Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Secret Wars #2

We all know the world is going to end at some point. It might be later today. It might be tomorrow. It might be a million years from now. It might be after Kim Jong Un sees the next Seth Rogan movie. We don't know. All I know is that I'm going to make sure I have a fuckton of beer and weed for that day. I'll also make sure I have a fuckton of debt and obligations because if the world ends, I fucking win. Well if I was living in the Marvel universe, both me and my credit would be fucked because that universe is gone.

And I don't mean that in the sense that Marvel was stupid enough to give Chuck Austin another series. I mean the Marvel universe literally ended in Secret Wars #1. The last incursion between 616 Marvel and Ultimate Marvel occurred. There was an epic fucking battle, followed by some epic fucking drama that involved Reed Richards watching his wife and family die. Overall, it was pretty fucking epic. But the destruction of the Marvel universe and Ultimate universe isn't the end. It's the beginning of what promises to be more epic shit storms through a special little place called Battleworld. It's not just a mud-wrestling pit in Rio now. It's the new stage in which Marvel's world will operate and that world begins in Secret Wars #2. I'm not sure how much more epic it can be at this point, but I've got my beer and an extra credit card application just in case.

It's probably a good thing my credit is fucked though because our first insight into this new world is a bit confusing. We get a glimpse into what looks to be a Thor convention. Some random guy who looks like he was plucked from the streets of Oslo is given a chance to lift Mjolnir. Since there's no Nick Fury to whisper mysterious teases of unworthiness, he lifts it and now all of the sudden he's part of a Thor corps. This sounds like a weird concept at first, but keep in mind that there's a Green Lantern Corps, a Phoenix Corps, and a Nova Corps. In that context, a Thor Corps should be about as ground-breaking as an American Idol rip-off.

It's still a confusing scene. When the fuck did a Thor Corps have time to form? Didn't the world just end in the previous issue? What the fuck happened here? If you're confused, don't put away the bong. You didn't misplace this issue for something else. If you did, it would probably be an old porno anyways. This is part of the story, even if it is jarring. But it's not as random as it sounds. 

Once this new Thor has his hammer, he gets a brief history lesson into the Thor Crops and the world they serve. It turns out that they aren't an army for Asgard or a fantasy for female Chris Hemsworth fans. They're actually the de-facto police force for Dr. Doom in his new kingdom, Doomgard. It's as pants-shittingly terrifying as it sounds.

It also provides some context as to what happened after the final incursion. The All-Father who leads the Thor Corps gives the new recruit a quick refresher in the history of this post-apocalyptic realm. First, he acknowledges that the universe was fucked. Then Dr. Doom, who met up with the Beyonders in Secret Wars #1, tapped into a little divine mojo to create a new world. It's only slightly less absurd than the story creationists want taught in public schools. But it establishes that Dr. Doom created this world and everything in it. For a guy who's idea of a loving god is more fucked up than Pat Robertson's, it's pretty terrifying.

At the same time, it provides a fairly concise explanation of what the incursion as wrought. Dr. Doom knew he couldn't stop it so he did the next best thing. He became his own god and created a new world for himself. The man is working smarter and not harder. Put him in an Apple store and he'd be running the place by the end of the week.

An entire world run by a Dr. Doom armed with god-like powers sounds like the kind of place that would be pretty ordered. I doubt he would let so much as a late pizza delivery in this world. However, there's still room for someone or something to fuck up his divine wet dream. In a part of his world known as Utopolis, which sounds like a Disney theme park, a couple of random nobodies are searching a barren wasteland for the source of an unexpected disturbance. Since unexpected disturbances are probably very rare in a world run by Dr. Doom, it's worth checking out.

They end up finding one of the cosmic life boats that managed to escape the final incursion. It's the first hint that something else besides Dr. Doom survived this cosmic clusterfuck. It was the driving force behind the epic struggle in the first issue. It makes sense to use that same driving force in this one. But like the post office and the drug war, doing shit that makes sense is just too practical.

