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Review Brew: Secret Wars — The Halftime Report

So what if it's not football season?  We're in the middle of "Comics Summer Event Season," and Marvel's Secret Wars has been tearing up the sales charts since May, and generating a lot of news well before then.  This shouldn't come as a surprise, since the event has taken over almost all of Marvel's publishing line with about 60 Secret Wars titles slated to be published over the course of six months.  This event is publishing well over two hundred issues.  That's a lot for the average reader to take in.  So--what's worth reading in that massive pile?

We here at Review Brew are taking the opportunity to gauge Secret Wars like a football game with our “halftime report.”  We’re now about midway through the event, with most of the books now having at least two issues on the stands.  If you want to jump into the event now, here’s our staff’s report on which titles are scoring well, and which ones have fumbled.

Touchdowns

Adam Frey I’m reading 14 of the titles in addition to the main book.  To me, the clear winner is Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows.  Yeah, I’m one of those people who’s been mostly avoiding the Spidey titles since the marriage was erased, but this book reminds me of what I’ve missed.  Dan Slott has a good voice for Spider-Man, so it’s no surprise he’s able to write just as good of of one for Peter Parker’s wife and kid as well.  And the plot–wow!  It’s set in a very “old school” Marvel Universe, but one that took a turn for the worse when a villain started killing heroes to steal their powers.  I really want to see where this one goes.  Adam Kubert’s art doesn’t hurt either.

I’m also enjoying Peter David’s Future Imperfect.  I’m a long-time Hulk reader, and this story is really letting PAD flex some muscles that he hasn’t used in a long time in the Maestro’s Dystopia.  Finally, it’s not my favorite book, but I’m letting my daughter read A-Force since it’s an all-girl team.  Even though she’s not too familiar with Battleworld, she’s looking forward to the next issue, so I guess it’s working on its target audience.

Ray Willis

WeirdWorld: It’s weird, beautiful, psychedelic, magnificent, and amazing. Jason Aaron and Mike Del Mundo, make a great team on this title.

Ghost Racers: Fast cars, Ghost Riders, and Arcade, what’s not to love.  Having different Ghost Riders duke it out is awesome.

Thors: The best cop drama in the nine realms. Jason Aaron knows how to make Ultimate Thor, a great detective. Also, different incarnations of Thor is awesome.

Years of Futures Past: I can admit, I haven’t read Days of Future Past, but this was a good story. The story does get deeper as it goes along and I want to see how it ends.

Slewo Awesha Oshana

E is For Extinction: Yes, we’re only one issue in, but I have to say that this comic is awesome and it knows it. While I can understand why anyone would be hard-pressed to trust that anyone could follow up on Morrison’s defining New X-Men run, frankly one could set such a low bar, that even a rudimentry take would be satisfactory. Which is why I’m grateful that Chris Burnham and Ramon Villalobos haven’t just beaten my expectations, they’ve shattered them. While they wisely choose to steer on a completely different path from Morrison, they keep the same themes of the uprising of minority cultures, of beauty standards, of being rendered irrelevant simply by aging, and the youthful exuberance of simply having a talent. It may have been one issue, but I’m excited to see what comes next.

Ghost RacersI’m not what you would call a fervent Ghost Rider fan. There hasn’t really been much material with the idea that’s really gotten to me, but man when it hits me, it hits hard. And exactly two runs have done just that: Jason Aaron’s run on Ghost Rider, and Felipe Smith’s All-New Ghost Rider starring Robbie Reyes. While Ghost Racers is ostensibly a continuation of the latter, it’s a marriage of all things Ghost Rider with Mad Max, and Death Race. While you wouldn’t expect those things to work so well, it unexpectedly does with style and aplomb. Juan Gedeon does a fantastic job of differentiating each Ghost Rider, as well as creating a visually exciting story, which is really what you should be getting from a comic like this. While it’s easy to dismiss a comic like this out of hand, Ghost Racers is the kind of comic people ask for: something different, something with style, and something with heart.

Fumbles 

Adam FreyI’m disagreeing with Ray here: I’m disappointed that X-Men: Years of Futures Past isn’t better.  Despite setting it in one of the X-Men’s darkest stories, this book just comes off as a little too happy.  Nightcrawler is still alive!  Lockheed is still alive!  Marguerite Bennett just isn’t tapping into the despair that Claremont and Byrne gave us 30 years ago.  Also, the Battleworld connections are just too blatant.  United Doomstates!  Doom Sentinels!  The Church of Doom!  There’s even a Doom teddy bear in one panel.

Secret Wars 2099 is also “trying too hard” despite also being another Peter David work.  He’s bringing back too much of classic 2099 all at once, while throwing in a mix of new characters that I’m having trouble getting attached to.  It’s not bad, but definitely on the bland side compared to the other titles.

Finally, Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars just isn’t working either–and I expected better from Cullen Bunn, who’s done so many funny Deadpool miniseries before this.  It’s not awful, but I was expecting a little more Rozencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead where Deadpool’s antics would have been “on the side” of the original story.  This book inserts him directly into the original classic, but without much purpose other than to crack wise.  Good concept; not the best execution.

Slewo Awesha Oshana

X-Tinction Agenda: This wasn’t something I really wanted to throw under any buses, I enjoyed Marc Guggenheim’s work in plenty of comics past (I suppose Flash bears mentioning as well), and Carmine Di Giandomenico has done a really awesome volume of All-New X-Factor, but this comic simply doesn’t work. It’s not necessarily due to quality, X-Tinction Agenda reads well enough, and there’s a clear statement of purpose as well as theme, but the comic relies on you having a pre-existing connection to the storyline. Since the comic is ostensibly a sequel to a much older X-Men storyline, that doesn’t help, especially since you’re given no type to find attachment or a connection to the situation of anyone going on, much less why you ought to care. Other tie-ins such as Future Imperfect and E is for Extinction avoid that by not being sequels at all. Di Giandomenico as usual is fantastic, but good art can only do so much to salvage a story that’s reliant upon the axis of an older story.

Inferno: X-Tinction Agenda‘s failure was based simply on having no real base of its own in an otherwise decent story. Inferno is quite simply uninteresting and awful. While the original Inferno storyline is one of the more memorable runs, it’s during one of the more stranger periods of the X-Men franchise, which in and of itself isn’t bad, but the spine of the premise: Colossus’ taking one day out of a year to lead the X-Men on a suicide mission to save his corrupted sister is awful. While Hopeless clearly cares about the character, there’s a lot of hand-waving to allow for the plot to happen, especially given the potentially grave consequences of Colossus’ repeated mission upon the rest of the world, which makes no sense given what its already established to have cost everyone. In addition, characters simply jump out even when it’s at odds with the storyline it purports to be a sequel to. While I don’t mind these stories contradicting one another, it’s simply empty calories, with no purpose and no end.

Conclusion

There you have it, readers.  Review Brew recommends Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows, Future Imperfect, A-Force, Ghost Racers, WeirdWorld, Thors, and E is for Extinction.  We advise against Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars, Secret Wars 2099, X-Tinction Agenda, and Inferno.  And we just can’t make up our minds about Years of Futures Past Still, it’s only halftime, so any of these books has the opportunity to either blow it or to get better.  Let’s wait and see how Secret Wars shapes up in its last three months!

About Adam Frey (372 Articles)
Adam Frey is still trying to figure out what he wants to be when he grows up. In the meantime, he's an attorney and moonlights as an Emergency Medical Technician in Maryland. A comic reader for over 30 years, he's gradually introducing his daughter to the hobby, much to the chagrin of his wife and their bank account.
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