Welcome to Secret Wars Declassified!
One quarter of this six-month wide-line event has come to pass. There are delays with deadlines thus affecting release dates (UGH!). The main mini only has one issue for September, which means the final eighth book won’t be released until October. That makes it the same month as ANADM.
Last week I mentioned that eight seems to be Marvel’s fave digit. Coincidentally, that’s the amount of books out this week. Three re-launches show recognizable characters in a different light. Three others hope to break the sophomore jinx. The remaining two are ‘high enough’ in the on-going numbering. All three fields are featured:
“Doomed Youth, pt. 1” (20 pages) by Noelle Stevenson, Sanford Greene, John Rauch, VC’s Clayton Cowles
Detention never looked so dire. Eight students are not going to graduate this year at the Victor Von Doom Institute for Gifted Youths. Given their punishment, they won’t be able to complete the final exam. Question: how long do you think super-powered tweens and teens can sit still before they organize an uprising??
The past and present converge before things move ahead. Let’s start with why the octet are in closed quarters. Jubilee bested Frostbite in a quarterstaff match. Frostie thinks Jubi cheated by using her powers. What makes matters worse is that Jubes eggs her on and the fact that Emma Frost doesn’t acknowledge Sanna’s accusation. Emma gives her special squad a pep talk before finals. In the halls, Pixie worries for Jubilee. She believes that Sanna won’t let it stand and revenge might be on her plate. Jubes shrugs it off and gives lip to Cho. She stands down when Skaar snarls at her. Molly runs up to the girl gang making herself an additional member. Sure enough, Sanna comes back for retribution. Molly goes on the defense and a full-fledged fight breaks out. Bucky Barnes arrives and sends the whole lot to detention.
The time is now. Sanna has her knickers in a twist since she’s a super-serious student. She’s actually sweating due to the possibility of missing the exam. Jubilee snaps at her and tells her to zip it. Pixie blames Jubes and gives her the “I told you so”. Amadeus makes a pass at Delphyne or so she thinks. Molly tries to chat it up with a zombie. Only guttural sounds come out as a response. Tandy fetches her brother and wonders about his predicament. He tells her the whole story (thank me very much ;-P). Pixie decides to kill the boredom and break the ice by talking to Ty. She definitely makes a pass at him. Cho breaks the silence by informing his mates that he has a breakout plan. He has temporarily immobilized one of the Doombots and re-programmed it. Molly cannot contain her enthusiasm. She busts through the wall.
Uh-oh!! Busted!! Imploring Bucky is easier than the group expected. He grants them their wish. One little catch: they all have to merge as one single team. Bucky reports to the Headmaster. S/He is hidden from view and orders the defective Doombot destroyed. God Doom asks what will be made of the unruly youngsters. The HM thinks they should be allowed to pass. It is none other than Valeria Von Doom!!!
Domain #19: Doomstadt
Present! Amadeus Cho (what else you want?), Bruiser (Molly Hayes), Cloak (Tyrone, no last name), Dagger (Tandy, no last name), Delphyne Gorgon (too cool for a codename), Frostbite (Sanna Strand), Jubilee (Jubilation Lee), Pixie (Megan Gwynn)
Motto: “Live faithfully, fight bravely, die laughing.” – Emma Frost
Clique: Night Witches (Delphyne, Jubilee, Pixie)
Easy there, fella! Skaar is Cho’s guard dog
No relation? Tandy and Tyrone are siblings. The obvious question needs to be asked but it’s awkward…
AC/DC: Pixie is bisexual
Authority sucks! Bucky Barnes, Emma Frost, Valeria Von Doom
Erratum: Tandy is labelled as Cloak and Tyrone as Dagger. UUMM, it’s the other way around!