Instead, we get more insight into the Thor Corps and the kingdoms that Dr. Doom rules. It's not entirely what we asked for, but it's more like getting a light beer instead of a regular beer. It's not what we asked for, but it delivers the same effect.

It's not just a glorified tour either. The Thor Corps has a mission to administer some of Dr. Doom's divine justice. As it just so happens, there's a conflict between Avalon, a kingdom ruled by a version of James Braddock, and Bar Sinister, a kingdom ruled by, surprise surprise, Mr. Sinister. It sounds like the kind of conflict that would make for a great season of Game of Thrones, but it's not as exciting as it sounds. There's no Peter Dinklidge, incest, or dragons. It's basically a glorified court summons.

There's no epic clash or defiance. Sinister and Braddock just appear before a god-powered Dr. Doom as though it were an episode of Judge Judy. There's not even a horribly fucked up crime to discuss. Sinister is just charged with causing general discord among Braddock's kingdom. That's like the royal equivalent of public drunkenness. It's barely as compelling as a rerun of the West Wing.

That said, it does offer some insight. It shows how Dr. Doom resolves disputes in his kingdom. It also shows that he's enlisted some familiar faces to help him administer his rule. Gods do tend to have angels and prophets. Why should Dr. Doom be any different? He has the likes of Stephen Strange, Sue Richards, and Valerie Richards. In terms of angels and heavenly guards, he could do worse.

There's some general debate between Sinister and the Braddocks. None of it is all that interesting. Watching a movie like My Cousin Vinny will probably be more entertaining for those seeking courtroom drama here. It only gets interesting when Sinister decides to ditch the cross-examination and challenges Brian Braddock to a duel. I guess he's a Game of Thrones fan too because it's basically the same concept. It helps make the courtroom drama more interesting and it saves them the trouble of dealing with lawyers. If only Judge Judy could be this entertaining. And if only I could use this tactic when arguing a bullshit parking ticket. Maybe my insurance rates wouldn't suck.

The battle that follows isn't as visceral or bloody as Game of Thrones. Nobody shows their tits. Nobody gets an arm or a dick chopped off. It's still pretty brutal, offering more insight into the kind of world Dr. Doom has created. It's nicely organized, showing that both Brian and Sinister know how to kick ass. I'm sure they prefer this than hiring a lawyer. Eventually, Sinister wins and he's in a position to give Brian Braddock the ultimate haircut. However, Dr. Doom stops him. He's not the kind of god that's amused by watching men decapitate one another. He must not be a fan of the Old Testament. He still demands that they bow before him. So he's still into exploiting the hell out of his godly power. The Vladamir Putin's of the world would approve.

With these unholy court proceedings complete, Dr. Doom renders his judgment. Brian Braddock is guilty. Losing a battle against Sinister is akin to being cross-examined by Joe Pesci in this world. Now it's up to Dr. Doom to impart his heavenly wrath. Since he has god-like powers, Braddock can expect something way more painful than a slap on the wrist or a parking ticket. I have to think that if Judge Judy had this kind of power, we'd all be fucked.

However, he ends up not throwing Brian into a fiery pit or letting an army of baseball pitchers stone him to death. Instead, Sue convinces him to show mercy. That's something that usually isn't uttered in the same breath, Dr. Doom and mercy. It's like Rick Santorum and tolerance. It just doesn't fit. But Sue does appear to have that effect on him. It's an interesting insight into Dr. Doom in this world and one that shows he's not going to be the kind of heavenly asshole that the Rick Santorums of the world worship.

Having rendered his judgment, Dr. Doom has had his fill of courtroom drama. This allows for other insights to develop. This time it comes from Valerie Richards. She takes Dr. Strange aside and says she's been working with that team of nobodies that discovered the cosmic life boat. She seems to also be concerned about the unexpected disturbance that may or may not fuck up this cozy little haven that Dr. Doom has created. And since they seem to be enjoying the comforts of this world, watching the Sinisters and Braddocks of the world kill each other for their amusement, they're not inclined to let that happen. It shows that they're very much on board with Doom in this world, which can never end well. Like staring alongside Rob Schneider in a movie, it can only end poorly for the rest of the cast.

