Secret War #3 Review

Reviewer: Tim Stevens
Story Title: Book 3 of 5

Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Painter: Gabriele Dell’Otto
Lettered by: Virtual Calligraphy’s Cory Petit
Editor: Andy Schmidt
Publisher: Marvel Comics

When Secret War was first announced, I was psyched. Daredevil, Spider-Man, Cage, and Nick Fury, characters that Bendis has shown a deft hand in over and over again, in the same book? Plus more exposure for Black Widow and Captain American (remember, this was before the great “Cap Must Be In All Books” movement of mid-2004)? Oh…and Wolverine too? Barring that last part, how could I be Tim Stevens and not be excited?

Sadly, upon its release, it appeared my expectations had been too high. I still dug the concept of interlocking of all the tech villains. I liked the lineup. There was great character interaction (I will defend the Wolverine plane scene for the rest of my life). It was good. It just was not great. The painting, while beautiful, was often muddy in color. The story felt a bit adrift. Nothing specific I could point to, something just was not clicking.

This is the issue where everything finally clicked.

First off, Dell’Otto finally pulls it all together here. The concerns about color are rendered moot. Detail is no longer overruled by it. Facial expressions are sharper, the emotions are easier to read. Even in the flashbacks, which use a flat gray and/or purple palette to convey their past nature, Dell’Otto maintains the impressive attention to detail. Plus, the guy does just an excellent job on Spider-Man and Daredevil, who figure very prominently in this issue.

That might be part of the reason that everything finally clicked for me. There is a sense of focus and clarity in the writing that was not present in previous chapters. The timeline jumping trick certainly has its applications and there are those that do it very well. However, in the context of Secret War, it drew me out of the action. By converting to a more linear timeline, but one that is not entirely devoid of flashbacksâ?¦or something of the sort, anyway, Bendis eliminates much of the emotional disconnect I was feeling in the first two issues. Adding to that is the fact that Peter and Matt are two of the more “human” heroes in Marvel so telling a portion of the story from their perspective brings it closer to home. It certainly does not hurt that Spidey and ol’ Hornhead are two of my favorite characters in comics either.

For those of you who are concerned about the action quota in this book thus far, this issue should also prove a relief. There is a great Spider-Man/Daredevil team up sequence that dominates the first portion and it is pretty obvious that you are only going to get even more (and more insane) action next time.

With this chapter, Secret War has transitioned from a “good” mini to the great one I was expecting.