Written by: Jonathan Hickman
Art by: Esad Ribic
After many delays, the final issue of Secret Wars is finally been here. I’ve been very vocal from the start about my enjoyment of this series, believing it to be the best event Marvel have had in years. While many may have gone off this series thanks to the delays, I’ve been more than happy to wait for the level of quality this story delivers. Thankfully, this patience has paid off, as Secret Wars #9 is not only a fantastic conclusion to a high quality event, but always a perfect summation of everything Hickman has gotten right about the marvel universe during his many years.
First off, it seems important to congratulate Esad Ribic on the immense level of quality he brings to the table this issue. His art manages to channel the full scope of the conflict before us, after so much build up, the action feels like a true spectacle to behold. Ribic captures more than just a standard superhero punch up, everything feels so much bigger, it feels like there’s so much on the line and his art perfectly encapsulates that. The fight between Doom and Panther takes on a symbolic quality in quite a few panels, and it works fantastically as a way to capture the scale of the conflict. later during the confrontation between Doom and Reed, he employs some fantastic tricks to show the thematic importance of their stand-off. It’s the highlight of the comic for me, as it’s really what this series has all been building towards. And while I can’t go into specifics, the build up to the final page reveal by Ribic is beautifully handled, and a perfect way to end the series. The delays have been more than worth it as Ribic delivers an incredible level of polish to ensure this story gets the send off it deserves.
This stand-off between Doom and Reed also happens to be the issues finest moment, and one of the high-points of the series. Hickman understands these characters better than most writers, and manages to boil their every conflict down to one powerful confrontation. The scene gave me exactly what I want from every comic featuring Doctor Doom; iconic lines with incredible levels of arrogance. While Doom has been the book’s central lead thus far, here he switches back to a more antagonistic role against Reed. Thankfully, this doesn’t strip him of any of the complexities his character has received thus far. There are still elements of sympathy to him as the weight of his decisions collapse around him, but really we are reminded he is in fact a villain, especially when compared to the actual heroic actions of Reed. Again, I can’t say too much without getting into spoiler territory, but it serves as a perfect pay-off to everything Hickman’s done with these characters, and show why they’re my favourites in the entire Marvel Universe. Speaking of payoff, Hickman manages to conclude several long running plot threads in this book, some harkening back to the very beginning of his run in fantastic spine tingling moments. While it is a little odd to have seen this book transition from an Avengers story into a Fantastic Four one, it’s forgivable given that really that’s where it all started, and the ending Hickman gives them again manages to summarise what makes the characters so fantastic.
There are of course the usual problems that arise, some readers (including myself) are bound to be confused by a few of the developments, but this is something that should be abated on further readings now that we have access to the entire run. There were no real moments that had me scratching my head or wondering whatever happened to X or Y, so for the most part it’s a highly satisfying conclusion. Some may be left a little wanting in explanations for the new marvel universe, but that’s not really related to this story and something that’s being covered in the newly launched books, so it’s not a huge problem for me. There are a few odd things towards the start of the comic pacing wise, and reveals that seem to happen for no reason (including a sudden but inevitable betrayal) with lots of jumping around into different plot threads, but once the comic gets to its mid-point and digs into the real meat, it becomes a roller coaster ride of fist pumping moments, all leading to an ending that’s sure to put a smile on your face. In short, it’s a Hickman comic, through and through.
Secret Wars is a comic I feel will become much more appreciated the further it gets away from the hype machine and marvel’s newest relaunch publicity so that readers can focus more on the story itself. It’s without a doubt the best event Marvel have had in years, one with a ton of build-up and gravitas behind it that earns the fireworks it sets off. Hickman leaves his seal on the Marvel Universe with a story that showcases everything wonderful about it, with Ribic in tow as the perfect artist to cover such a tale. People may be jaded about events and relaunches and like to make snide comments about delayed events such as this, but when it comes down to it, the story is all that matters, and Secret Wars is a wonderful story. The marvel universe is dead. Long live the marvel universe.