Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Secret Wars #5

Every have one of those days where everything seems to be going great, but then it all starts turning to shit in a nanosecond? For me, most of those fateful nanoseconds involve running out of weed or having too much tequila. For Dr. Doom, he has a lot more to lose than his dignity or his liver function. Over the course of Secret Wars, he's established in a pretty convincing way that he's the god of Battleworld. He's basically to the Marvel universe what Rhonda Rousey is to MMA. He can't be beat. But unlike Rhonda Rousey, Dr. Doom's efforts to make himself a god have finally encountered a complications. And for once, it has nothing to do with the Scarlet Witch going batshit.

The secret portion of Secret Wars is out. Dr. Doom finally has a shit stain on that divine underwear of his. Some of the survivors of the Ultimate and 616 universe have returned and while they may not have Doom's godly power, they have Reed Richards. And if the history of the Marvel universe has shown us anything, it's that Dr. Doom starts to trip over his own ass the moment Reed Richards enters a conflict. It marks an important turning point for the events of Secret Wars. And Secret Wars #5 marks the beginning of the end of Dr. Doom's exceedingly unholy reign. He managed to create a world where the Age of Apocalypse and the X-men from the 1990s cartoon series can share the same world. But can he create a world where Reed Richards can't outsmart him? While I've been known to make shitty bets, as every blackjack dealer in Las Vegas can attest, even I'm not putting money on that shit.

That said, I'm more than willing to bet that Dr. Doom will twist and spin the situation to make himself more powerful. Moreover, he'll do it in ways that Fox News can only jerk off to. One of the most powerful moments in the last issue that didn't involve Reed Richards wanting to lobotomize himself was Dr. Doom killing his most trusted advisory, Dr. Strange. And wouldn't you know it? He turns it into spectacle on par with Ronald Reagan's funeral where the Thors and the Richards family (which Doom made his own) mourn his death.

There's no need to bet money on what the message is here. This is Doom being his usual manipulative self, giving his adherents the impression that some blaspheming assholes killed Dr. Strange. Every ayatollah and pope would agree that's a pretty good use PR. Having godly power sure helps. It beats the shit out of praying or paying lawyers. It also brings out some heavy emotions in the Richards family, who saw Stephen Strange as a non-creepy uncle. Now, they think someone other than Doom killed him. Even with godly power, Doom works smarter and not harder. How many gods not obsessed with impregnating mortal women can say that?

The ceremony for Dr. Strange ends and everyone prays to Doom for his soul in the most dramatically ironic way possible. Then, there's another more private moment between Dr. Doom and Valeria. Even though Doom is the one that gave Stephen Strange the Tupac treatment, Valeria believes she's responsible. She's the one that picked up on the presence of the 616/Ultimate survivors. She's the one that put Strange in the crossfire. It's a sad moment for her. But for the rest of us, the dramatic irony couldn't be more fitting without Morgan Freeman narrating it.

But what makes this moment more powerful is how it effectively puts Valeria on a course that will put her at odds with Dr. Doom. And keep in mind, she thinks he's her father in this world. She has no fucking clue that this is a guy who, in another life and another world, would eat a live puppy just to spite Reed Richards and his family. Yet Dr. Doom doesn't stop her from wanting to find these relics of this old world. He has to know on some levels that this is going to bite him in the holy ass, but he lets her do it. I don't know if it's arrogance or if even gods can't resist cute little blond girls, but I almost get the sense he's bored being a god and needs to do something to fuck things up if only for a while. I'm starting to reconsider that bet I mentioned on Doom's divine competence.

There are a lot of conflicts that can emerge from this and they're the kind that even divine power can't just brush off. This isn't another scandal in the Vatican. This is something that could completely fuck up the world as Doom has created it. I think I can speak for many Marvel fans when I say my penis is getting hard just contemplating those conflicts.

Unfortunately, neither fans nor my penis get what they want. Instead of exploring these conflicts, we get more of Dr. Doom's unholy brooding. Instead of finding out what happened to the survivors of 616 and Ultimate or the fate of Phoenix Cyclops, we see Doom paying a visit to an old friend that we stopped giving a shit about several issues ago. I apologize to Molecule Man fans in advance (all four of them), but who the fuck wants to catch up with this guy instead of seeing Reed formulate a plan to kick Doom's unholy ass?

While there are other plot lines I'd much rather read about, this isn't just the typical filler you usually find in a McDonald's quarter pounder. There is a point to this encounter and it's not just to show that Molecule Man is still an asshole, even when in the presence of a god-powered Dr. Doom.

In a nicely detailed and very revealing conversation, we learn a bit more about what happened in the moments leading up to the final incursion and Doom's ultimate ascension into godhood. It's one of those plot holes that you're too drunk to care about, but not drunk enough to forget about. Most are okay just to shrug it off. I admit, I wouldn't mind if those sorts of details were left up to my fucked up imagination. That way I could just assume Peter Parker made another shitty deal with Mephisto. However, Jonathan Hickman does take the time to explain the situation and for his willingness to accommodate a curious drunk, I thank him.

It turns out that Molecule Man wasn't just an overpowered asshole with a goofy name. He was actually the universal equivalent of an H-bomb. The Beyonders must have seen one too many Michael Bay movies and figured that if they're going to start blowing up universes, they're going to use bombs. And if they can make this bomb in the form of an asshole like Molecule Man, then that's a nice bonus. It's a much better bonus than we got from the last Transformers movie.

