Another win! Hickman and I are getting along! Woot! Hickman sets everything in motion in this issue, and I can honestly say, in a good way, that I'm not sure where it's going to go.
Dr. Strange starts the issue bringing the Life Raft heroes up to speed on Battleworld, explaining that the Beyonders were the ones that initiated the incursions and Doom killed them in order to save what remained of the Multiverse. If I'm not mistaken, it's the first time that we hear that Doom killed the Beyonders and it's also the first time that Hickman has established them as the cause of the incursions. However, Hickman doesn't explain why the Beyonders were intent on destroying the Multiverse. (At the base of it, it actually goes to the heart of the story that he's been telling since he took over the Avengers line.) We'll need to put that on the list of questions that we still need answered, though it's clear that we'll get there.
However, the Life Raft heroes arent' the only prime characters, if you will, in play. The Thors are meanwhile trying to stopped the escaped Cabal villains, though they quickly realize that they're outmatched. It's here where we get the first hint of the true significance of the arrival of the prime characters, with Valeria seemingly coming to the conclusion that they're more powerful than the inhabitants of Battleworld. Dr. Strange takes the heroes with him to try to stop the Cabal, but it's Doom's realization that Mr. Fantastic is among them that brings us to the next phase of the story. (Apparently, he has no analogue on Battleworld, unlike seemingly everyone else on the life rafts.)
Scott (as Phoenix) challenges Doom, and, for a moment, it seems that the prime characters are even more powerful than Doom, as Scott seems to have Doom on the ropes. But, Doom survives, and Hickman makes it clear how strong he is, given that he's able to defeat Scott fairly quickly. Before Doom can do anything else, Dr. Strange disperses the heroes and the villains. Doom is furious and demands that he return them, since they both know that it's in their nature to try to overthrow him. However, Dr. Strange refuses, and Doom kills him after Strange (correctly) observes that Doom fears what Mr. Fantastic will do once he discovers that he's stolen his life (a.k.a. Susan and Valeria).
Again, Hickman definitely makes it clear that we're moving into the next phase of the event. But, Hickman really subverts the typical event narrative, where the heroes have to rally to save the world. Here, the players are in place to dethrone Doom, though it's still unclear if they would "save" the "world" if they do. After all, Dr. Strange makes it clear from the start that Doom did what he had to do to save the Multiverse. Sure, he put himself on the throne, but Hickman has presented that fact as a logical outcome of his godhood. In other words, sure, Doom is power-hungry, but he is actually god here. It makes sense that he's on a throne. It's the part that makes the event exciting at this point: if the heroes "win" and de-throne Doom, they might actually destroy the world, not save it. Talk about a twist.
**** (four of five stars)