Image Courtesy of Marvel.com
Spoilers: Keep in mind that my method of reviewing involves spoilers for purposes of analysis. If you care about being spoiled and have not read Battleworld #1 yet, please avoid this review until you do!!
Okay! So first off, I feel I should apologize for not paying attention to this blog and falling behind on reviews. Some personal stress kept me from updating this blog as much as I would like, but I am going to try and get caught up. Mostly, at this point, the purpose of these reviews is for analysis sake, since most of these went on sale a month ago. So… let’s talk about Battleworld #1. When I first picked this book up, my thought based on the title and cover was that this would be where all of the big combat is happening, since, thus far, our Secret Wars event has been pretty light on the “War.” My theory was that the main title would cover the larger plot events (such as finding the life raft in Secret Wars #2), and this comic would be where we were seeing the actual battles between the various regions of Battleworld. I was very excited about this prospect, because I really want to see the ways in which these different regions clash with each other. Unfortunately, I was wrong… or, at least, I think I was.
This comic opens on what appears to be Frank “The Punisher” Castle with Doctor Strange’s hair and cloak in the 2099 region of Battleworld. That’s exactly who it is. It turns out that Strange—having been attacked by vampires—possessed Castle (or like merged with him? It’s not clear) and is now traveling around Battleworld inside The Punisher. I know what you’re thinking… Isn’t Stephen Strange the right hand man of Doctor Doom in this world? Yes. Yes he is… I don’t know what is going on either, and I’ve read this comic twice now. Anyway, Punisher mentions that “The Four” have been chasing him and that “The world of tomorrow is as good a place as any to die.” This leads to the primary “battle” of the Battleworld comic, which is Punisher’s fight with “the four” who turn out to be at least one version of the following: Hulk, Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Ghost Rider. I say “one version,” because we know there are, at least, multiple Hulks, multiple Spideys, and multiple Wolverines. And, I assume, since there are already multiple Ghost Riders throughout Marvel history, there is more than one of him out there, too. The fight is pretty cool. We get to see some great displays of the Punisher/Doctor Strange merged “powers” (I mean, The Punisher doesn’t really have any powers to speak of, but he does like guns). We see him summon magic guns and a magic rocket launcher, as well as employ actual attack spells courtesy of his hitchhiking sorcerer supreme; however, the fight only lasts six pages. It ends with Punisher killing everyone except for Wolverine and then blowing himself up with a magic grenade, rather than be arrested and sent to the Deadlands. The last section of this half of the comic focuses on Wolverine delivering the news to… dun dun dun… Stephen Strange! Who then proceeds to possess Wolverine, since Punisher is dead. I guess what is going on here is that Strange is using these people to get information about Battleworld? I don’t know. In any case, the fight was cool, but incredibly short, and the Punisher/Doctor Strange character had a lot of potential to be killed off after only existing for 8 pages or so, so that is extra disappointing.
What really bugs me, though, is that there was plenty of room to draw that story out and make the combat feel less rushed, because the whole Punisher/Strange story only takes up half the issue. The other half is dedicated to M.O.D.O.K. and is more of a comic relief story than anything. In this half, M.O.D.O.K. summons every versions of himself that has ever existed in order to take over Battleworld from Doom. He then proceeds to argue with his various incarnations about if he should be attempting this coup, and, if so, who should lead. There are some cool things here about the definition of “self.” Since most of these M.O.D.O.K.s are the same person at various points in history, and yet they have incredibly different philosophical beliefs. This all eventually culminates in a M.O.D.O.K. free-for-all brawl that ends with all of them on the ground incapacitated as a couple of Thors enter the scene to clean up. This section is… honestly not that bad. It was kind of funny. There are some good lines: “This is what M.O.D.O.K. gets for believing in himself,” for example. Ultimately, though, I just kept feeling robbed of the half of the comic that I could have had, if they had chosen to flesh out the first story (or even this one), instead of trying to cram two of them into one comic.
So back to my initial belief that this was going to be a war-focused comic. At least, if this issue is any indication, it’s not. It feels like a series of vignettes within Battleworld, instead, and I am not super interested in reading that comic. Beyond that, this comic definitely had some failings. It would have been stronger if they just focused on one of the two stories and wrote a full-length issue out of that. They seemed too eager to eject really interesting ideas. Giving The Punisher, someone entirely without powers, some of the most powerful powers in the Marvel universe and seeing what happens is a cool idea, and it was executed well (for the very brief time it happened). But, instead, they trade that idea for combining Strange and Wolverine, which, at least as far as I am concerned, is a bad trade writing-wise. You end up with a more powerful character, for sure, but the inner workings of the character are not as cool, because Wolverine already has incredible powers. This is just powering him up more. Additionally, while he has very few reservations about killing his enemies, Wolverine is definitely more of a hero than Frank Castle is, so we lose some of the internal ethical struggles that we would have gotten from that character. This has definitely been my least favorite Secret Wars comic thus far, and I won’t be continuing to review it (because I do not want to continue to buy it). I have two other reviews that should be going up later today (for comics I enjoyed more), so look forward to that!