2015 brought about another year and another “universe shattering” major crossover event for the Marvel universe, this time in the form of Secret Wars…a name that has already been used for a “universe shattering” event in the past.
The original Secret Wars mini-series was unique for its time. Every now and then superheroes would pop up in each other’s books like say, Captain America fighting alongside Daredevil, but never had Marvel decided to put their most popular superheroes and villains at the time in the same book and have them fight for the sake of the universe. Even though when it comes down to it, the original Secret Wars series was a ploy to sell toys for Mattel, it had a lot of significant effects on the Marvel Universe. The black symbiote suit that would later go on to become Venom was introduced, the Thing traveled around space for a while leaving She-Hulk to join the Fantastic Four in his place, the Beyonder and the Jessica Carpenter Spider-Woman as well as the supervillains Volcana and Titania were introduced for the first time, Doctor Doom was as badass as could be…stealing the Beyonder’s powers and using them to become even more badass and even good-old Colossus left Kitty Pryde for a magic space healer…just because.
With the 2015 version of Secret Wars, it wasn’t clear at first exactly what they were going to do. Would the Beyonder be involved once again, were there going to be more superhero vs supervillain or superhero vs superhero ultra-mega-super-duper battles of epic proportion again for the ten thousandth time? Them Marvel started releasing some info on upcoming titles that would be involved in Secret Wars 2015. X-Men ’92, Age of Apocalypse, X-Men: Inferno, X-Men: Years of Future Past, Planet Hulk, Marvel Zombies, Old Man Logan, House of M, Infinity Gauntlet, Armor Wars, Civil War…WTH? Are they just going to rehash old crossovers and mini-series? No one really had any clue as to what was going on or what exactly Secret Wars 2015 was going to focus on. Then finally issue #1 of Secret Wars launched as well as a slew of the promised titles from the past. And it was glorious!!!
Without getting into too much of the actual storyline for those of you who haven’t read it yet, the premise of this modern version of Secret Wars was that the main Marvel universe, aptly titled the 616 universe was colliding with the Ultimate Marvel universe or the 1610 universe (?), a world that was created in order for comic book creators to totally ignore all of the convoluted history of the 616 universe in order to put their own spin on the characters and to guarantee that every character in that universe is a god-awful pile of garbage. Mr. Sinister is a bodybuilding scientist with the word “sinister” tattooed on his arm who has visions of a “Lord Apocalypse” that tell him to kill mutants…sounds cool, bro!
Anywho, the worlds collide and a certain featured villain gains the power to save everything by combining all of the known realities/worlds/universes into one giant planet in which everyone worships him but are free to live in their own universe/continents.
Ok…I never said that the main story was any good. What made the Secret Wars series for me were the comic titles that focused on the various realms that were contained on the new planet dubbed Battleworld. Growing up I was always a fan of the What If…? and Elseworlds titles which were alternate reality tales based on particular storylines or events in their respected universes. Each of the Secret Wars secondary books all felt like really well done versions of What If…? comics.
So, what were my favorite and least favorite books of Secret Wars? There were quite a few series that I was really looking forward to such as Old Man Logan, X-Men: ’92, Infinity Gauntlet, Planet Hulk, Age of Apocalypse and Civil War. Some were better than expected while some were seriously disappointing. There were also a few titles that completely surprised me. Here’s a rundown of my favorites, titles that disappointed and those that were an unexpected good read.
Top 5 Favorites In No Particular Order
Old Man Logan-Being a big fan of the original Old Man Logan story arc, I was anxiously awaiting the first issue of this mini-series and it didn’t disappoint me one bit. I loved the darker style of the artwork and Brian Michael Bendis did a great job of recreating the dystopian world in which Logan resides in. It felt so different from any of the Secret Wars titles…so I’m not going to lie…this was easily my favorite.
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows-One of the biggest gripes about Spider-Man since the “One More Day” storyline that completely absolved Peter Parker and Mary Jane Parker’s entire relationship was just that exact point…he didn’t have Mary Jane in his life anymore. The Marvel higher-ups didn’t want to handcuff their uber-creative talent with something silly like a superhero having a family life and being married when he should be out there “swingin” with the ladies and being promiscuous and such. Renew Your Vows shows an alternate take where Spidey gives up on being a superhero to raise a family but with all of the heroes gone, has to drag Mary Jane and their superpowered daughter into a battle to save their world. And they do a great job of it. Together. As a family.
Weirdworld-I had no idea what to expect from this title at all. In fact, I didn’t even start collecting it until I looked through the second issue and I’m glad that I did. Not only was the book weird as stated in the title, but it had amazing artwork, some creative plot twists and an appearance of some of my favorite obscure 80s action figures that once had their own Marvel comic book.
