Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Secret Wars #1

There are certain jobs I would inherently suck at. Guidance counselor, accountant, and priest are near the top of that list. But also in that list is hype man. I’m basically the last person that Kanye West would ever hire to be a hype man. My idea of hyping up an event would be, “Get drunk and enjoy, motherfuckers.” I’d be killed by flying beer bottles within seconds. With that in mind, I don’t think I need to hype Secret Wars more than it already has. Marvel has just barely stopped short of hiring the Rolling Stones to do a promotional video for this thing.

But unlike some of their other recent events like AXIS or Original Sin, which deserve disclaimers rather than hype, this one actually warrants that kind of old school MTV-style, crack-fueled excitement. Marvel is billing this shit as the end of the 616 universe as we know it and the long-overdue euthanizing of the Ultimate universe. These two worlds are set to collide in a way that would make Stephen Hawking himself stand up and take notice. Characters from multiple universes are going to clash. Worlds of every kind are going to be destroyed. It’s like the bastard child of Joss Whedon and Michael Bay was given an unlimited budget and an endless supply of crystal meth.

On a scale this big, not even the most potent LSD from the best pharmacy and Bangkok can help us wrap our minds around it. At least, that’s supposed to be the premise and it’s supposed to begin in Secret Wars #1. That’s exactly why I’m not going to try and hype this shit up more than it needs to be. My job is to just get drunk and let people know if it’s awesome and I’m only halfway finished in that respect.

There’s already some serious foreboding, hinting I might need to be more drunk for this than I thought. Dr. Doom, Dr. Strange, and Molecule Man visit a dark realm that looks like the kind of place cancelled sitcoms end up. There’s nothing but a broken band of flashing light, kind of like the broken lava lamps that hippies like to look at when stoned. But this light has a voice that must sound like James Earl Jones sounds when he’s high. And it claims to contain all of reality within its whim. So naturally, Dr. Doom wants to rub elbows with it. Since he knows the incursions are about to fuck his entire universe over in the most literal possible way, it can’t hurt to have powerful allies. I guess in that sense, it makes Dr. Doom the smartest guy in Secret Wars thus far. How sad is that?

In the rotting pile of whale shit that is the Ultimate Universe, Reed Richards is informing Nick Fury at SHIELD of what he and 616 Dr. Doom already know. They’re all fucked. Two universes are colliding. The only way to save their world is to fuck the other one over first, as though there’s anything in Ultimate worth saving that isn’t named Miles Morales. And since Reed in Ultimate is basically the ultimate douche-bag, it’s safe to assume that he says this in the simplest, crudest way possible.

It gets the message across. Ultimate Nick Fury, the one responsible for replacing David Hasselhoff with Samuel L. Jackson, is about as fond of Reed Richards as I am of traffic cops. But he knows Ultimate Reed has more brains in his pinkie toe than half the population, not counting Florida and Texas. So he decides he’s going to wage a war on 616, even though pretty much every major character in Ultimate is either dead or been replaced by a shitty rip-off character. He might as well be Michael Moore trying to run for governor in Texas.

Ultimate Reed understands this. He knows Nick Fury will flap around like a dying fish, just like the rest of the Ultimate universe. That gives him and his new buddies with the Cabal, which includes Thanos, time to fuck both worlds over in the best possible way. Plus, it’s sure to be a hell of a show. It can’t be any worse the last Transformer movie.

The attack begins. With the incursion immanent, Ultimate launches its full scale attack on the other Marvel universe that isn’t a bloated corpse of a universe. It’s not a fair fight, but fuck if it isn’t epic. The heroes of 616 rally to take on a universe that has shit on itself so much that only a point blank shot from the Ultimate Nullifier could fix it. They have more manpower since Ultimate pissed away theirs. They have more incentive since Ultimate can only throw big fucking machines at it. And since Ultron already established how that shit doesn’t work, they might as well be pissing into the wind. That doesn’t make the setup any less epic. There’s no need for alarms. There’s no need for a rallying cry. For something this big, the scene speaks for itself.