Legions of fans must be jumping for joy at getting their fix once again. Given that this is an alternate reality, the membership has changed. Either way, there’s an interesting mix of mutants, metas, and just plain humans. Noelle Stevenson shows plenty of teen spirit. The hardships of high school are universal. They are made even more painstaking when you’re gifted with powers or intellect. There’ll always be back-biting, in-fighting, and the need for acceptance. Sanford Greene also conveys the adolescent ardour through the various facial expressions. Each emotion, feeling, and reaction sets apart the ensemble cast. Everyone loves rooting for the underdogs. Just how DOOMed are these kids? [7/10]
SQUADRON SINISTER #1
“No Honor among Thieves” (20 pages) by Marc Guggenheim, Carlos Pacheco, Mariano Taibo, Frank Martin, VC’s Joe Caramagna
We interrupt our regular scheduled programming to bring you a fight in progress: the Squadron Supreme vs. the Squadron Sinister. The Supremors lost big time since they are killed with the greatest of ease. The Sinisters want to annex Supremia Province and appoint a Regent to govern affairs. A damage control team speculates that Nutopia is next on the list. Hyperion has many things to tend to as sovereign. He rips apart a thief’s arms for having taken rations. While in council with his team, he hears concerns of the Frightful Four but Nighthawk shrugs it off. Nighthawk suggests they annex Shadow Province. Hyperion is fed up with overtaking realms to extend his domain. He doesn’t care for the politics nor the economics. Iron Thor interrupts the meeting. He has a private word with Hyperion. Lord Doom is aware of the Squadron’s aggressive moves and wants them to cease and desist.
Kenji Obatu confronts Kyle Richmond about trying to pry the Power Prism from the other Dr. Spectrum. Kyle ignores the false accusations and admits failure. Since the two objects are identical, Kenji believes he should possess it. Kyle dismisses him. Warrior Woman and Hyperion are getting it on in mid-air, no less, when the Iron Thor crashes in on their fun. He/It is dead. Whizzer points out that so are they. Hyperion is not amused.
The mission to the Shadow Province is in progress. Zarda wonders if it is wise to let Nighthawk go solo and retrieve the Argonite: the one weapon capable of killing the king. The red-and-yellow souped-up-man doesn’t believe the hype. Dr. Zero, protector of the province, zeroes in on Hype. The Shadow Dwellers engage the Squad. Hype burns the man to a crisp. WW chastises Doc for not living up to his potential. Nighthawk delivers the weapon to the baron. He dispels any suspicion by indicating that (a) Zarda doesn’t trust men, and (b) he would have been underhanded in his assassination attempt. Hype has never trusted Hawk but he asks Whizzer to keep an extra close eye on him. Hype was right! Kyle is talking to an unseen individual. The ruse didn’t completely work. The one whom he is addressing wants to be the ruler. Kyle’s goal is super-simple: he wants to murder his leader.
Oh, sweet irony!! Zarda sowed the seeds of doubt but she is the one betraying her lover. She meets with Mark Hazzard, one of the Nutopians. Whatever scheme they have hatched has to be implemented sooner than later.
Domain #12: Utopolis
ReinFORCEment: “Weakness is a capital offense.” – Hyperion
What’s NU with U? The New Universe hasn’t been forgotten!! Mark Hazzard makes a cameo as do his compatriots Jack Magniconte (All-American/Mr. Magnificent), Jenny Swensen (Spitfire), and Ken Connell (Star Brand).
Epic storytelling: I had no idea!! Doctor Zero was a Marvel character with his own book under the Epic umbrella. It lasted eight issues.
Out of one’s shadow: The Order of St. George appears as Zero’s enforcers. The knights also had a brief on-going series of eight issues under the Shadowline branch of Epic Comics. You learn something new every day!
