After what seems like forever, the final installment of Marvel’s epic Secret Wars crossover event is finally here. Writer Jonathan Hickman’s series, which started out strong right out of the gate, ultimately hit the stumbling block that most comics hit these days: delays. On top of that, it was decided that the series would end at nine issues instead of the original eight, adding to the wait for this, the grand finale.
All of that wouldn’t be such a big deal if it wasn’t for the fact that the “All-New, All-Different” Marvel Universe was scheduled to launch spinning out of this series, and all those titles couldn’t wait ’til January 2016 to begin. So we’ve already seen that the Marvel Universe that results from the end of Secret Wars is… well, very much like the old Marvel Universe. And we basically knew which characters survived the end of Secret Wars and who didn’t. So how could this feel like anything other than anticlimactic?
Well, it turns out that Secret Wars #9 is both anticlimactic and still totally satisfying somehow. Yes, for the ending of a big status quo changing event, it doesn’t really feel like the Marvel Universe is very different at all… with the exception that Miles Morales, the Spider-Man of the now defunct Ultimate Universe (may it Rest In Peace), who is part of the mainstream Marvel Earth now. Otherwise, Secret Wars’ ending is a bit ho-hum, I’m sorry to say. Those who were expecting changes to the Marvel Universe on the level that we saw in the DC Universe after events like Crisis on Infinite Earths or Flashpoint are going to be very disappointed… or very relieved.
However, as a culmination of one of the greatest rivalries in the Marvel Universe, and one that lives at the very heart of of the comics—that of Reed Richards and Victor Von Doom—I think any fan will find this final chapter to be very satisfying. Especially when it seems outside forces (regarding the movies and such) have conspired to lessen the value of the Fantastic Four characters in the comics themselves. Writer Jonathan Hickman, however, is well aware that the ongoing intellectual pissing contest between Mr. Fantastic and Dr. Doom is what the world of Marvel Comics is built on. And in the end, it turns out, it’s what Secret Wars was all about too.
Over the course of Secret Wars, Doom essentially became God, thanks to a combination of the power of the Beyonders (in a callback to the original ’80s Secret Wars series) and the ultra-powerful Molecule Man. (For more details on issues #1-8, Marvel put together a handy catch-up video). Doom then used this stolen power to hold together what was left of the Marvel multiverse in the form of the patchwork Battleworld. As it stands, Victor Von Doom has always seen himself as God anyway, so his finally achieving deity status felt like the fulfillment of everything he ever wanted. As a reader, there’s some part of you that can’t help but root for Doom in all of this, because the guy has just wanted this so badly for so long.
There are some amazing moments throughout the final issue, like blood enemies Black Panther and Namor teaming up to put the smackdown on Doom, only to find that it’s much harder to get rid of a “God Emperor” than it looks. This is the case even if Black Panther does have his hand in an Infinity Gauntlet (yes, they’ve found a way to tie this into the whole Infinity Gems thing). As most of the big battle/cast of thousands-type stuff happened already in the previous issues. this final chapter takes matters down to a personal level, and it’s all much more satisfying as a result.
Honestly, the very best parts of this comic aren’t really the fight scenes, although those moments are cool. It’s the moments between Reed Richards and Victor Von Doom—as two former friends, really—finally have it out, and Doom has to admit some very uncomfortable truths about himself to Reed. These elements are what really makes this comic shine. I won’t spoil what is exchanged between the two characters, as I feel this is the best part of the issue; one can even say it’s a verbal and physical throwdown that’s been 55 years in the making. And if we never saw Mr. Fantastic and Dr. Doom again in the pages of a Marvel comic (which I know has as a snowball’s chance in hell of happening) it would be a perfect ending for both characters. In fact, a lot of this series feels like an extended farewell to the concept of the Fantastic Four itself… at least for now.
Since I mentioned epic battle scenes briefly, this is where I need to say that artist Esad Ribic has drawn the hell out of this series, and every page is a thing of beauty to behold. The final issue is no different. Unlike some recent Marvel event series of the past, this will prove to be worth revisiting, even if only for the amazing artwork.
In the end, the final issue of the series was maybe the best one. Instead of serving as the latest “event” that fans felt obligated to buy, the issue ultimately makes this entire series worth reading as a story. The overall quality of some stories are inevitably determined by their endings, and as a Dr. Doom/ Mr. Fantastic story, this is maybe the best one ever written. And yet, judging it as a Marvel event, there are times where I admit it left me wanting. This is why the final issue is getting two separate ratings. But regardless of which rating you go by, in the end, Secret Wars was a ride ultimately worth going on.
As a Marvel Crossover Event:
RATING: 3.5 OUT OF 5 BURRITOS
As a Dr. Doom/Mister Fantastic Story
RATING: 5 OUT OF 5 BURRITOS
IMAGES: Marvel Comics