In the second of this two part series on the Marvel Comics Secret Wars graphic novels, we will look at the 2015 edition.
Based loosely on the original storyline (see previous post), Secret Wars 2015 begins with the end of the Multiverse at the hands of The Beyonders, a group of omnipotent beings from another dimension. Unable to stop the destruction of the Multiverse, Earth’s superheroes (and a few supervillains) launch two efforts; one is to provide escape from annihilation for a chosen few in starfaring ‘life rafts’ and second, to confront The Beyonders themselves in order to destroy them and acquire their unlimited power.
Both plans succeed in a way. From the ashes of the Multiverse, none other than Dr. Doom emerges as god, recreating a planet called Battleworld from the remains of all that was. The life rafts containing select heroes and villains from the previous reality lie buried in the ground, the passengers in suspended animation. The inhabitants of Battleworld are oblivious to their previous reality, knowing only that which their overlord wants them to know.
God Emperor Doom’s patchwork kingdom has a distinctly medieval quality that represents science fiction fantasy well. The visual experience of this 9 issue series is a beautifully rendered integration of traditional pencil and ink media with vibrant digital color. The characters look legendary, although likenesses are somewhat inconsistent in a few places (Mr. Fantastic’s eyes are brown in one issue and blue in another). The environments of Battleworld are richly cinematic and engaging, a reward for the eyes. Doom seated on a throne made from the Yggdrasil world tree is particularly original and evocative.
The story tells just how much comics and audiences have evolved in the 30 years separating the two versions of the Secret Wars. While the original Secret Wars was written so that new readers could get involved with the characters and action in any given issue, the 2015 version assumes its readers are familiar enough with the Marvel Universe to not need background information laid out for them. Also unlike its predecessor, the 2015 Secret Wars features a more obscure cast (Where’s Cap? Where’s Iron Man?), demonstrating how diverse and specialized Marvel titles have grown in the past 30 years. While the new version has some major plot holes, such as Dr. Doom being omnipotent but not omniscient (really, guys?), the story arc still pays off in the end.
So which version of Secret Wars is better? If you have the means, get both and decide for yourself. For a straight-ahead story drawn in the classic Marvel style, check out the 1984 edition. For a more complex story with next-limit art, grab the 2015 Secret Wars. Both are vibrant, wide-angle entertainment.