The title is extremely apropos. Once a crook, always yadda-yadda-yadda. Marc Guggenheim, the hit producer of CW’S ARROW shows his skills in deconstructing the criminal mind. He has the legal credentials to internalize and analyze evildoers’ actions. Carlos Pacheco cuts a mean Squadron. Literally!! They look every bit as vile as they should. Hyperion is the most menacing of all. His physique is imposing but he has a shrewd, suspicious mind as well. Warrior Woman resembles a modern-day take on Sabra, right down to the symbol on her bandana. The Iron Thor is a mix of mechanical and majestic. Bad guys can have good lives, right? [8/10]
“” (20 pages) by Jason Aaron, Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, Marte Gracia, Joe Sabino
Lightning strikes a billion times over and in all kinds of directions under the mystic mallets of the Thor Corps!! Seven of them gather around a corpse. It’s a major deal because it is an Allthing. The case has to be closed ASAP otherwise God Emperor Doom himself will intervene and strip away the privileged power. The two main investigators are Stormbreaker Ray (Beta Ray Bill) and Thunderer Thorlief (“Ulitmate” Thor). This travesty is connected to another case the two are working on – five murdered women in five kingdoms in pretty much five days. It is unheard of given the mighty presence of Doom’s enforcers. Rune Thor and ‘Stroyer will head west. Groot, Storm and Thorus will explore the east. That leaves the two buds doing what they do best.
Time to crack some skulls – Ghost Riders skulls, that is. Ray and Lief are on a tear. They bring some captive to Doomgard. Lawspeaker King Thor is less than impressed with the duo’s findings. He chews them out and tells them to get results quick time. Life visits Throg, the forensics scientist. He hasn’t IDed the bodies. However, there’s one interesting commonality: they are all the same woman. Lief gets a gold star for having deduced it before Throg told him. This case has become unnaturally bizarre. Ray meets Lief at Valhalla’s Mead Hall. The word has spread about the unusual occurrence. Ray assures his partner by telling him he will meet up with his snitch. In a dark alley (cliché), Ray talks to the hobo living in the box. The man in question is Loki!! Quelle surprise! He has info for the Stormbreaker but since it is a massive lie he doesn’t think Ray is prepared to hear it. Lighting descends. I don’t think this bodes well for Ray. The other Thors are sent into action since they recognize the sound. Ray is dying but he gives Lief the name he has sought: Jane Foster.
Domain #10: Weirdworld
Domain #14: Doomgard
Domain #20: Manhattan
They are worthy! Destroyer Thor, Goddess of Thunder (Ororo Munroe), Groot Thor, Lawspeaker King Thor, Rune Thor, Thorus a.k.a. Thor the Green, Throg.
Tread with caution: “Tell me you didn’t touch anything. Because a victim can only be killed once but a crime scene can be murdered a million times.” – Lief
Toughen up, buttercup: “Do me a favor, kid, and take nine big steps back away from my crime scene.” – Thorlief
Homo Superior-phobic: Rune has a strong dislike of mutants.
Friendly face: “He only tolerates me because he says I look ‘more like a horse and less like a jackass’ ” – Ray telling Lief that he alone will talk to his snitch.
Jason Aaron writes this tale with a strong dose of HOMICIDE: LIFE on the STREET and a dash of CSI. Until this series hit the stores, I assumed it was going to be about a bunch of unsavory individuals throwing their weight around. Was I proven wrong!! I enjoyed the camaraderie between Ray and Lief, albeit ephemeral. It’s only a matter of time before the other Thors bring the thunder [natch!] Mr. Aaron has great affection for the current Thor in the mainstream MU. Although she appears as a corpse in a body bag, her name carries a lot of significance. Chris Sprouse and Karl Story have worked together on titles too numerous to mention. Each Thor is representative of his or her previous incarnation. Thorus looks like a refined Loki. His nobility and innocence made him a worthy addition. It stands to reason that anything that goes unnoticed by the Thors originates from the dark. Loki as a derelict is fitting. Aside from his dishevelled appearance, who would believe the ramblings of a homeless man? Who summoned the lightning? Who wants to break any connection to the Thors? Stay tuned… [8.5/10]
ARMOR WARS #2
“The Tell-Tale Heart” (20 pages) by James Robinson, Marcio Takara, Esther Sanz, VC’s Travis Lanham
This is the second book this week to delve into forensics. Marvel should launch their version of CSI. Grand Marshal Rhodes has brought Peter Urich’s lifeless body to Dr. Anthony Druid. Dr. Druid is in the house!! Rhodes is unintentionally snippy with the doctor. This murder upsets him. Druid cracks open the armour. The corpse rots immediately. Jim checks in with his niece Lila. He tells her to turn off her über-intellect and use her heart to comfort and console Kiri. Arno Stark has a conference call with Wilson Fisk. Arno has sent a spy to break into Kiri’s company Mobairu Yosai Mechaniks. Arno has developed a stealth suit that is lightweight and undetected by body sensor. Arno reminds Fisk that Kiri has tech that will pave the way for the future of Technopolis. Fisk makes a snide remark about Arno’s lofty ambitions. Arno retorts by telling him that the Kingpin is in business only because Tony allows it and is indifferent about it. Arno wants to be his own boss. The spy is Stingray. He gets a few pot shots at Lila before Kiri programs a gigantic gauntlet to snatch him and put the shock on him. Kiri breaks down as she deals with Peter’s death. Jim calls Tony to inform him that Peter’s murder was due to the fact that he discovered the cause of the infection and the individual responsible. Tony is stunned.
