Secret Wars is a mammoth event — Marvel has populated an entire Battleworld with Wolverines, Captains America and Spider-Men. There’s a lot in here that’s worth reading, but we don’t always have the time to dig deep into all of them. The solution? A quick survey of what we’re reading. Today, we’re discussing Secret Wars 6, Old Man Logan 5, Spider-Island 5, and Seige 4.
Secret Wars 6
Patrick: We’ll probably never see a Daren Aronofksy-directed Spider-Man movie. And with good cause: Spider-Man is an agent of joy, of youthful exuberance, of motion and excitement. Aronofsky is an excellent filmmaker, but his wheelhouse is loss, desperation and the magical serenity that comes from letting go. So while Aronofsky’s got geek and indie cred to match someone like Sam Raimi, Raimi immediately makes more sense to make a series of Spidey flicks. Some characters just demand certain kinds of filmmakers. The same is true for comic book creators, and while Esad Ribic is the absolute man when it comes to mindblowing feats of scale and solemn, battle-worn faces, he can’t quite sell kinder, pettier, more human moments. And that’s precisely the mode Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Wars 6 finds itself operating within. We won’t find any battles in this issue, let alone the kind of grand sorcery that fried Cyclops and Strange last time. Instead, the drama takes place between the characters and the people the love and trust… or the people they should love and trust, anyway. There’s a cute scene where Val checks in with Bently-23 and Alex Power that totally falls flat because Ribic doesn’t quite have the visual vocabulary to sell Bently crossing his eyes as a joke. And later in the issue, when 1610 Reed Richard teases 616 Reed about what has become of his family on Battleworld, 616-Reed responds with a face, about which the less said the better.
Of course, he snaps right back to brooding immediately thereafter, which Ribic can totally do. I guess that’s my running criticism here — Hickman’s starting to get comfortable letting the inhabitants of Battleworld display their occasionally goofy character traits, and “comfort” is not Ribic’s forte. This is exceptionally awkward when a pair of Spider-Men discuss how long is too long to keep a hamburger in your pocket (eight years and three weeks is too long). The writing pops, but the characters are statues, and the whole thing is too cognitively dissonant for its own good. Mind you, when we look back around to a disgruntled Ben Grimm as The Shield being talked into revolting by an imprisoned Thanos, the whole thing swings back in Ribic’s favor. Damn it all, if those last pages aren’t worth any lighthearted missteps that proceeded them.
Old Man Logan 5
Michael: I think the plot physics of the Battleworld shown in Old Man Logan intrigue me more than the series itself. If you want to escape a zombiefied nightmare version of your reality, all you have to do is She-Hulk-hop the fence from one place to the next. Problem solved! For the majority of its five issue run, Old Man Logan has been a tour through Battleworld with Logan as our guide. Old Man Logan 5 decides to throw away the majority of the Battleworld stuff in the first third of the book and instead focuses on how the once and future Wolverine will fit into the Marvel U post-Secret Wars. Since he’s been manning the two big X-Men books, I suppose it’s fitting that Brian Michael Bendis is the man to do this. As with most things Secret Wars, if you haven’t been following All-New X-Men and Uncanny X-Men and have at least a passing knowledge of the Ultimate X-Men (like me) — you might find yourself kinda confused as the conclusion of Old Man Logan 5. Basically old Logan meets the son of Ultimate Logan and gets all emotional. It’s a beautiful page from Andrea Sorrentino, who has always been the saving grace of this series. The only problem is that neither of these men are actually directly related. I mean, I get it: old Logan is supposed to be touched that in some realm of the multiverse Logan has a child that lives and perhaps reaches his potential. But with that frame of mind, wouldn’t Logan feel that same emotion whenever he encountered ANY version of his family or friends?? I dunno, this series was increasingly mediocre as it progressed.
My favorite page of the book might have been the announcement of the continuing adventures of our hero in Old Man Logan 1 by Green Arrow team Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino. One thought that kept bouncing around my brain while I read this issue was “good God, Andrea Sorrentino needs to be in more books.” Sorrentino is the perfect artist to break down Logan’s emotional beats, one by one. I will also never get over his silent red/white panels that typically convey anger and action — it gets me every time. Sorrentino’s the type of artist that makes the strong argument that comic books must be read on the page instead of the screen; you can’t get the same sense of fulfillment digitally. And while I may be giving Old Man Logan 5 a harder time than it deserves, I will say this: I would like to see a battle between the Avengers and every version of the Iron Man suit.
Drew: It’s no coincidence that Patrick would paint Spider-Man as “an agent of joy, of youthful exuberance, of motion and excitement,” as this week’s Spider-Island is the sole respite from the otherwise oppressively serious tone of Secret Wars. Sure, this issue has its share of sacrifice and hero-lauding, but it’s also the only one that features a guy in a spider costume asking Dino-Thor if he’s related to Stegron. That’s not to say that this issue doesn’t take itself seriously — Flash’s death is given just the right amount of space to really hit home — just that it’s also aware of how silly “Spider-Island” is as a concept. That self-awareness is absolutely necessary to make the mourning of vampires, werewolves, and lizard-people not feel like a total joke. It’s a tricky balance of serious and silly, and no single image captures that better than the closing splash page.
It’s patently absurd, and I love it.
The backup takes itself a bit more seriously, causing it to lack some of the charm of the feature. Still, seeing Mayday successfully reunite Scott and Cassie Lang offers a special kind of satisfaction. The final image teases that we may see more Mayday Parker as Spider-Woman in the future, but this is actually the closest the character can hope to get to closure.
Spencer: Writer Kieron Gillen has made it clear from the very first issue of his and Fillipe Andrade’s Siege that success isn’t an option for the protectors of the Shield. I took that to mean that Siege was a tragedy, but what issue 4 taught me is that “failure” and “tragedy” aren’t necessarily synonymous. Yes, Brand and her crew fail, the Shield falls, and many of our protagonists die, as do likely hundreds of thousands of Battleworld citizens. Yet, Gillen and Andrade instill that conclusion with a surprising amount of hope. Change can’t come about without sacrifice, and the fall of the Shield seems to be the only thing that can bring actual change to Battleworld; with that in mind, for better or worse, Brand is able to finish her career with her head held high. She did the best she could do when charged with an impossible, unjust job, and she can take pride in that even in the face of imminent death.
With Siege serving as a conclusion to Gillen’s work at Marvel (for now), it’s hard not to look at Brand’s final words and apply them to Gillen as well — and, beyond him, to essentially any creator. No creator is perfect; Gillen’s no doubt made his fair share of “mistakes,” and through Brand he not only owns up to them, but takes pride in them as part of the writing process, as part of his growth. Brand’s final words encourage us all to not to repeat the mistakes of those who came before us, but to go out there and make our own mistakes. We can all learn from those who came before us, but we’ll only grow if we chase our dreams, make mistakes in the process, own up to those mistakes, and learn from them. That’s a lesson that’s applicable on any world.
Did you read some Secret Wars tie-ins that we didn’t? Sure you did! There are holes in our pull list. Holes that you’re encouraged to fill with your comments. Let’s keep talking about Secret Wars.