Please be aware that this review does contain spoilers. I’m not going to get too deep into spoilers, like nothing overly nitty gritty, but I am going to touch on a couple points that are not new to this issue, yet critical to any discussion of the series at this point. You have been warned. Click away or continue on. Your choice.
Victor Von Doom is now imbued with the power of the Beyonders and has created a new world from the fragments of Incursion points. Those Incursions usually led to the destruction of one (or more) Earths. With that power at his disposal, Doom has taken to being referred to as God and, as a matter of fact, “Doom” has replaced “God” in such exclamations as “Oh my God!” Sure, this is going to make some folks cringe, but the point writer Jonathan Hickman is making here is that Doom has established himself as the creator and ruler of the world. That world is Battleworld and Secret Wars #3 gets personal for the God and Sheriff of Battleworld: Doctors Doom and Strange respectively.
The first two issues of the series established the world and the new status quo of some of the characters. Many ancillary titles have launched since then, introducing concepts as varied as a speakeasy known as the Quiet Room run by Black Bolt to Captain America fighting with Devil Dinosaur as much his sidekick as Bucky or Rick Jones ever were. This issue doesn’t get into the oddities of the world, but rather into the oddities ruling the world.
Hickman writes a very conflicted, very sympathetic Victor Von Doom in Secret Wars #3. Susan Storm is identified as Doom’s royal consort, and as such, serves as a sounding board and gateway character for the reader to learn about Doom’s thoughts and reactions. This is an effective tool, especially as Doom becomes much more relatable through the course of the conversation.
Balancing that tale is Stephen Strange’s own dilemma. With the discovery of Thanos’ Cabal last issue, Strange beckons a member of the Thor Corps to assist him. He provides another revelation for the readers, which compounds the stories in play within this issue. The Cabal are no longer subplot, but rather become Plot B, while Plot A is still congealing, but now, almost certainly, will in some way focus on the discovery Strange shares with his visitors at the end of Secret Wars #3. Hickman keeps Strange and Doom at the heart of this issue, but also adjusts the setting appropriately to once more reveal the scope of this saga and to add more pieces to the board.
On the art side of things, artist Esad Ribic, colorist Ive Svorcina, and letterer Chris Eliopoulos are at the top of their game. There are no true battles in this comic, but Ribic makes it seem as though a fight is certain to break out from one panel to the next, in perpetuity, throughout this comic book. His characters are always tense and loaded, ready to spring and bursting with emotion and reactions. The fact that this issue is loaded with talking heads is irrelevant. Ribic makes them all look good and is able to deliver subtle differences, like a Strange daring to give Doom a sliver of attitude after mulling the maneuver over or Black Swan choosing the back side of her hand in lieu of unavailable napkins following her act of picking meat clean off a bone.
Secret Wars #3 doesn’t include much in the way of “wars,” but the twenty pages of new story reveal plenty of secrets do an amazing job of checking in with all of the players in this saga. The final page and the confrontation drawn up there are certain to leave some readers eager for more. After an ambitious first month, however, readers are going to have a slightly longer wait until the next issue of Secret Wars. Luckily for them, the first three issues have been solid enough to welcome and encourage a re-read.