Domain #5: Technopolis
Dream on, dreamer! Kingpin likens Arno’s plans to those of Icarus, the fallen son.
Whose book is this anyway? Tony Stark only appeared in the last panel! Alright, I’ll drop my fake outrage. James Robinson knows a thing or two about legacy. Tony Stark may be a baron but he’s fortunate enough to have others that pick up his slack. The humanity of these characters is emphasized even more due to their encasements. Rhodes is the heart and soul of this cast. Marcio Takara must have a fascination with arachnids. The way Stingray clings to the wall and crawls before he strikes is just like a certain web-slinger. Mr. Takara excels at the moving bits and pieces. This is a tech-based town after all. He still needs to polish and refine the faces although there is improvement. The mystery deepens. Who would be willing to replace humans with machines? [7/10]
DEADPOOL’S SECRET SECRET WARS #2 (of 4)
“” (20 pages) by Cullen Bunn, Matteo Lolli, Ruth Redmond, VC’s Joe Sabino
Business as usual for the Merc with a Mouth. He laments the loss of the valiant heroes but he must press on. His contemplative walkabout is interrupted by a leapin’ Lizard [natch!]. The reptilian Doc Connors is furious that because DP flirted with the Wasp. DP puts the blame on her saying that he was used and seduced by her. Looks like he’s about to become Lizzie’s next meal.
Hold up. Hold up. How did it get to this? Prof. X tells his X-Men that they will join Magneto. Suspicion is already rising. Storm is determined to stand tall even if the other heroes fear them. DP delivers some horrible repartee to ease the tension. Spider-Man busts in on their party. He was eavesdropping and bolts to report what he has heard. DP decides to give chase. Spidey spots a wall with various shields. DP comes out of the shadows. Fight!! Spidey wins by flinging DP against the wall. ‘Pool gets some reward: a shiny shield that forecasts the future. He shows off his new accessory to Prof. X. Charles detects a sentience behind it especially since an insult and threat are displayed on the surface. *chuckle* DP tells Charlie that he’s trying too hard and ditches him.
Wade gets the Lizard to calm down. He tells him that all the heroes perished at the hands of Dr. ‘Doomyonder’ (apt appellation). He hands Greenie his tail and entertains an idea on how to save them.
The next scene has the do-gooders about to be crushed by the mountain. DP’s psychic shield is utterly useless. Hulk is the only one who can free them. The trick is to get him angrier than usual. That comes easily for an annoyance like Deadpool. Captain America gives him a pat on the back and a genuine compliment. DP pulls a Gollum accusing Cap of wanting to covet his shiny shield.
‘Pool and Lizzie Liz approach some hamlet (which looks a bit like The Shire). Wade wants to know why Connors is so hung up on the Wasp. The walking reptile explains that she bandaged his arm. DP scoffs at that since all lizards have regenerative properties. He leaves Liz with one foolproof tip for picking up women.