Inferno-Other than Old Man Logan, this was definitely my favorite of the X titles. Inferno was always one of my favorite X-Men sagas and to see a world where the X-Men lost the initial battle against the demons of Limbo and who fought against the demons every year on the same day in order to rescue Colossus’ sister Illyana from the Goblin Queen, was unique and refreshing compared to the current sludge taking place in the X titles nowadays.
Secret Wars: Battleworld-This title was just pure fun in each and every issue. It didn’t focus on one particular universe or certain characters but instead gave free reign to the storytellers to do just about whatever they pleased. The first few pages had the Punisher that was possessed by Dr. Strange from the “What If Wolverine Was Lord of the Vampires” story running from the Infernal Four, which was pretty much just the New Fantastic Four from the 90s consisting of Wolverine, Hulk, Spider-Man and Ghost Rider…only possessed by the demons of Limbo. Then you had a story focusing on MODOKs of all timelines vs King Doom and another story with 70s Blade landing in New Quack City and teaming up with Howard the Duck to stop a bunch of vampire ducks. AWESOME! On a side note, the additional story of the Silver Surfer getting his board back from the Maestro was some of the best Surfer storytelling since the Waid/Garney era.
5 Secret Wars Titles That Disappointed
Planet Hulk-Who would have thought that a gladiator version of Captain America teaming up with Devil Dinosaur and roaming the world of Planet Hulk could be so boring? I’m always happy to see Devil Dinosaur making appearances in anything but this story boiled down to basically Cap really missing Bucky and trying to rescue him from somewhere with some Hulks in it. I expected more from this book but the pacing was off and Cap always seemed to have the exact same look on his face in every panel.
Age Of Apocalypse-Even though they tried to recapture the look of Joe Madureira’s run on the X-Men in the 90s, this book just didn’t do anything for me. The battles were anti-climactic and a lot of the story focused on characters that had no bearing on the original series. The artwork was really good though.
Infinity Gauntlet-I was expecting this book to focus on the events of the original Infinity Gauntlet mini-series with a world where Thanos had won or where some other hero/villain maintained control of the Infinity Gauntlet. Instead we were treated to a story about a family of destined-to-be Nova Corps recruits being chased by an odd version of Thanos. Although the story was an original one, it should have been titled “Nova Corps and their Nova Dog” instead of Infinity Gauntlet. Definitely not what I was hoping for.
Secret Wars 2099-While this book featured Peter David, who co-created Spider-Man 2099 and was working with artist Dave Rapoza on the recent surprisingly good Spider-Man 2099 title, this book was a swing and a miss. It felt more like some of the later 2099 books like Hulk and X-Men which also weren’t very good. Taking modern characters and redesigning them for use in new storylines but with an extreme twist is more of a specialty of the Ultimate Marvel universe than for the 2099 world. The Avengers and Defenders of 2099 just weren’t very likeable and the story had a lot of lazy plotholes.
Marvel Zombies-Again, I didn’t know what to expect from this title when it was released. Maybe it would focus on Magneto and his fight against the zombies but possibly winning this time. Or maybe it would deal with a classic zombie hunter horror story. Instead it focused on an obscure post-Civil War character named Elsa Bloodstone who had severe daddy issues and the zombies resorted to being nothing more than a feeding pit for criminals to be thrown into. The zombies were most definitely not the star of this show.
Some honorable mentions for my favorites were Civil War, Howard the Man, MODOK Assassin, Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars, Thors, Future Imperfect, Spider-Verse, Years of Future Past and Guardians of Knowhere.
Secret Wars 2015 was surely a daunting task and the idea of bringing so many beloved storylines, forgotten characters and Marvel universes together under one giant crossover event was a major risk for the folks at Marvel, but overall one that paid off with what is easily the best Marvel crossover event in years…possibly decades. No matter who or what you were a fan of, there was something for everyone. You didn’t have to follow each and every book…you had the freedom to pick and choose which secondary books you wanted to read. You didn’t even have to follow the main Secret Wars title if you didn’t want to. Most books were self-contained to an extent with some of the best stories being completely original exerts with obscure characters like Arkon and Devil Dinosaur or by using currently established characters in unique ways like the Thors who were the Battleworld’s police force made up of Thors from different realities…including a Groot Thor.
After so many disappointing crossover events from both Marvel and DC, I enjoyed the breath of fresh air that came with so many of the titles and stories in Secret Wars. With the “All New, All Different” Marvel Universe that is currently taking place with the inclusion of certain characters from Secret Wars such as Old Man Logan as well as the continuation of sorts of some titles like X-Men ’92 and Weirdworld, Secret Wars has delivered on what was promised…a new Marvel Universe with the possibility of any character being included in the 616 universe from any alternate reality or universe. That sounds exciting to me! Nuff said!!!
For those of you that followed along with Secret Wars, what titles did you like/dislike? Please feel free to discuss in the comments below or on the Readjunk Facebook page.
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