Secret Wars #5 opens with a variation of the creation tale. The biggest difference is that, written by Jonathan Hickman, this creation tale is one of Doom forming existence from the Ether. By Doom’s side was Stephen Strange, the Sheriff of Battleworld, but now the deceased.
From there Hickman and artist Esad Ribic make Secret Wars #5 a story all about Victor Von Doom and his reign o’er Battleworld. From that opening, this entire issue takes readers on a deep dive into the psyche of Doom, as the self-appointed god of Battleworld seeks to make sense of the decisions that led to this moment, his rule challenged and his reality shaking.
Hickman makes Doom an almost sympathetic character, which is not surprising given how much space Doom has to ponder existence and discuss his trials with those he most cherishes. In his reflection, Doom leads readers to a secret hiding space where Owen Reece — the Molecule Man — shares a recollection with Doom, a recollection that stretches throughout Hickman’s run on Avengers and New Avengers. A modern master of the long game and constructing stories that unravel and separate like onion layers, Hickman’s work pays off here, just as it has done in every issue of Secret Wars.
One page in particular, the one where Doom enters the limbo space of Molecule Man’s hideout, pleads Hickman’s case for Doom and reveals an amazing amount of humanity in two simple panels where only Doom’s eyes are visible. Ribic is amazing at finding the right composition for each panel, and panel-to-panel he finds just the right way to indicate a shift in philosophy, intent, or, in this case, interest.
The art, as stellar as it has been throughout this series, is even more intimate and personal here. Secret Wars #5, while low on action, feels like peeking into Ribic’s sketchbook. There are wild slices of imagination at play here and repetitive studies in different tones and even media, but while flipping through what could be considered personal and reserved, readers instead find only the most amazing pieces ready for print, as though every panel in its own presentation could fill a page or anchor a frame upon a wall. I momentarily found myself taken out of the story itself more than once, investigating the media and the line quality so finely, before remembering that I was riveted by Hickman’s work. After finishing my initial read, I gave it another go and then flipped through Secret Wars #5 front-to-back and back-to-front, wondering if Ribic is even capable of ugly work.
Secret Wars #5 is, by comparison to the rest of the series, a quiet issue. The pieces are all on the game board. Doom has established himself, but is now rediscovering doubt and other players are creeping around the edges of the throne room. Doom believes himself ready for a challenge, but Hickman isn’t ready to show readers exactly who is going to champion the threat to Doom’s rule or who they might call “ally” in that certain life-or-death struggle. Being a quiet issue means little to this saga, however, as Hickman, Ribic, colorist Ive Svorcina and letterer Clayton Cowles continue to discover a new “best” and share it with their readership.
In Svorcina’s case, I am frequently unsure where the drawings end and color begins, as it seems apparent that Ribic is handling visual chores from stem to stern. That, due to the creator credits page, is not the case, elevating this duo to be one of the most flawless collaborative pairings in comic books today.
As I mentioned in the review of Secret Wars #4, I’ll give you a rundown of the Spider-Man appearances in this issue. There are no appearances of Spider-Man (neither Peter nor Miles) in this issue. In case it wasn’t clear above, Secret Wars #5 is an all-Doom issue.
Secret Wars #5 is yet another amazing installment of one of the modern era’s most engaging comic book stories. Despite having tie-ins and crossover titles in the range of fifty, this series does a magnificent job of holding its own and staying on target. With this issue, however, Hickman, Ribic, Svorcina and Cowles are over halfway done. That notion makes me very sad, as this series has been remarkable, but it also makes me dubious, as Hickman has not even remotely hinted at how this saga will finish out. This has been a grand adventure from the start and Secret Wars #5 is more of the same. Thank Doom.