Welcome back to the MC2, Multiversity’s panel of noted Marvel experts. The three of us (MC3 sounded weird) are covering Marvel’s straight up CALVACADE of “Secret Wars” tie-ins! This week, we tackle “Thors”, “Squadron Supreme”, and more whilst giving up our own thoughts on the event as a whole! Feel free to join in the conversation in the comments and let us know what you think about Marvel’s latest crossover. Spoilers below!
Written by Jason Aaron
Illustrated by Christopher Sprouse
Reviewed by Alice W. Castle
When “Secret Wars” was announced, one of the titles I was most worried for was the recently relaunched “Thor” by Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman. With the still fresh story of a new Thor taking up the hammer and Odinson struggling with unworthiness fascinating me, I didn’t want all that to be immediately undone. However, I shouldn’t have been worried as it looks like Jason Aaron is ready to give up the hammer any time soon.
“Thors” is what happens when you cross True Detective with Criminal Minds and populate it entirely with Thors. The concept is pure genius and stands toe to toe with “Weirdworld” for things that really shouldn’t work, but do because Jason Aaron is writing them. This book should be laughably dumb and yet it isn’t largely because Aaron refuses to ever let the writing feel tongue-in-cheek. When other Thors make fun of Ultimate Thor for having the gall to call himself the Ultimate Thor, it somehow feels like a real response to jealousy instead of a bunch of the same character standing in a room together. When Ultimate Thor and Beta Ray Thor started spouting lines directly out of Law & Order as they investigate a serial killer, what should end up feeling off key and hokey ends up being a compelling crime drama that just happens to be about Thors.
Jason Aaron is joined this time by artist Chris Sprouse and the art is what I can only call serviceable. The art is fine, sure, and there are moments that did wow me (like the splash page or Ultimate Thor and Beta Ray Thor taking on a biker gang of Ghost Riders – an idea that deserves more groundswell than just a splash page), but the nature of the story being a police drama means the action is largely a bunch of mildly visually different Thors standing around arguing. That doesn’t make for the most visually interesting story, but Sprouse does the best with what he’s given with simple, clear storytelling and a focus on infusing each Thor with a different visual personality.
Overall, “Thors” #1 is a surprisingly fun book. In the hands of nearly any other writer, the tonal dissonance of mixing the Asgardian lore of Thor comics with the plot stylings of a police procedural would be too great to make anything compelling out of, but Jason Aaron manages it just fine. The only downside is that it didn’t really give Chris Sprouse a chance to shine, but I can only hope we’ll see that in the future.
Final Verdict: 7.9 – A pretty fun addition to this whole “Secret Wars” thing.
Written by Noelle Stevenson
Illustrated by Sanford Greene
Reviewed by Jess Camacho
“Runaways” is a title that I was apprehensive about when it was announced. Brian K. Vaughn is my favorite comic writer ever. His work was a really big part of my early comic reading and “Runaways” is his one of his best works. It’s definitely his best superhero work. Due to this, I was skeptical of a new team coming into this world and for the most part I was proven wrong. “Runaways” #1 is a really great young adult comic but the title is definitely misleading for those who were hoping to get a new story featuring the original team.
“Runaways” #1 takes place in Doomstadt, right in the center of the Battleworld. The Victor Von Doom Institute For Gifted Youth is a school for the best and brightest (read: powerful) kids in the Battleworld. Here, they learn how to use their powers and become part of the Doom Elite. As final team exams draw near, a group of students have found themselves in detention. This group of students includes a teenage vampiric Jubilee, Pixie, Amadeus Cho, Skaar, Delphyne Gorgon, Dagger, Sanna Strand and Molly Hayes. Since they’re stuck in detention, they are missing team registration and they try to stage a breakout that gets the attention of the school’s headmaster.Continued below
As I mentioned earlier, this has little to do, plot wise, with the original characters and series. However, that doesn’t make this a bad book and it doesn’t make it a complete 180 from what the “Runaways” is. Noelle Stevenson (“Nimona”, “Lumberjanes”) has a true understanding of what makes young characters great. She lets them be young and with that comes all the possible ugliness. They’re impulsive to a fault and at times, very bratty but their personalities are magnetic and thus the dialogue is sharp and funny. When we join the story, these kids already have established a hierarchy of sorts and the relationships have already been built. Of course, they aren’t all friends but it’ll be fun to see the relationships grow. The feeling of the “Runaways” is very similar to the original series and it acts as a spiritual successor in a sense.