Shit starts blowing up. People start shitting themselves. It’s basically a typical Avengers-style disaster that involves pissing off New Yorkers more than they already are, which I guess isn’t saying much. Most of the heroes are fighting. Some, like the Fantastic Four, are preparing for the distinct possibility that this is one asshole too many that they’ve torn in their universe. So rather than take their anger out on Ultimate, they start building a cosmic life boat in case their plan fails. It’s smart, but it’s also a bad sign. If the smartest guy in the Marvel universe thinks they’re fucked, then even Las Vegas style odds would be generous.

That’s not to say they still don’t have a more meaningful plan. It just not a very optimistic plan, especially when it relies on Manifold as a battery and resurrection as a tactic. It might work for Jesus, but not so much for everyone else. Dire or not, the battle that unfolds is still pretty fucking epic. Captain Marvel and War Machine lead the charge against Ultimate Iron Man, who I’m convinced is already drunk off his ass. Other heroes try to help the civilians, something DC fans love to bitch about whenever they talk about the Man of Steel movie. It’s basic, but it works. On this scale, there’s not much room for anything else.

That’s not to say there can’t be a few interesting twists in an epic, universe-spanning brawl. For reasons that aren’t wholly explained, the Guardians of the Galaxy decide to show up. I guess Marvel wants to remind everybody of the movie that didn’t lead its director to close his Twitter account. Their arrival is a bit random, but it adds some firepower. However, it’s Cyclops who adds the most firepower.

He arrives on the scene with a couple of Sentinels at his disposal. That’s like arriving at a club in a stretch limo with bikini models. This is a point where those who haven’t been following Jonathan Hickman’s work in Avengers (for which there are no excuses), this will be confusing to those who just saw Cyclops mothball the New Xavier School in Uncanny X-men. Well apparently, he got his shit together and decided Sentinels could be put to better use than just as target practice. And now he’s putting them to use in an epic battle against an invading alternate Earth. I’m sure if Emma Frost and Jean Grey were present, their panties would be soaked.

The tide against the Ultimate attack force quickly turns in the least surprising outcome that didn’t involve the Cleveland Browns choking. It’s not just Sentinels that stand in their way. The Hulks and a couple of X-men get in on the act as well. It’s like throwing napalm and TNT at a dog house built by Homer Simpson. They don’t just go for the attack for carriers. They go right for the source in the Triskelion. And since Ultimate has fucked over its Hulks and its X-men, they’ve got not fucking chance. If this were a movie and Samuel L. Jackson were in it, he’d have said motherfucker no fewer than 100 times right now. And to make it even more pathetic, all the other Ultimate heroes do is sit around and look deadpanned. That should prove beyond any lingering doubt that Ultimate was fucked before the incursion.

While Nick Fury and SHIELD fail more miserably than Ozzy Osborne’s last drug test, Ultimate Reed Richards decides to finally contribute and hopefully make Fury’s balls collapse out of sheer humiliation. From his fancy dome world that was built right in the middle of Ultimate Manhattan, which I’m convinced was financed by Donald Trump, he launches his own attack against 616. His ships are a little fancier, but only to the extent that they look like dildos that Ultron would’ve made in his spare time. It has the same ominous feeling as before, but it gives the impression that this will be a much more balanced fight. Ultimate Nick Fury might have his heart in the right place, but he’s trying to save a world where all its greatest superhero teams are utterly fucked. I’m sure Ultimate Reed had to stop himself from laughing hysterically at the idea that Fury thought he could win.

The attack that follows is the second wave of the epic battle. And this wave does a lot more damage to 616. It finally adds a little balance to the fight, something that makes it feel even more epic. Heroes of every kind, from Inhumans to Avengers to X-men, participate in the struggle. It creates the kind of spectacle that I don’t usually get without firecrackers in LSD. Again, there are no gritty details in the mix, but this is one instance where that shit really doesn’t work on this scale. These are two worlds fighting. Like taking a shit, there’s a time and a place for those details to be explored. This ain’t one of those times.

