Three weeks after the events in issue #5, much has happened. Corvus Glaive and his wife Proxima Midnight have been captured, and Black Swan is now in Doom’s employ. Doom has tasked his daughter Valeria with discovering Stephen Strange’s murderers, and work has been rather difficult. Not only has it been impossible to figure out what the outsiders are up to, but Valeria has doubts about her father’s intentions — she can no longer fight the nagging suspicion that Doom may be the one actually guilty of Strange’s death.
With Reed Richards and his Ultimate Universe counterpart Reed Richards working on a plan to remove Doom from his throne, a new threat called The Prophet has begun taking over areas of Battleworld. Doom, wanting to focus his attention on the outsiders, tells barons Sinister, Maestor, and Madelyne Pryor to handle the usurper, which only tempts Sinister and Captain Marvel into starting some havoc of their own.
The elements for a super royal rumble are beginning to take shape and form. The status quo of Doom being God Emperor will more than likely change by the end of this mini-series, and Jonathan Hickman has been packing the ingredients for a dish best served cold. Reed and Reed, Thanos and the Thing — who we discover has been hanging out as a living Shield to keep the monsters of Battleworld at bay — the Prophet and his masses, Sinister and Captain Marvel, and Doom’s own family in concert or in parallel, fighting to literally change the universe.
Hickman gives us the how — Spider-men Peter Parker and Miles Morales find the source of Doom’s power, and Black Panther and Namor secure the Infinity Guantlet from Strange’s hideout — to go along with the obvious why. The issue is well-paced, and the puzzle pieces fit in accordingly. Though some of the dialogue reads a bit clunky, the plot lines look to be leading somewhere very exciting.
Esad Ribic’s art is still beautiful and well thought out. Take a look at the mish-mash of sketchy pencil-shaded panels and one cleanly rendered aircraft on the second-to-last page which carries layers of subtext — the beautiful family erased from reality in stark contrast with Ben Grimm’s prison of lies. That Thanos is the one to give Grimm the truth adds a bit of irony to it all.
Ribic’s artwork does more than just show us characters and their expressions — it also adds scope with wide-angle landscapes and the visual context that brings. Catching up with the two Reeds in Project 42, readers are shown the outside of the base which is built from the remnants of a Sentinel. When Parker and Morales infiltrate Castle Doom, we get a birds-eye view of the statues which grow larger and larger until our heroes land beside them, dwarfed by the large constructs.
All of it is wonderfully colored by Ive Svorcina, who brilliantly sets each panel with its own color palette and lighting scheme. The scenes with Owen Reece are given an overexposed look that almost makes you want to squint from the brightness, and the mysterious Hidden Isle of Agamotto becomes all the more treacherous as shadows are cast under a deep and illuminating blue light.
Secret Wars continues to build a meaningful story, drawing upon decades of conflict from two of the most well-established archenemies in Marvel history — Reed Richards and Victor von Doom. This is a battle of battles — Reed is now confronted with taking down Doom in his most powerful form. By the looks of it, Richards will have some help, and Hickman is bringing out some really big guns which will delight those in the know.
And for those not totally in the know, it’s obvious something huge is about to happen. As we near the climax, I hope the momentum is carried from its awesome start to a more amazing finish.