Sanford Greene’s art is good but doesn’t blow me away. The facial expression at times can be a little lacking. Particularly the background characters end up losing some details as they move out of frame to where you really can’t make out who they are. The fight scenes are very good and look like something out of the Divergence movies. Greene’s rendering of the core cast is great because while they are different versions, you can easily pick up on who everyone is. The Molly Hayes design is my particular favorite and Jubilee and Pixie really feel like wannabe witches. John Rauch’s colors are more muted than I expected but it works because it makes the feeling of conformity in school really come through.
“Runaways” wasn’t what I really expected it to be but it’s good nevertheless. The humor is spot on and the art clicks well enough. If you’re a fan of teenage heroes getting into teenage shenanigans, then this is the tie-in for you.
Final Verdict: 7.8 – Funny and quirky. This may be something I’d eventually like to see stick around.
Squadron Sinister #1
Written by Marc Guggenheim
Illustrated by Carlos Pacheco
Reviewed by James Johnston
I’m noticing a trend in these “Secret Wars” tie-ins that mildly upsets me. More often than not, they’re about the downfall of some society. “Squadron Sinister” follows that trend, with Hyperion and the rest of the Squadron sinister annexing other Battleworld domains, including ones with their own counterparts. It’s people not meant to be DC heroes fighting other people who are also DC heroes but not. I feel like Kirk Lazarus.
“Squadron Sinister” #1 revolves around Hyperion as he tries to keep his kingdom of Utopolis together. Unfortunately, he can’t stop murdering other regions so everyone’s sort of out to get him in the first place. The problem with this plot is I kind of don’t care. Not in a cynical mean way. Just in a confused way. Why should I care if Hyperion gets overthrown. He’s a dick. And do I want his conspirators to take the throne? No. They’re all dicks. It’s like a Brazzers video up in here.
While I’m excited for what’s more or less the same story with Doom in “Secret Wars Prime”, that’s because Doom has had some build up. You’ve seen what he’s done to get his empire and you kind of want him to win. Here we’re immediately introduced to a guy who deserves to lose his kingdom so hard. As a result, none of the comic feels like it has any consequence for me.
That said, the book is rather good on some levels. Pacheco’s art is impressive, even if I got confused whether on whether or not these were multiple Squadron Sinisterness or not. That’s what happens when the first issue of your mini-series is someone beating themselves to death. Still, Pacheco’s Hyperion can really be found in his body language. He’s Superman but still has the brutish tendencies that make him a villain. Even if I don’t like the characters in this comic, they’re at least being crafted as fully formed people.
Final Verdict: 5.7 – “Squadron Sinister” #1 is a book full of great character work and characters I could also not give a crap about.Continued below
Armor Wars #2
Written by James Robinson
Illustrated by Marcio Takara
Reviewed by Alice W. Castle
I think it’s pretty safe to say that the first issue of “Armor Wars” didn’t do all that much to impress us. For a book that has a pretty cool high concept – the realm of Technolpolis is ravaged by a disease and everyone needs to wear Iron Man suits to survive, although why everyone can just flip up their face plates and be okay is never explained – the issue just didn’t do much to put together a plot that was intriguing. The whole thing revolves around the mystery of Spyder-Man’s death, but it never seemed to want to focus on that. This issue, sadly, isn’t much better.
The problem with this issue is that it largely feels like it’s spinning its wheels in terms of plot progression. You know that whole thing with the mystery surrounding Spyder-Man’s death I mentioned three sentences ago? Yeah, that gets the focus of the start of the issue and the end of the issue while the meat of the issue revolves around something to do with an alliance between Arno Stark and the Kingpin, Spyder-Man’s girlfriend trying to cope with his death and a weird push for Stingray of all characters. The issue feels incredibly scattered as there are gems here that could make for an interesting issue, particularly in how Robinson writes Spyder-Man’s girlfriend as being unable to come to terms with his death. What’s frustrating is that it’s buried under this whole subplot about Stingray which doesn’t really go anywhere. Then it all swings back around to end on the exact same cliffhanger as the last issue.