Back to the recent past. The heroes come across Zsaji, the healer of the alien village. She-Hulk asks how Wade is feeling. He’s upset because his shield has gone static. When Zsaji approaches, he is defensive. She begins to unmask him. His hesitance turns to glee when the cancer within his ravaged body is completely eradicated. He is so overjoyed that he picks her up and envisions the beginning of a beautiful friendship. The shield is active again and shows Wade cradled over his newfound love.
As usual, there are too many zingers and cheesy lines sputtered from the Merc’s mouth. I’m only going to point out some things of interest.
Holy halitosis! DP wishes he had some Retsyn. That’s a chemical cocktail found in Certs® breath mints that give it its signature green flecks.
Déjà view: The scene where Spider-Man kicks the X-Men’s butt is from SECRET WARS vol. 1 #3. The moving of the mountain is the issue right after – SECRET WARS vol. 1 #4.
Toy story: The wall of shields is a shameless(ful?) reference to the little pieces that came with those action figures. Say, there are action figure variants nowadays featuring those weapons. No coincidence here!!
Future casting: Yet another minute detail that almost escaped my eyes. When DP shows his toy to Chuck, the image is of Deadpool casually spread on the floor by the fireplace. This is the Instagram image by Ryan Reynolds to promote the coming cinematic attraction. That’s clever!!
Cullen Bunn has so much fun. He relishes in upping the antics with every subsequent mini-series. DP lives up to his nickname since his gums never stop flapping. He has the right amount of irritant that still makes him loveable. DP’s mind may be messed up, his body may be ravaged beyond repair (scratch that), but his heart is in the right place. Matteo Lolli should get a major prize for that little ‘stunt’ on the shield’s surface. He must be a diehard fan of this crazy character. [8/10]
OLD MAN LOGAN #2
“” (20 pages) by Brian Michael Bendis, Andrea Sorrentino, Marcelo Maiolo, VC’s Cory Petit
This sophomore book isn’t jinxy by any means but the first issue is far more sublime. Logan has breached The Shield!! A female Thor appears immediately. She is incredulous at his feat and flexes her lawfulness. Logan is electrified by the lightning and plummets into a jungle. He encounters a tiger that he slays to save his own skin. Speaking of…it’ll take a while for him to regenerate given the massive burns on his body.
Someone is playing dangerous mind(s) games with Logan. His memories elicit three distinct vignettes. The first is of his most hated enemy Sabretooth. He’s joined up with the Four Horsemen. Wolverine’s a goner until lightning vaporizes them. He has Storm to thank for that. She is surrounded by the X-Men – the same friends that he killed half a century prior. The scene shifts to Emma Frost. It is a manifestation of his memory, not the genuine article. Nevertheless, ‘Emma’ tells Logan she can’t get any read on him. Discerning his abilities is beyond her capabilities. ‘She’ promises answers but wants Logan to keep his claws sheathed. His ‘reunion’ with his fallen teammates is interrupted by Sabretooth once more who’s thirsting for his blood. Another bolt of lightning knocks Logan off a high-rise. He crashes hard on the pavement. As he struggles to gain sense of it all, he spots the imposing Apocalypse!! (The character, not the event ;-P)
Domain #3: Domain of Apocalypse
Call me… “How about Old Man Logan? (Wait, it’s not really that, is it?)” – ‘Iceman’
I recant my statement!! This issue is almost on par with the first. Andrea Sorrentino delivers mini-masterpieces in every panel and on every page. The wide lightning strikes to showcase Thor’s might; the gaped claws to highlight Sabretooth’s ferocity; the titled panels to illustrate Logan’s descent into madness. And on and on and on. Cory Petit excels at the onomatopoeia!! Its grandeur is in tandem with the events. Oh yeah, I guess I should mention Mr. Bendis. He played with my mind as well!! It’s obvious that Logan was having a waking dream or experiencing hallucinations in regards to his friends and foes. However, the bigger question is whether he actually made it past the wall or was transported by Apocalypse to his domain. Head-twister!! [9.5/10]
“” (20 pages) by Cullen Bunn, Paul Davidson, Paul Mounts, VC’s Cory Petit
The Master of Magnetism is doing his absolute best to stave the Sentinels that have peered through the Incursion. These are much more sophisticated given that they are Nimrod models. Polaris does her part but she isn’t too thrilled with her father’s callousness. She is in awe that the children she saved see Magneto as a bona fide hero.