With the tide turning against 616, the Fantastic Four to step up their efforts. They know time is running out and they’re fucking the entire universe even more with every second they waste. Then they lose their resurrection team and that leaves them even more fucked. Now they’ve got to scramble for survivors that may or may not be able to help them save this world after the incursions are done fucking it. And that’s just not the kind of shit you can find with a well-worded Craigslist ad.

That doesn’t keep some heroes from giving the finger to oblivion. One of those heroes happens to be Cyclops, whose plan involved more than just throwing giant robots at the problem. Ultron should take notice here. It turns out he brought a trump card with him in the form of the Phoenix Egg. Now the last time Cyclops interacted with the Phoenix Force, Charles Xavier got killed and the Avengers got uncomfortable with all the peace and love he was spreading. This time, they’re not in as much position to give him shit.

Once he taps into the Phoenix Force, he begins transporting some of the heroes back to Reed Richards and the Fantastic Four. They’ll probably still find a way to give him shit about it and throw him in prison, but he’ll still find a way to be awesome. If Wolverine were alive, he’d probably still hate his guts. But even he would respect this. Only Iceman would dare to give him shit at this point.

With Cyclops guiding the others to the cosmic life raft with the Fantastic Four, they take off. The battle on both sides is turning to shit. It’s also turning out to be a big fucking waste. It turns out fighting each other didn’t really slow down the incursion, which Ultimate Reed Richards admitted he knew. It still made for a fun spectacle that had the heroes of both worlds fighting one last battle. They could’ve just spent their time gangbanging porn stars at the Playboy mansion before the incursion destroyed them all, but they chose to fight and that fight allowed some of them to survive. On paper, it might be a failure. But it wasn’t a complete waste of time, something Michael Bay would be wise to heed.

Once everybody is on board, Reed Richards takes off within the life raft. The world outside is finally cracking under the strain of one too many incursions. It makes for a bumpy ride that is probably almost as bad as riding a roller coaster at Six Flags while drunk. Their goal at this point isn’t to win the battle or to give Ultimate Marvel the finger. Their goal is to survive and find a way to undo this multiverse-level clusterfuck. At first, they succeed. It’s somber, bittersweet, and sad. But they still succeed. They’ve earned the right to catch their breath, right?

Fuck no. The battle has been epic. The destruction is fucking universal. There are bound to be some casualties and that’s where the epic battle gets an epic injection of drama. As the ship ascends, a part of it breaks off and Sue Richards is left behind along with her children and Thing. She tries to hold on. She tries to save them. But she fails. That’s right. Sue Richards, Thing, and her children fail and are killed by the incursion.

Now if the epic battle between two worlds didn’t have enough of an impact, this sure as hell should. If it doesn’t, go back to whatever demon you sold your soul to and buy it back because this is an impact worth feeling. Even though Marvel may be giving the finger to X-men and Fantastic Four over the movie rights, the emotional weight of this moment isn’t any less sincere. It’s a powerful, potent moment that provides a personal touch in terms of loss. It strikes all the right chords and gives all the right context. You’ll have tears in your eyes and a boner in your pants. Sure, it’s awkward in a public place, but it’s worth it.

This loss is the final loss as the incursion is complete. The Ultimate world is destroyed. The 616 world is destroyed. This time, the Avengers failed. Every hero in the Marvel universe failed. Sure, it sounds grim. But at the same time, it sets the stage for Battleworld. There’s even a nice inner monologue from a character who offers a little insight into this destruction. That figure could be the Beyonder or it could be one of Dr. Doom’s tricks from earlier. But it’s a clear sign that this shit isn’t the end. It’s just the exceedingly epic and destructive beginning.