Problems with the story aside, the issue is gorgeous. Marcio Takara’s heavily shadowed, ink washed style leads to a very noir-ish feeling that blends the sci-fi armour stuff with a very real and grungy environment. It brings a lot of texture to the world as you can imagine it being a world of rust- and dirt-covered metal. And while the fact that the majority of the issue focuses on Stingray is baffling, Takara renders the scene of him infiltrating a high security compound beautifully. The flow of the scene is fantastic and marries the grace of Stingray’s acrobatics with the punch of giant lasers and explosions that ends with a jaw-dropping page that is perhaps the most interesting of the entire issue.
Again, this issue just felt like it was spinning its wheels. I don’t know if Robinson is trying to build up the world of Technopolis before diving into the mystery surrounding Spyder-Man, but the continual teasing of the mystery only to focus on something else entirely was really frustrating this issue. It made the issue feel unfocused and that is incredibly disappointing as it feels like there could be a really great story to tell her. The issue is somewhat saved by the gorgeous art by Marcio Takara who thankfully gets to illustrate a big action set piece, but it’s an issue of all flash and very little substance.
Final Verdict 4.9 – When all is said and done, this series might make sense, but for now it really feels like a mess. A pretty mess, but a mess nonetheless.
Old Man Logan #2
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Illustrated by Andrea Sorrentino
Reviewed by Jess Camacho
Let’s be honest, Brian Michael Bendis’ two tie ins to “Secret Wars” haven’t been well received by this column. I will say this though, “Old Man Logan” is definitely the strongest of the two but not by much. “Old Man Logan” #2 tries to do too much and ends up failing.
Picking up from the ending of the first issue, Logan has set out to find out what the story is with this Ultron head he found. This leads to him climbing over a Battleworld wall and ending up in a different zone he doesn’t belong in. Logan spends a great deal of the first few pages fighting off a Tiger in the jungle and he’s then approached by Sabretooth and then of course he spends more pages fighting him. Turns out Logan has ended up in a battlezone that contains X-Men and, well, chaos ensues.Continued below
My biggest problem with “Old Man Logan” is that this is trying to be something more than it needs to be. This version of Logan should be trying to right his wrongs and help the people in his world. Him jumping a wall to get to the bottom of what’s happening with this Ultron head is not something that makes sense for the character. The first issue featured him mixing it up with bad guys affecting people on a smaller scale. He’s a wanderer who wants to still matter but Bendis doesn’t seem to fully understand that. He’s trying to do way too much with Logan crossing over into new territory. The “Secret Wars” tie ins have been great because they’ve been, for the most part, very self contained. They’ve mentioned Doom and his rules and at times we’ve seen the Thor Corps but each story has been something you could really read on it’s own knowing just small details of the main plot. Bendis wants his two tie-ins to mean so much more to the bigger story happening in “Secret Wars”. I get that but I would rather see something closer to what this first issue gave us. That was a sort of crime western genre book that could have turned into something truly great. He’s taken the character out of his world and lost what makes this version great.
Andrea Sorrentino is really one of the best artists working in comics today and he does his best to make this visually, a dynamic and exciting book. There is very little use of conventional panel layouts. Sorrentino uses the entire page to create engaging and exciting action. The panels in the jungle, while plot wise put a stop to much development, are at least beautiful to look at and much credit should be shared with Marcelo Maiolo who uses lush greens, blues and reds to convey the perfect jungle atmosphere. Sorrentino is a star and he saves this issue from being a total wash.
“Old Man Logan” is not a really bad story but in this context with this version of Wolverine, it doesn’t work. Sorrentino’s art is gorgeous and saves it but it’s still not something I can fully recommend.
Final Verdict: 5.0 – This could have been something great but fails because Bendis wants to do too much and doesn’t pace things right.
Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars #2
Written by Cullen Bunn
Illustrated by Matteo Lolli
Reviewed by James Johnston
I mentioned this last time I reviewed this comic, but there is no character I like less than Chalupa Deadpool. The Deadpool that ignores everything that could make the character compelling and opts to become the human version of a Hot Topic t-shirt. It’s why I gave the Deadpool video game a bad review after only being able to get through two levels even though I had paid cash money for it. The case is still sitting next to my PS3, mocking me and I think it’s scratching the discs of all my favorite games. He is the worst.
