Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Esad Ribic
The second chapter of Jonathan Hickman’s epic chronicle of the end of the Marvel universe offers us a look inside the world that exists in the wake of the incursion that wiped out Earth-616 (the “main” Marvel universe) and Earth-1610 (the Ultimate Marvel universe). In this world, Doctor Doom sits on the throne, not as a king, but as a god. Doom’s dominion is divided into several kingdoms, each of them presided over by a baron that has been appointed by Doom himself. Doom gives each of these barons full autonomy over their respective kingdoms, so long as they operate within the laws established by Doom.
Disputes between the kingdoms are decided by the Sheriff of Agamotto, Stephen Strange. In this issue, the Baron of Avalon, Jamie Braddock, has brought charges of discord and libel against another of Doom’s barons – Mister Sinister. Sinister is found guilty by Strange, but requests a trial by combat against Jamie’s younger brother Brian. Brian quickly lops off the head of Sinister and begins to celebrate his victory.
His celebration is both premature and short-lived, however, as Sinister’s death was merely an illusion, and soon he has knocked Brian Braddock to the ground. Before Sinister can land the blow that will surely take Brian’s life, however, his hand is stayed by Doom, who questions Brian about an enclave of rebellion that has taken hold in Braddock-controlled Higher Avalon. Unsatisfied with Brian’s assertion that he has no knowledge of such rebellion, Doom threatens to relieve Brian of his eyes, tongue, hands, and feet. This threat prompts Jamie to confess that it is, in fact, he that the would-be rebels speak of in their plot to overthrow Doom’s rule. For his disloyalty, Jamie is sentenced to death.
Jamie is escorted to his place of execution by two members of the corps of Thors that serve the god-king Doom and administer his justice. Jamie takes matters into his own hands, however, as he jumps into the Deadlands, an area populated by nightmares such as zombies (from Marvel Zombies – Venom is the first that comes out to meet Jamie), the Annhilation Wave, and Ultron robots. We do not see Jamie’s fate, but the elder Thor informs Stephen Strange that he died. There is a new threat to deal with, however, as Strange informs Thor that something has been found that may threaten the faith of Doom’s subjects and must be quarantined in order to prevent that from happening.
The Thors make their way to the object, which is revealed to be a spacecraft. As the elder Thor begins to investigate, the hatch of the craft opens and Thor is met with a barrage of weapons from the inside, claiming his life. The occupants of the craft, Thanos, the Cabal, and Ultimate Reed Richards step off the craft and question one of the natives as to where they are. The native responds that they are in Latverion, known to the faithful as God’s Kingdom, but known to the common folk simply as Battleworld.
This issue not only lived up to the lofty expectations set by the stellar debut issue last week – it exceeded them. In one issue, Hickman manages to create a world that clearly has a rich history and many complex storylines running throughout it. This is the type of story Hickman was born to write, and you can tell that he is really in his element here. The dialogue is great, the story is superb, and the reader finishes the story craving more. Whereas much of Hickman’s run on Avengers and New Avengers was convoluted and hard to follow, the first two issues of Secret Wars have told a clear story without missing out on any of the grandeur and depth that Hickman is known for. The art in this book is outstanding as well. There is a reason that Marvel chose Esad Ribic to draw their biggest event in years. His characters are distinct and detailed and he does a great job capturing the bleakness of the world which Doom has created with his backgrounds.