Everything ends. After almost a year of build up, “Secret Wars” concludes with its biggest issue yet. Are we going to enjoy this issue or be predictably cynical? The answer will surprise you.
As with other installments of this column, we’re going to do a spoiler-filled recap that kind of transitions into a review at the end. So, please enjoy as we talk about “Secret Wars” for the last time.
Last time on “Secret Wars”, everything exploded. Maximus lead a red herring army of Marvel Zombies that immediately ate him, Doom pointed out that Thanos is just a whiny crybaby without an Infinity Gauntlet and wiped him out, and Black Panther and Namor showed up with an Infinity Gauntlet of their own and an additional zombie army. Meanwhile, Reed Richards and EVIL Reed Richards went looking for Molecule Man to cut off Doom’s powers. When you put it like that, this whole comic just sounds like a kid playing with his actions figures, huh?
Anyway, let’s see how Black Panther/Namor (#TrueDetectiveSeason3) are handling Dr. Doom.
Haha, holy fuck. Black Panther and Doom ascended to a higher plane of existence just to fight each other. At one point, Doom even turned into a Pacific Rim mech. They were even melting when the Human Torch showed up for a panel to attack them. No, Torch never shows up again. I was kind of joking earlier about this comic feeling like a kid playing with his action figures, but Black Panther pulling a second mech to combat Doom’s cinched it for me in the best way.
While Namor watches two long-time associates try to kill each other by turning into Hasbro toys, Reed connects with his wife and child who don’t remember. Probably because he spent all of his time working in his lab, the dick. Reed and Evil Reed go down into Molecule Man’s lair where, surprise surprise, Evil Reed does exactly what you’d expect.
If, uh, devolve Mr. Fantastic into a primate is what you expected. Some of you probably saw that coming, I have very smart readers. Thankfully, Molecule Man reduces Evil Reed into a bunch of cold cuts and tells Reed to prepare for Doctor Doom who is still having his way more interesting fight with Black Panther. After beating Panther within an inch of his life, Doom realizes that this whole invasion has been a ploy to distract him from the Reeds who are approaching Molecule Man. This leads to Doom teleporting to the lair, where Invisible Woman asks him if he was lying about whether a world where one country is still in 1872, another is in 2099, and one is entirely populated with chibi versions of her friends was real. Invisible Woman isn’t exactly a star in this book. Thankfully, Doom avoids the question by bursting into Molecule Man’s cave and making the best entrance of all time.
Reed should have unmasked him right there and revealed Doom was Old Man Jenkins the entire time. Someone change Doom’s catchphrase to “You meddling scientists! And your stupid Thing too!”
Doom drinks a pot of hot tea and spits it directly into Reed’s face, reminding him that Doom saved millions of people by bringing them to Battleworld while Reed couldn’t even save his family. Victor should really lend Mr. Fantastic his mask, because he just got burned. However, before Doom can wipe away Reed, Molecule Man turns off Doom’s powers so they can fight it out fairly.
This whole segment with Reed and Doom’s fight actually might be the scene that saved “Secret Wars” for me. It’s not just two guys who hate each other trying to murder the other guy first, they are yelling some genuine insults at each other. Doom claims that Reed wouldn’t have been capable of what he did to save reality from the Beyonders because he’s always “abandoning the good because he desires the perfect.” Reed, who has been fighting Doom for a solid half-century at this point, rightfully retorts that everything Doom has been doing is a selfish attempt to preserve his sense of self. Doom, hurt, lashes out and asks if Reed really thinks he could’ve done better than him. Reed says yes, and Doom admits he thinks so too.Continued below
After seeing the strong front that Doom has had this whole time in charge of Battleworld, watching him break down and admit that Reed will somehow always be the better man is devastating. Doom saved a couple people sure, but it was always to spite Reed, not out of actual empathy. And now, with his arch nemesis back it all comes crashing down again.
Doom curses Richards again, as he is wont to do, and Molecule Man takes this moment to reset the world to the way it once was. Black Panther tries to clutch onto the Infinity Stones as the world dies around him but he wakes up without them and hears some familiar voices.
Back in Wakanda (restored after being destroyed in every crossover since 2012), T’Challa sees the students from the very first issue of “New Avengers” back in 2013. He says the same speech he did then, before the death of worlds the machinations of the Illuminati got to him, talking about how the world outside of Wakanda has been failed by old men out of ideas and how it is up to these young scientists to make the way for the new world. Last time T’Challa gave this speech, he watched these kids die in front of him because of the Incursions. But when he hears a loud rumble, it’s not the first arrival of Black Swan like it was last time. Instead, he sees the first rocket of Wakanda’s new space program.
Back in Manhattan he doesn’t recognize, Miles Morales remembers the favor Molecule Man promised after he gave him his hamburger. Peter Parker shows up beside him, asks if Miles finished his homework, and invites Spider-Man to go web slinging.
Finally, in an undisclosed location, The Richards Family is God. With Molecule Man’s help, The Future Foundation is now rebuilding the universe (or multiverse?) to what it once was. Mr. Fantastic, who once had an entire army of alternate versions of himself say he couldn’t fix the world without giving up his family is now fixing reality with his family. Also, Franklin Richards is following up on the cosmic messiah future that was teased for him in Hickman’s “Fantastic Four” run and straight up building universes.
For the past three years, Hickman’s characters, at least those in the Illuminati, have been fatally flawed. Black Panther gave in to the darker side of himself that working with the Illuminati brought out, Reed split his family apart for the sake of keeping the Illuminati’s plans against the Incursions going, and everything with Namor happened. But now, Reed doesn’t have to scramble in the dark with shadowy men to fix the world, he’s doing it with his family. Black Panther was holding on to the one of the Infinity Stones, last used by the Illuminati to kill a universe to save our own, but found the Wakanda he lost more prosperous than ever. And even though Miles has been 100 pure since the day he was created, he finally gets to have his mom back. Not only that, but he’s on equal footing as a hero with Peter Parker. Everyone gets to move past the flaws that were holding them back. Reed even helps an old friend do the same.
And with that, the Doctor Doom in “Invincible Iron Man” just got so much more interesting. After Reed told him in the middle of a fight that he always thought Doctor Doom could be more, he’s given Victor everything he needs to be more. The face that Reed inadvertently scarred back in college has been healed and now Doom lives in a world without his accursed Richards. The gauntlet’s been thrown down. With no more of his excuses to fall back on, will Doom be the good guy he tried to pretend he was on Battleworld? And can that nobility stay in check when Fox sells the rights back to the Fantastic Four and Marvel pulls the Future Foundation out of limbo?
As someone who decidedly did not like most of “Secret Wars”, this ending saved the whole deal for me. Watching the characters we’ve seen struggle since 2013 find their way to a future they can live in without compromising their morals is really rewarding. And as much as I harped on the technicalities of Battleworld a lot, the idea of Doctor Doom using all of his power to save millions of people from the heat death of the multiverse, out of pure spite for Mr. Fantastic is the kind of sci-fi poetry that comics are built on.Continued below
As an overall crossover, with the delays and tie-ins and Armor Wars and yadda yadda, I would say it was pretty unwieldy. But as a continuation of Hickman’s work on the Avengers and the Fantastic Four? This turned into a beautiful send-off for what will surely be remembered as a great era for Marvel comics.
Final Verdict (Of This Issue): 8.7
Final Verdict (Of This Crossover): 7.9
See you guys in a couple months when Iron Man acts like a total dick in “2 Civil 2 War”.