Please be aware that this review does contain spoilers. I’m not going to get too deep into spoilers 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.
Secret Wars #4 brings readers to the halfway point in this summer event series, as writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Esad Ribic present “The Second Offense,” a chapter wherein Victor Von Doom, self-appointed god and master of Battleworld reminds the inhabitants of and visitors to his patchwork planet that he is to be viewed as god of the realm for a reason. Or several reasons.
Hickman bounces between two expanded scenes, addressing the survivors of the Life Raft and their conflict with the Cabal while also illuminating readers with regards to Doom’s omnipotence. So often the all-seeing eye in comics has an awkward reveal, but Hickman and Ribic make the reveal here smooth, polished, and effective. There’s no reason to think Doom can’t do that, and by the end of Secret Wars #4, Hickman is guaranteed to have readers wondering if there is anything Doom CAN’T do. Back to the all-seeing eye, however, the fact that Doom can see all shades this series (and the myriad tie-ins) differently: are we only seeing what Doom wants us to see or is this the way things are and gentle readers, somehow, find scenarios not under Doom’s purview.
Before the issue is done, Hickman elevates Doom’s ferocity, tenacity and dedication to his realm. The writer pits Doom against Thanos, Doctor Strange, and the Phoenix. One of these conflicts doesn’t get beyond a shouting match equivalent to a “Yo Mama!” fight, but the intent is there: Doom is the ruler of this kingdom. He has made it in his image and holds it in his hand. And he has Jonathan Hickman to thank for making the display of power and omnipotence so pervasive.
Hickman offers readers a sliver of hope before the final page of Secret Wars #4, but that sliver is fractured ever smaller, enticing readers to lean into the comic they are reading, perched on the edges of their seats, wondering — sometimes out loud, sometimes without being able to finish the thought — what it is they just witnessed while convincing readers that this is no bluff. Hickman has referred to this as the end of the Marvel Universe as we know it, and this issue certainly proves that is a highly likely event.
Ribic and colorist Ive Svorcina continue to elevate their craft with every issue of this series. Given that this is the halfway point, I’m not sure how much more perfect the artwork can get, but, at the very least, I’m hoping it stays as wonderful as it is in this issue. Ribic’s command of characters’ expressions, his ability to convey emotion and intent through body language and his knack to fill panels to the point of bursting makes Secret Wars #4 a visual spectacle. Seeing more than one Thor in battle, especially with Ribic drawing them after his wonderful run on Thor: God of Thunder (check it out if you haven’t, folks, it’s gorgeous!), is entertaining and adds to the spectacle of the adventure. As magnificent as his Thors are, Ribic brings a mix or regality, mystery and wickedness to every panel of Doom.
Svorcina controls the emotions on these pages as though using buttons on a thermostat. The colors range from deep, rich, cool blues to shiny yellows, no more tangible than sunshine itself, to fiery, horrific shades of red and orange and the flaming destruction they can bring. There are still moments where the characters shine in their uniforms, but the lighting and the emotion Svorcina sculpts around Ribic’s art affects every single scene.
As this is a Spider-Man-centric site, here’s the lowdown on the webslingers in Secret Wars #4. Ribic adds subtleties between Miles Morales and Peter Parker, but gives them similar physiques and movement, even though the two Spider-Men are just walking in this issue. Hickman gives both characters a snip of dialog, showcasing the brash and sassy in the face of fear Peter Parker so many readers favor. Hickman also offers readers a slice of the worry settling onto Miles’ shoulders.
Secret Wars #4 is one of the more amazing midway points of any event saga in recent memory, maybe even as noteworthy as the halfway mark in Crisis on Infinite Earths. So many parallels can be drawn between that classic DC series and this one, but that is a reflection for another time and place. For now, there is only Doom and the Battleworld he has created to rule. His subjects may have had reason to question Doom’s power, but by the end of Secret Wars #4, there is no doubt where the seat of power lies, and just how quickly Doom might see fit to use it. As long as Hickman, Ribic and company continue to ratchet up the conflict, content and consequences of this series, I’ll be looking forward to the next issue.