The narrative gets a little choppy here, but it stays on task. The Braddocks still have to be punished. It just doesn't involve being thrown into a pit of fire or being mauled by a three-headed dragon for all of eternity. Instead, he's just forced to jump over the big protective wall that divides Dr. Doom's perfectly ordered kingdom from others outside it. And apparently, the world outside these walls suck because nobody comes back alive. Even so, it's still a fairly human form of capital punishment. Instead of just a firing squad, the accused gets a chance to kick a little ass before they get killed. Not saying it's just or that it would work in any country besides North Korea or Texas. Just saying it's not completely deranged.

Then again, the other side of this wall happens to harbor a world run by symbiotes. So maybe I spoke too soon when I said he would have a chance to kick a little ass before he gets killed. Maybe it's still not quite as bad as being shoved up Satan's butthole for all eternity, but it's still a hell in its own right.

But what the fuck is with the deal with these walls and separate domains anyways? Why the fuck would Dr. Doom create them? Well ignoring for a moment that Dr. Doom doesn't need a reason when he's this obscenely overpowered, it offers some insight into the makeup of Battleworld. Beyond these walls are world that have some familiar undertones to other Marvel clusterfucks. This includes worlds run by zombies, Ultron, and Annihilus. It doesn't provide the full scope and scale of this hodgepodge of worlds, but it does provide some clues as to what Battleworld is like. I guess Dr. Doom decided it was easier to cut and paste than just start from scratch. Even with godly powers, it's possible to be lazy.

Nobody else seems to find this world that fucked up so the Thor Corps and the rest of Dr. Doom's divine cronies work diligently to protect it. That includes investigating the anomaly that was discovered earlier. At this point, those who have taken a few extra bong hits might have forgotten about those cosmic life boats containing what's left of Ultimate and 616. For those who have forgotten, give me a call. I'd like to get in touch with your weed dealer. For everyone else, it finally helps connect this world with the ones that were destroyed. It took a while, but it wasn't forgotten. In an era where movies don't bother to fact check history or the laws of physics, that counts for something here.

But as soon as they open the cosmic life boat, they immediately start praying to Doom that they hadn't. They just happened to come across the one occupied by Thanos and Ultimate Reed Richards. That's like carjacking a pissed off Chuck Norris. It's not going to end well for any of them. This establishes that there were survivors from this incursion and those survivors are probably not going to be content to live in a world where Dr. Doom is a god. So they're going to channel their inner blasphemy and end his shit, hopefully creating a world that's worth living in. Then again, if Thanos and Ultimate Reed are the ones creating that world, some might still prefer Dr. Doom.

So now we know the kind of world that has emerged from the ashes of the final incursion. It took a while to get a full understanding of what this world is, how it functions, and how fucked up it is. But eventually, it got the point across. The first issue documented the destruction of two worlds. This issue documented the formation and functioning of a new world. That world is Battleworld and while not quite as epic, it provides circumstance and context to the nature of Secret Wars.

The scope and scale of this conflict is still mind-bending. Even without the aid of shrooms, it presents a pretty astonishing spectacle, although shrooms do help make it flashier. The narrative itself was a bit inconsistent and it didn't have the same dramatic weight as the first issue, but it still moved the story forward in an effective, coherent way. And when a story is both effective and coherent, it's much easier to read while drunk or stoned. That always earns extra points with me.

But for everyone else, it's critical in that it provides the necessary scope and scale of how Battleworld functions. Not every detail will be all that interesting. Some might get bored, preferring to see how an army of Thors would fare against an evil Reed Richards or a Phoenix-powered Cyclops. But it's not like we exchanged a freshly cooked steak for a scrap of pre-chewed tofu. This issue had plenty to offer and it offered something meaningful. It just did so in a way that felt jarring compared to the first issue. I give Secret Wars #2 a 7 out of 10. I still got to hand it to Dr. Doom. He's done the best he could with a fucked up situation. Any situation that reduces Galactus to a guard dog and has hot  blondes act as advisers is still pretty awesome. Both myself and Hugh Hefner approve. Nuff said!


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