Flashback – Erik wants his powers artificially augmented to the nth degree. His ally Briar Raleigh cautions him and thinks he’s on a fool’s errand. Magneto makes a Faustian deal with the Sugar Man, the geneticist from the Age of Apocalypse. Erik does a double-cross by killing the mutated freak after he has gained access to his research.
Magneto’s power surge is both insufficient and overwhelming. He has exerted himself. His ego and blinders didn’t compensate for handling the off-the-chart levels of energy coursing through him.
One more trip down memory lane. Erik confronts Briar about her true motives. He doesn’t believe that she’s been acting altruistically. He senses that she has purposely fed him info to keep track of him. He crushes her hand and demands to know her true identity.
Surfacing: “Y’never know…with my help…maybe Joe Public will start thinking of you as a super hero…” – Sugar Man
Cullen Bunn is on a hot streak! His anti-heroes are so compelling!! I sense the sincerity in Magneto’s mission to save humankind and mutantkind alike. At the same time, he’ll always opt for extreme measures because he gets results. It is as if he is somewhat delusional but mostly realistic. Paul Davidson provides an unsettling resemblance to the late Charles Xavier. I don’t follow this title but I was unaware that Erik was sporting the bald look under his helmet. Eerie and uncanny!! Two more issues before Mags kicks the bucket!! [7.5/10]
Ms. MARVEL #16
“Last Days, pt. 1” (20 pages) by G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, Ian Herring, VC’s Joe Caramagna
Kamala is still dealing with heartbreak and reeling from the fact that Kamran was ready to give her to the diabolical Lineage. How does one deal with heartache? Binging on hotdogs is one method. The Incursion has arrived. Kamala is unaware at first. She witnesses a yacht capsizing and people panicking but sees no other evidence. She walks across the shore to NYC. It isn’t until a bystander points his finger to the sky. The other Earth is on a collision course with ours and the skies are red (not CRISIS!) The Carrelli brothers are fighting off looters. They’re thrilled to see ‘Big M’. Ms. Marvel tells them she can’t stay but reassures them that everything will be just fine. Kamala races home to check on her parents. They are nowhere to be found. Kamran has trespassed!! Her parents were put into a peaceful slumber by him. He tries to convince her to join his crusade and uses her brother Aamir as a bargaining chip since he might be a latent Inhuman. Kamala is relieved that her parents are unharmed. She sprints back to Manhattan. Everyone congregates in the school. Kamala needs a breather especially in coping with Kamran’s return. A moment alone is anything but when Captain Marvel finally drops by!! She compliments Kamala on the costume but is miffed at the use of her former codename.
I feel your pain: “How could I have been so wrong about somebody I cared about so much?” – Kamala. This is universal, my dear.
Mahvelous, dahlings!! Ms. Marvel standing side-by-side Captain Marvel. It’s about frickin’ time!
G. Willow Wilson has gone full throttle with Marvel Comics’ latest and greatest heroine. Kamala Khan is a huge fan favourite and pretty much has her own cult of personality. So many raw emotions resonate from her that I am susceptible to them. All the little things that we juggle in our daily lives eventually culminate and make us or break us. Adrian Alphona (my fellow Canadian) extends his pencils as easily as Kamala extends her limbs. He beautifully portrays a teenage girl who is hurting and still in doubt, but determined to do right. Those primary colours can’t mask the inner demons Kamala is combatting. [8/10]
Tags: Epic Comics, New Universe, runaways, Secret Wars 2015, Secret Wars Declassified, Shadowline Saga