This issue left me with the biggest “Fuck me!” feeling I’ve had since my first visit to a Tijuana brothel on Spring Break. And I say that with a smile on my face that I don’t usually get unless blowjobs and weed are involved. This issue the kind of disaster porn that usually gives Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich a boner. Two worlds are fighting each other and at no point is the scale of the battle glossed over or rushed. There’s no time or space to build subtlety. This is one instance where subtlety has to fuck off. This is a story about two universes colliding. It could’ve fizzled like a firecracker. Instead, it turned into a 4th of July celebration on LSD. I don’t know if there’s a template for universes colliding, but Secret Wars #1 should be the new gold standard.

If this had been the final issue of the series, it would’ve been a pretty boring and bleak ending. But that’s not the case. This is just the beginning. We already know the destruction of 616 and Ultimate leads to the creation of Battleworld. We now we’re going to see all sorts of AU version of beloved Marvel characters kicking the shit out of each other. If any word of what I just wrote doesn’t make you horny on some levels, then you need to you need to see a doctor and get a brain scan right now. Nothing short of a malignant brain tumor could make this setup more awesome.

That’s not to say it didn’t have its faults. If there’s any flaw in a spectacle like this, it’s that some readers will be a bit lost. Anyone who hasn’t been following the events of Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers (the shame of a billion rectal warts if you haven’t) is going to be a bit lost. How else would they know how Cyclops got his hands on a fucking Phoenix egg? But again, those sorts of subtleties have to be secondary on a battle of this scale. This isn’t a story about how Cyclops hijacked Sentinels. It’s about two Marvel universe’s colliding and Secret Wars #1 does damn near everything it can to make it as awesome as humanly possible. I give it a 9 out of 10. So both worlds are now destroyed and an orgy of AUs will remain to make up Battleworld. Damn, I’m going to need a lot of weed and a lot more lube to get through this one, but I’m up for it. Nuff said!


  1. Decent overview, Jack, but there's several details you got wrong here. I don't know if that's due to not following Hickman's story each month like I have or all the drinking, but not reading "Avengers" and "New Avengers" probably has a lot of people struggling to piece this together.

    -Doom didn't go to the Beyonders to be allies with them. He went there to destroy them (see "New Avengers" #33). They're the reason all of this has happened

    -The Guardians of the Galaxy have been on Earth since "Avengers" #42. They had come to warn the Avengers about the most recent invasion they faced. The major alien races of the 616 (Kree, Brood, Shi'ar, Skrulls and even the Negative Zone's Annihiliation Wave) had come to destroy Earth, hoping to prevent any further Incursions. Their armada was wiped out in "Avengers" #44. Gladiator and the Imperial Guard; Annihilus; apparently Ronan -- all dead

    -Cyclops isn't teleporting folks to the life raft. It's Manifold doing that. That was his whole purpose in the escape plan

    Also, that was Reed monologuing at the end. That's why you have reference to "that one perfect someone," finding "her" (Sue), having children (Franklin and Valeria) with her, and then "losing everything." He thinks they're dead.

    Which I'm not convinced they are, honestly. Franklin has been too important to the story Hickman has been telling over the years. I'm betting either his powers saved them or Cyclops was in that section of the raft and he did.

    All th other deaths definitely surprised me (as will Sue, Ben, Johnny, Franklin and Val if they stick). I did not expect Black Widow, Spider-Woman, Amadeus Cho, Beast, Black Bolt, Groot or Rocket to die. Hell, four of them have current hit movies or an upcoming movie!

    I guess Ultimate Nick Fury and Ultimate Hawkeye were less surprising, but I still found them unexpected.

    This was an amazing first issue. I hate that we have to wait months for the rest. At least issue #2 will be here next Wednesday.

    How about that awesome art, by the way?

  2. wtf was that cyclops with the phoenix force

    1. Yep! Check out Jonathan Hickman's work in Avengers for an explanation on how that happened...a partial explanation anyways.


  3. The end of the 616 universe is the perfect jump off point ! Bye Marvel !

  4. i hope young jean surived and was in the life raft

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