I'm going with bullet points here, because Hickman is (quite ably) juggling a lot of separate stories all at once:
- Timing remains an interesting issue in this event. In this issue, Madelyne Pryor is the baron of Inferno, meaning that it happens after the events of the "Inferno" tie-in series. However, Apocalypse is still the baron of the Domain of Apocalypse, meaning that it happens before the events of "Age of Apocalypse." At some point, a fan-made timeline would really be helpful.
- Reed has sent out drones to trace the energy in Battleworld. It all leads to Doomstadt, and Reed sends the Spider-Men to follow the trail. Not surprisingly, they find themselves at the Molecule Man memorial. They encounter Valeria there, since Franklin and his team also tracked Doom's energy signature to the statue. To agree to keep their presence quiet, Valeria asks them if they (or any of their companions) killed Stephen Strange. When they confirm that they didn't (and thus her hunch), she allows them to enter, and they come face-to-face with Owen Reece.
- Meanwhile, a lot of people are working to dethrone Doom. Someone that I don't recognize named the Prophet is leading an army to Doomstadt, and Doom orders Apocalypse, Madelyne, Maestro, and Mr. Sinister to put down his rebellion. (Mr. Sinister is not surprisingly plotting something separately.) "Our" Reed is arguing with Ultimate Reed over whether they should kill Doom, since "our" Reed fears that doing so might destroy creation itself. Elsewhere, Thanos convinces Ben Grimm -- the backbone of the Shield -- that Doom has been lying to him about the nature of Battleworld. Finally, Namor and T'Challa arrive at the Hidden Isle of Agamotto, where they discover that Dr. Strange has stashed an Infinity Gauntlet and a "Siege Courageous," which lets the bearer transport between Battleworld's domains. A recording that plays when T'Challa correctly provides the password ("Illuminatus") tells them that it may be the only way to stop Doom. (One small note here is that I'm not sure how they learned of the Hidden Island. Did that happen last issue? Maybe in a tie-in series?) For his part, Doom is aware -- at least indirectly -- of the numerous plots in action against him and seems to be getting concerned.
- We also get an example of pet peeve #1 here, since Thanos doesn't fight any zombies (as the cover depicts).
I had thought that this issue might provide a little more information about Doom. After all, some of the tie-in series that recently ended -- particularly "Guardians of Knowhere" -- implied that the heroes have learned that Doom hasn't been truthful in saying that he needed the power of a god to save reality. Although we've had hints of that in the main series, we don't have anything to even remotely confirm it. It's still hard not to argue -- based solely on the main series -- that Doom did what he had to do to prevent all reality from imploding. It looks like we're going to have to wait at least until next issue for that revelation.
In the meantime, it seems like the real test of Doom's power is going to be whether he can fight off the various threats on the horizon. In addition to the hints about the origin of Battleworld, we've also had hints that Doom might not be as powerful as he claims. I wonder if it'll be one of the rebels -- in opposing Doom -- that proves that he's not who he claims that he is.
*** (three of five stars)