Secret Wars #1 Review


Secret Wars #1 (of 8)
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Esad Ribic
Colored by Ive Svorcina
Published by Marvel Comics

The final incursion has begun…

After almost a year of build-up and hype, over 80 issues of Avengers and New Avengers and the promise of a new beginning for the Marvel Universe, the first issue of Secret Wars has finally arrived on comic store shelves.

Considering how lackluster the last few Marvel events have been and the sheer amount of hype that has come with this miniseries, I went into Secret Wars #1 with a fair amount of skepticism and wariness. I was fully prepared to be underwhelmed in the same way I was by the first issue of Justice League when DC Comics launched the New 52. Almost no book could live up to the expectations that fans had for this title no matter how good Jonathan Hickman’s run on Avengers had been.

Secret Wars isn’t your typical book, though.

Beginning mere moments after the end of Avengers #44 and New Avengers #33, Secret Wars #1 shows that even with the final incursion underway, the heroes of both the Ultimate and Marvel Universes are not going to go down without a fight. What follows is a battle royale that could turn out to mean nothing as time continues to run out and the end of everything inches ever closer.

Using the word “epic” doesn’t begin to come close to describing the story in Secret Wars #1. Hickman stops holding back and unleashes what could be his defining Marvel work, and luckily, we all get to go along for the ride. Secret Wars #1 is comic storytelling at it’s finest, with a sense of urgency and suspense you don’t get to see that often in modern comic books. Not since Crisis on Infinite Earths have I read something that actually made me check outside to make sure the word wasn’t really ending. The tension and drama are almost palpable as Reed Richards and the Black Panther put their final gambit to save humanity in action while Ultimate Nick Fury and the Ultimates invade.

Amid all this raging large scale chaos that includes exploding helicarriers, Sentinels and the Phoenix, Hickman finds time to give the reader smaller moments that provide some levity. Watching as the Kingpin gathers some of the most villainous characters in the Marvel Universe for one last party to have none other than the Punisher show up is just magnificent.

Esad Ribic, who also worked with Hickman on Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates, does some spectacular work showing us the end of all that is. The final battle is just off the charts in terms of scale and grandeur while still making space for each character to shine. His line work is flawless, the storytelling clear and simple. The colors of Ive Svorcina only enhance the beauty of Ribic’s art, helping to make this one of the best looking comics Marvel has published in the last few years.

My only caveat about Secret Wars #1 is that it’s not what you would call a “new reader friendly” title. If you haven’t been reading at least the “Time Runs Out” arc in both Avengers titles, I really don’t know how you are supposed to follow this book. Incursions, the Cabal, Beyonders … none of it will make any sense. There is no “previously” page, and the cast page includes over 50 characters, so if this is your first foray into Hickman’s magnum opus, you have a lot of catching up to do. My recommendation is to read the issue, go out and get the “Time Runs Out’ trades, and then read Secret Wars #1 again. You’ll appreciate the story a lot more if you can understand the context of the events and what led up to them.

The Bottom Line: If Secret Wars #1 is any indication of the story to come, this could be the best, most engrossing Marvel event since Civil War. Hickman is writing some of the best material of his Marvel career, and Ribic seems to be firing on all cylinders, doing some really stunning art. If you can get past the steep learning curve, this could be a Marvel event for the ages.

The final incursion has begun.

Now we all get to see what happens next.

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