Sunday, May 1, 2016

Secret Wars #9 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Despite all odds, Hickman actually makes this story understandable, at least in terms of the big picture.

If I'm correctly putting the pieces together, Reed ultimately acknowledges that Doom did a good thing:  he saved the Multiverse from destruction.  But, Doom's failure was the fact that he couldn't see beyond what he could rule:  his goal was dominion, and it limited his imagination.  In their final confrontation, Doom accuses Reed of thinking that he's better than he is, and Reed tells him that he's wrong:  he's just always thought that Victor could be better than what he is.  Doom asks Reed if he believes that he could've done better with all this power, and Reed says even Doom knows that he could.  Doom agrees, and Owen, hearing this confession, switches sides.

In the ensuing explosion, T'Challa holds onto either the orange or yellow Infinity Gem and finds himself on Wakanda, realizing that the plan (whatever it actually was) worked.  He tells a group of his young citizens that Wakanda is going to lead humanity to the stars, announcing the formation of Alpha Flight.  (The fact that "Ultimates" actually debuted months ago somewhat spoils the impact.)  The only other moment connected to a future series features Miles:  as he and Peter are exiting the White Space, Owen thanks him for the hamburger that he gave him a few issues ago, telling him that he owes him one.  That favor is revealed to the resurrection of Miles' mother.

Unfortunately, if you're a fan of the Ultimate Universe, we don't get any more answers for you.  The title card informs us that the Earth that we see here is "the Prime Earth" of the Marvel Universe.  It seems entirely possible that Miles and the Maker are the only Ultimate Universe counterparts to survive "the End," since, if I'm not mistaken, they're the only ones who we've seen so far.  Notably, Miles' typeface has changed, from the Ultimate format of lower-caps to the Marvel format of all-caps.  I'm guessing that we're going to have to wait for his series to get any more information on this front.  After all, the Maker appeared in "New Avengers," but I'm still not entirely sure what his deal was.

The good news is that Hickman does wrap up the major loose end, namely, how exactly Reed fixes everything.  Not surprisingly, Valeria provides the answer.  Earlier in the issue, when Owen told Reed that he was hungry, Reed responded that he imagined "an infinite number of missing mouths not being fed [would] do that."  It's our first hint that Victor hadn't really done everything that he could to resurrect the Multiverse.  After all, why would Owen be proverbially sitting on missing mouths?  According to Valeria, Owen is a "human repository of unlimited power."  Victor squandered that power by not using it to its potential; Reed is able to direct it better.  It's Franklin, a "universal shaper," that starts the process.  He creates the Universes and hands them to Reed, who uses Owen's power to make them reality.  Owen then splits off a part of himself to go with the new Universe (heh) as an anchor and, in the process, has begun making himself whole.

Honestly, it really does make sense.  I still have no idea how the physics of Battleworld worked, like how Apocalypse was killed in "Age of Apocalypse" but alive throughout the main series.  But, this set of physics does make sense to me.  Moreover, it shows us why Reed, Sue, and the Foundation are missing:  they're busy creating -- and then cataloguing and exploring -- these Universes.  The most poignant moment is when Reed and Sue discuss Ben and Johnny.  It's Reed who feels their loss here, but Susan reminds him that their acts aren't finished.  Speaking of last acts, Owen also seems to have bestowed a gift on Doom:  the issue with ends with Victor taking off his mask, revealing his healed face and a smile breaking across his lips.  It's a fitting nod to the original series, where Doom used his god-like powers to heal his own face.

Was this event perfect?  No.  Again, the lack of clarity of how the tie-in issues related to the main series eventually became the albatross around its neck.  But, in the end, Hickman does what this series was obviously created to do:  bring the Ultimate Universe to a close and send the Fantastic Four into the sunset.  It was a wise decision to expand it to a ninth issue, because Hickman and Ribic are able to take their time here; Ribic does amazing work showing T'Challa and Victor fighting in a variety of avatars.  In fact, it probably would've been better as 12 issues (like the original series).  Hickman would've had time to expand issues #6 and #7, doing a better job of showing how the revolt against Doom -- probably the most undercooked plot point -- came together.

But, it's water under the bridge.  Although this issue answers virtually none of the questions that we've had in the new round of series -- like what happened in those eight months -- it wasn't its job to do so.  We know how the Marvel Universe came to be reborn, and it's enough.  I'm giving this issue four stars not only because of the art but because Hickman manages to really save the concept of this series in a way that Fraction wasn't able to do in "Fear Itself" or Bendis in "Age of Ultron."  Now, hopefully, we can get the answers about the current Universe that we've been craving, particularly if anyone remembers the world before the End or Battleworld itself.  It's not much to ask, but we'll see if we get it.

**** (four of five stars)

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