Column: The State of the Marvel Universe

The Plot Thickens: A Secret Wars Special Report

By: Shawn Warner

The machines of war grind on this week with three new number ones including the much anticipated Guardians of Knowhere by the dynamic duo of Brian Bendis and Mike Deodato, also making its debut this week is Hail Hydra #1 written by Rick Remender with art by Roland Boschi and the other big number one coming out this week is Siege by Kieron Gillen with fantastic art by Filipe Andrade. These three books feature three of Marvels biggest writers however, along with Jonathan Hickman; Rick Remender is perhaps the most conspicuously absent name from the recent All New All Different Marvel preview. Does that mean that the two writers arguably most responsible for the current status quo in the Marvel Universe, certainly as far as Avengers are concerned, will be taking a hiatus, or worse an extended leave from writing at Marvel? I hope not, but that is the word being spoken in hushed tones around The House of Ideas. It will be interesting to see if this changing of the guard works out as well as Marvel is hoping, certainly they still have lots of big guns with plenty of fire power such as; the prolific and ever-present BMB, Mark Waid, James Robinson and one of my personal favorite writers, Gerry Duggan. These names are not only familiar to readers they are established storytellers who deliver entertaining and engrossing arcs consistently and that means readers will confidently spend their hard-earned money knowing they are going to get the most bang for their buck. I’m not sure if the same can be said of some of the other, less seasoned writers Marvel is entrusting with a sizable chunk of the All New All Different titles. I know I will be taking a wait and see approach to some of these books but many of them will be showing up on my pull list, for instance Jason Aaron’s Thor is a no-brainer, of course I will be continuing to follow that title as well as Ms. Marvel and A-Force which likewise feel more like continuations of their current series.

gokThis week brought us some big titles. Perhaps the most eagerly awaited is Bendis and Deodato’s Guardians of Knowhere #1. The series is set in the giant decapitated head of a Celestial that now serves as a space station orbiting Battleworld. Although Bendis has lots of fertile ground open to him in which to cultivate intriguing narratives, this first issue is a bit myopic in scope offering very little character building and even less in the way of plot progression. That is not to say there is nothing entertaining here, quite the contrary in fact; much of the issue is devoted to an all-out raucous battle between Drax and, newcomer to the Marvel Universe Angela. The second half of the issue becomes somewhat clichéd; the team goes into hiding as a mysterious shadowy new antagonist pursues them, nothing we haven’t seen before but Deodato’s art makes the entire thing look incredible.

Visually this book is one of the best offerings out this week. Deodato’s lavishly detailed backgrounds and intensely rendered action sequences give a boost of kinetic energy to Bendis’ somewhat plodding script and make this otherwise mediocre introductory issue a gorgeous piece of sequential art storytelling. (4/5)

siege1Also out this week is Siege #1 which strangely has no apparent connection to the 2010 series written by Bendis with insanely amazing art by Olivier Copiel. It is however an incredibly intriguing story written by Kieron Gillen (another prolific scribe who will perhaps not be returning to the Marvel bullpen) set in an area of Battleworld called The Shield that very closely resembles the Wall in Game of Thrones. The Shield protects the civilized world from the Deadlands and the horrors that lurk within. The narrative is full of characters that anyone familiar with Gillen’s Marvel work will recognize from previous projects. The main character is Abigail Brand, who serves as steward of The Shield and leader of perhaps the most eclectic team ever assembled including; Ms. America Chavez, Leonardo da Vinci, Leah Shieldmaiden, Kang the Conqueror and Endless Summers which is a collective of Cyclops clones. Intrigued? I certainly was. Gillen does a fabulous job of building a tense, extremely volatile environment in which to tell this story; much like the Night’s Watch at the Wall in Game of Thrones, The Shield must provide safety and security to a world that would otherwise be overrun by the insidious evil plotting just beyond its only defense. Although the Game of Thrones similarities are extremely obvious, Gillen manages to escape many of the comparisons and creates an engrossing and original plot full of ominous dangers and suspense. If this is Gillen’s last work at Marvel for the foreseeable future it promises to leave us wanting more.

Felipe Andrade’s art may not be everyone’s cup of tea; however he brings a sense of urgency with his somewhat blurry images, particularly once the coloring is added. I’m not very familiar with his work but overall I think he does a solid job; however its Gillen’s characterization of Brand that is really the star of this book and what will ultimately propel this story onward. (4/5)

hhThe final Secret Wars debut we are going to look at is Hail Hydra #1 written by the brilliant Rick Remender with art by Roland Boschi, colors by Chris Chuckry and an absolutely amazing cover by Andrew Robinson. This book is one of the titles I was super excited about and, as with everything Remender writes, it does not disappoint. Hail Hydra focuses on the adopted son of Steve Rogers Ian who just happens to be the actual son of the sinister Arnim Zola. This story has its roots in Remender’s imaginative Captain America run that spent a majority of its time in Dimension Z. Ian is, as you may imagine, conflicted but, he has his adopted father’s morality and sense of honor. Remender is a consummate storyteller; he builds his narratives from the ground up and fills them with fully detailed characters that pull us into these worlds no matter how exotic.

Roland Boschi’s art, like Romita Jr’s on Remender’s Cap run, works extremely well with the narrative. His character designs and environments feel genuine and his dynamic use of panels and page composition really enhance Remender’s already kinetic pace. There are some very cinematic elements to this book from the opening sequence to the final explosive reveal. This is the book that I most enjoyed this week but all three of these Secret Wars tie-ins are well worth a look. (5/5)

So as the big event moves forward and the All New All Different Marvel looms on the horizon like Galactus waiting for his herald to return, all of us look forward to seeing what the future holds with a mixture of trepidation, anxious excitement and just plain fear of the unknown, we can all take solace in the fact that these are characters that we have loved from childhood, maybe some of them will be in new costumes or even be a different gender or race but underneath it all is that sense of wonder and imagination that makes Marvel such an enduring part of our lives as comic book readers and collectors. Have faith True Believers and as long as there are incredible, amazing and uncanny stories to be told, make mine Marvel, Excelsior!

ShawnWarner-bio-pic1-crop2Shawn is an aspiring writer/ artist who has been reading, collecting and living comic books for over 30 years. He lives in Baltimore with his wife, their son, lots of cats, dogs and other various finned and furry friends.

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