I don’t think I’m alone in hating Chalupa Deadpool as Cullen Bunn is one of the writers to “save” Deadpool in the past few years. His work on the “Deadpool Killology” took a sort of lame duck premise and made it work wonders. But while he does try to infuse Deadpool with some sense of character in “Deadpool’s SSW”. Unfortunately, the “Secret Wars I” setting of the comic does little to support the Merc with a Mouth and leaves the entire exercise feeling flat. Wade Wilson doesn’t really offer much to the original “Secret Wars” nor does it have much to offer him. Deadpool shows up, of course, but it’s always to either A) make some one-liner about the original series or B) use a part of the original series to get some real MANPAIN. Seriously, I need to get some new contact lens because the last page made my eyes roll out of my body.
Despite all my belly-aching, “Deadpool’s SJW” isn’t all that bad. The plot and some jokes are a little flimsy but Matteo Lolli’s art remains a strong selling point. His design of the 80’s Deadpool costume, complete with weird Captain America boot, is stellar and he sells a lot of the comic’s physical humor. Especially in the highlight of this issue, when Deadpool tries to get Hulk to rage out by saying he’ll never understand true loss. Even if I don’t find a lot of Chalupa Deadpool’s accounts funny, that’s the Deadpool I know Cullen Bunn can write.Continued below
Final Verdict: 6.5 – “Deadpool’s FWB” is going to be great for its target audience and I, a cynical blogger who hates fun, am not that audience. The creators are doing great work but there’s just a buffer here I cannot get through.
Jess: So I didn’t read everything this week. Last week was so massive and I just sort of needed a little break. “Thors” was by far my favorite book of the tie ins this week. I like cop shows and all their cliches and “Thors” did it all. Plus I’d really like a Quincy, M.D. series (it’s a 70’s show youngins) but with Forensic Frog Thor. Actually, Forensic Frog Thor should be in all the things. “Old Man Logan” is a weird one for me. I want to like this but I don’t think Bendis gets this character. I actually really liked the first issue. That scene with Emma Frost was very good and I liked Logan fighting the fight for the little guy to make up for his past sins. This reads too much like the Wolverine we’ve become accustomed to the last decade or so. The superheroic Wolverine who wants to do everything. Now he’s with other X-Men in a different zone he doesn’t belong in. Is he going to find out what Doom has done? Why? It doesn’t really add up with what’s happened in the lead title. We’ve got the characters who know. Why does he have to know too? These tie ins have become enjoyable to me because it feels like the creators are doing almost fully self contained stories that on their own read well. Bendis wants his two series to be more important than they really need to be and they’ve suffered for it. I think he’s done some very good work in his career and I do consider myself a fan of his, but “Secret Wars” work is just flat out bad.
Alice: This was definitely a much needed light week after last week. With so many books to read last week, I remember remarking on how it’s a miracle we haven’t burned out yet and I think this week was really needed to let us recharge. Many of the books this week were either light and fun (“Thors” and “Runaways”) or largely inconsequential (“Armor Wars”, “Squadron Sinister”) and, again, after last week I needed something light.
However, there wasn’t really much that stood out to me this week. I had a lot of fun with “Thors”, but none of the other books grabbed me. “Runaways” continues to be a series that inexplicably grates on my nerves and while I should have had fun with that book, I found myself wanting it to be over before I was even halfway through it. “Squadron Sinister” felt like a bad “Injustice” parody comic and perhaps it’s because I’m not familiar with the characters’ prior series, but it just fell pretty flat for me. And “Old Man Logan” just continues to be a book that I wish wasn’t happening.
Still, you win some, you lose some. What I gained in rest from a light week, I lost from not having a book to love this week.
James: I too am thrilled that this was a light week. I could write an entire paragraph about how my enjoyment of these comics is being affected by my new work commute but I feel like that might be too expansive a topic for just one paragraph.
But really, I’m having a weird train of thought right now where I’m getting tripped up on the consequences of these tie-ins. I should just want comics to be fun, right? And a lot of them are. But I still feel like they’re kind of, and I hate to use this word, disposable. A lot of these tie-ins feel like filler while all the other Marvel titles (save for the Last Days stuff) go on break. What am I going to read in the meantime? “Wolverines”? Ha!
Honestly that problem wouldn’t be so prominent for me if it wasn’t for DCYou which was timed perfectly on DC’s part. “Oh is our competition taking three months to do stories they’re going to wipe out once they’re done? Would you rather see a new Prez and whatever the hell is happening with the Martian Manhunter?” I kinda would. When “Secret Wars” is done, Marvel Comics is going to come back to our home to find my hands cupping Jim Gordon’s skintight Batman suit.Continued below
And I don’t know if I’ll have hands enough for both of them.