couple issues seemed to fall flat. And even after Ben Grimm was given some story focus (despite his quick fall), the only hint of Johnny that we see is a one-off panel where Doom and Black Panther’s fight appears to edge too close to the sun. The time jump in the middle of the event showed us a bunch of characters in new and interesting situations within Battleworld, but these weren’t utilized to their full extent; had these threads been weaved together a bit more the event would maybe have come off better as a whole.

The ending helps to explain a few aspects of the new Marvel universe. The absence of Reed, Susan, and the Future Foundation from the All-New All-Different world makes sense now, and is very fitting given Hickman’s past Fantastic Four run that he would have them as adventurers and explorers more than as traditional superheroes. We get a nod to the new Alpha Flight, created by T’Challa after he confusingly uses an Infinity gem to transport himself to the new universe which was created anyway. We also get a satisfying ending to Doom’s decades-long comic arc that proves that, like he says during the final flight, Reed is the better man. Knowing the thought and time that Hickman has already put into these two characters over the course of years, he seems qualified to be the one to place the final period in each of their stories (though I’m sure this won’t be the last we’ll see of Reed and fam).

There’s a poetry to the fact that the Marvel Universe was figuratively created by the Fantastic Four with their first issue more than fifty years ago, and the new universe has been created by them literally; it makes you really put into perspective how much this family and this world has changed since its inception, and if the multiverse had to be destroyed and recreated, it couldn’t have possibly been done better than this. All in all, this Avengers/New Avengers run, event, and final issue serve as an amazing and fitting end to the old Marvel world, and hopeful start to the new one.