It's a crude, but effective plan that I'm sure the Beyonders thought would be good for a few laughs on a Saturday afternoon. However, the Molecule Man of 616 wasn't a big fan of being the harbinger of death for an entire multiverse so he decided to get help from Dr. Doom. Granted, that's like going to tobacco companies for help on researching lung cancer, but unlike Big Tobacco, Dr. Doom is actually competent and he's never been subpenaed by Congress. In that sense, he was the perfect ally.

With help from Molecule Man and his universe-destroying talents, Dr. Doom gets the firepower he needs to usurp the Beyonders. It's a perfectly fitting explanation for how someone who dedicates 95 percent of his time to bitching about Reed Richards was able to seize their power and create Battleworld. It still wasn't enough to save the world, but why save a world when you have the godly power to create your own? It's another sign that Doom knows how to work smarter and not harder, even with godly power.

Even though I would much rather learn more about the 616/Ultimate survivors, this brief interlude into how we got to this fucked up state of affairs is pretty satisfying. It adds a level of refinement to the overall story that most of us are too lazy and/or drunk to pursue. Beyond the refinement, Molecule Man sees what the even the non-sober readers have already seen. Dr. Doom's divine reign has gained a new complication and for once, his divine power isn't enough to just brush it aside.

If Molecule Man was in the same betting pool as me, he'd probably put his money on Doom fucking everything up at one point. And as bad as I am at gambling, I might actually do the same. I wouldn't bet the money I need for weed, but I would bet my next paycheck that he's fucked up more than he's ever going to admit.

We still don't get more insight into what happened to the 616/Ultimate survivors, but it's not like that plot has been completely dropped. I can't imagine anyone is drunk enough to forget that shit. But the foundation is laid for Dr. Doom's unholy fuck-up. With the blessings of her god/father, Valeria has assembled a science team of Battleworld's greatest minds. Their mission now is to hunt down the survivors and find out why they're making the god of Battleworld so anxious. It can't just be because of homosexuality, evolution, and internet porn this time. And since she's the smartest blonde in the universe not named Natalie Portman, she's going to find out and she'll likely pitch a cosmic hissy fit when she learns the truth. Fuck gambling. I'm just going to invest in beer and popcorn for this.

Valeria leads a conversation with her science team that drags somewhat, but only to the extent that it shows how they're going to do this. It's not like they can just place a craigslist ad in Battleworld. There's some technobabble talk about the energy Dr. Doom radiates when he imposes his godly will and the energy generated by the survivors of 616 and Ultimate. For those who went to physics class stoned, all you need to know is that the survivors have a unique signature. That signature is just the target on their asses that they'll have to aim at. It sounds so simple. Even inbred rednecks with too many guns and not enough teeth can understand it.

It's only at this point that we finally get a glimpse of some of the survivors. Granted, it's only a glimpse. Dr. Strange scattered them throughout Battleworld before Doom killed his ass, but he didn't exactly send them to parts of Battleworld where armies of naked She-Hulks and Emma Frosts roam the lands. Some, like Captain Marvel, already get themselves into some fucked up situations. Others, like Namor, are in a better position to annoy the shit out of Doom. It's still not as detailed or as epic as we would like, but it's a nice little teaser trailer of sorts. Despite my recent disappointment with trailers for the Fantastic Four movie, I'm going to take a chance and let myself get excited.

But the biggest takeaway from these teasers is that Valeria isn't just determined to find them. She's curious about who they are and what they're after. I imagine she's going to be somewhat disturbed that they want to give a blasphemous middle finger to Dr. Doom's godly power. But like many cute blondes who get more opportunities than most to fuck up, she's going to be curious. Again, she has no fucking clue that Dr. Doom warped reality to his own fucked up will. And with a very pissed off Reed Richards running around, I'm already looking forward to that hissy fit she's bound to throw.

This is a somewhat difficult issue to rate, even with the aid of good weed. Now the overly sober crowd who reads and over-reads comics might see this issue differently. But in the same way I don't agree with Mormons on their views about alcohol, I don't agree with any view that labels this issue as filler. This issue did actually take the time to fill in some lingering plot holes that have been around since the story began. More than anything else, this issue exposed the agenda of the Beyonders and how Dr. Doom subverted them. Since he's a fucking god now, that's a pretty important detail to highlight.

Beyond that though, this issue didn't do much more. I won't say it took a step back or anything, but at times it did feel out of place. This would've made a better prelude or tie-in than it would a mid-point. That said, it did lay the foundation for the conflict that's going to undermine Dr. Doom's reign as a god. Now, thanks to the 616 and Ultimate survivors, he's about to find out how the Vatican feels. His power and authority are about to be undermined. He's already lost Dr. Strange. Now he's about to lose Valeria. The hints here are pretty fucking unambiguous and so are the implications. In that sense, this issue does plenty to expand on the awesome that Secret Wars has established thus far. So I give Secret Wars #5 a 7 out of 10. But with only three issues left to take on a god-powered Dr. Doom, they're going to have to pick up the fucking pace. Because if Marvel fucks this story up, they can't blame it on Fox this time. And after the shit storm caused by the latest Fantastic Four movie, I imagine that everyone at Marvel is eager to give Fox the biggest middle finger possible. Nuff said!


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