We’re back for the third installment of annotations/commentaries on Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic’s Secret Wars, the climax not only of Hickman’s expansive New/Avengers run but also his entire career at Marvel Comics as a narrative universe architect. Last issue, the worlds in which a solid 99% of every single published Marvel comic takes place exploded in a fiery conflagration, and now existence is a patchwork planet of “domains” built from alternate universes. This world is ruled by the original Marvel Universe’s Doctor (Victor von) Doom, and Hickman and Ribic are having an absolute blast with this.
Last issue, the villainous malcontents and genocidal monsters of the Cabal got released from their life raft and took down a Thor (local cop), catching the attention of Battleworld’s Finest. We were introduced to Emperor Doom’s court, and Sheriff Strange, who kick off this issue.
“The Eye of Doom,” as a title, means a bunch of different things in the context of this issue: first off, his perception of himself as he explains to Susan later, where he feels he is the most flawed part of the world he created; the item used by Doctor Strange, the replacement for the Eye of Agamotto, that he uses to survey the Cabal’s life raft; and, perhaps most importantly, his surveillance over his kingdom, the active effort he has to put into being apprised of what’s going on due to his lack of omniscience.
Page 1: The first panel basically summarizes that things are going on in the tie-ins—Inferno, Planet Hulk and Old Man Logan, specifically. You see Strange and Doom talk about the omniscience issue I just mentioned, and we get the first actual on-panel use of Doom’s godlike powers—they resemble the reality-bending Tetris-blocks effect of Wanda’s reality manipulation back in House of M, although I think it’s likely just a good visual shorthand for godhood.
Pages 2-3: Finally, we get some exploration of what happened in Doom’s timeframe between the end of New Avengers and the second issue of Secret Wars. Of the three dudes who challenged the Beyonders on the Time Platform, Doom and Strange are still around, Doom’s omnipotent, and something happened to Molecule Man that made them build a statue of remembrance for him.
Pages 4-6: Sheriff Strange in CSI: Battleworld.
Page 7: And I was right: Miles Morales stowed away in the Cabal’s life raft.
Pages 8-9: I’m relieved to say Hickman’s confirmed that this isn’t 616 Sue or 616 Johnny, so there’s no creepy mind-control stuff going on here, it seems. Still, what they did to Johnny is, ironically, hella cold, and makes me wonder where Ben ended up—the primary guess seems to be that he was turned into the Shield, since it’s pretty orange and rocky. I wonder if Franklin and Valeria here are Doom’s children, or the children of a Reed who perhaps died in the Council of Reeds fracas back from Hickman’s Fantastic Four run.
(I presume this song is popular in the Upper and Lower Kingdoms since Ra is traditionally a sun god.)
Pages 10-11: This is a Big Deal: the unmasking of Doom’s face for the first time in Marvel Comics history. To be honest, this seems more than anything to imply that Doom’s gonna be taken off the board somehow after this, since this is the kind of reveal that’s been teased for over 50 years.
However, strictly speaking, this isn’t his original scarred face. It was healed when he gained omnipotence back in the last issue of the Fraction/Allred FF (#16), and then the Living Tribunal (who, it’s worth pointing out, got killed by the Beyonders back near the end of New Avengers) cursed Doom to gain a new scar on his face for each shitty thing he’s done, with the added caveat that no power can remove this curse.
So, Doom’s done a lot of shitty things.
Page 12: This is where we finally start getting an understanding of what’s going on in Battleworld, since Miles is basically our first POV character going “what the fuck is going on?”
Pages 13-14: This is how we get reintroduced to the hero crew from Earth-616’s life raft back in #1. Strange has apparently been holding on to this life raft for three years, which would be kind of a dick move except he legitimately didn’t know what to do with it. I love the idea of Strange just keeping this museum of shit that doesn’t fit the established narrative of Battleworld—it’s crazy how compromised he’s gotten in the past few years.
Remember that on Earth-616, Strange had vanished months ago (seemingly in the last pre-“Time Runs Out” issue of New Avengers, but then he appeared in AXIS, so I guess he didn’t totally vanish until a bit later) to join the Black Priests and become a “field surgeon of the multiverse.” This is how he eventually found Rabum Alal, discovered he was Doom, and ended up on that time platform facing off against the Beyonders—so people have been wondering where the hell he went for months.
Pages 15-17: So I guess that the family Reed’s mourning really is gone, according to Hickman’s statements. The explanation Strange gives for everyone’s lack of memory is really interesting; rather than using Doom’s omnipotence to mindwipe everybody, this appears to be a 1984 “We have always been at war with Eastasia” deal instead, where eventually everyone just accepted the passed-down narrative rather than their own memories.
I love Ribic’s work on facial expressions here; the look of joy on Strange’s face as he sees T’Challa, Reed freaking out, everyone’s spit-take at finding out about God Doom, and Strange’s “well, yo, so this is crazy, but this is how it is” face in the last panel.
Pages 18-20: Maximus expounds for us in dialogue that Battleworld is stationary with the sun/Human Torch orbiting around it, which might prove important later. Thanos is just being an amazingly smug dick here at the Evil Dragon Age: Origins Campfire (who cooked??), and I presume next issue is gonna be a hell of a fight sequence between our crew and all those Thors.
Thanks again for reading, and see you next month (since this appears to now officially be a monthly thing).