Welcome back to Super Reads, the feature where I read some comic or another and then spoil the hell out of it for you. Today's item up for bid: Secret Wars #2.
Maybe you know or maybe you've forgotten, but:
There are Spoilers ahead.
And that's all the warning you'll get. Now, before we get down to the main event, let's talk a little bit.
You see those eyes? Those are the eyes of Doctor Victor Von Doom, the sorcerer scientist ruler of the small European country of Latveria and main nemesis of Reed Richards and the Fantastic Four. But that was before. Leading up the the big slamma-jamma Secret Wars event, Doom got into the habit of visiting other Earths in the multiverse and murdering Molecule Men.
Don't worry. He had a moderately good reason. Molecule Man (every one of 'em) was a living time bomb ignited by the Beyonders (complicated otherworldy nigh-omnipotent a-holes) capable of destroying an entire universe. Killing them was kinda sorta like "defusing the bomb."
I say "kinda sorta" because killing all those Molecule Men really just hastened the end of all things. Multiple Earths began smashing into each other from different universes. With each Earth's destruction, an entire universe was deleted from the almost infinite multiverse. This wasn't unexpected, of course. Doctor Doom knew that's what was going to happen. Either way, all of known existance was going to come to an end but at least this way, "something" would survive.
In the end, there were only two Earths left: the Ultimate Earth and the regular Marvel Earth. They collided last issue. And then died.
But not EVERYTHING died. Before the end of all that is, Reed Richards and friends built a life raft that would carry about sixty people to whatever was waiting beyond tomorrow. I say that poetically but there's hardly any other language more appropriate for describing what happens after Everything Dies.
While the life raft was capable of carrying sixty or so people, it's intended passengers were killed during the final conflict between Earths. A second passenger list, most likely made on the fly, was created and the new crew was teleported directly to the ship as it escaped the otherwise total destruction of two universes. Whether we've got sixty people on board or a handful remains to be seen. What we DO know is that Reed Richards' family was forcibly ejected from the life raft before it had escaped the end.
We also know that Doctor Doom isn't a real doctor. He doesn't even have an honorary doctorate.
Secret Wars #2
Writer & Designer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Esad Ribic
Color Artist: Ive Svorcina
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Assistant Editors: Jon Moisan & Alanna Smith
Editors: Tom Brevoort with Will Moss
In this issue: We get the lay of the land as we are introduced to Battleworld: Doom's planet at the end of the universe, cobbled together from many of your favorite Marvel events!
• A brand new Thor lifts up a hammer and is welcomed into the ranks of fellow Thors.
• Minister Powers and other members of the Foundation investigate a life raft found on the other side of the world.
• New Thor and Old Thor arrest Baron Sinister and bring him to the High Court of Doom in Castle Doom, located in beautiful downtown Doomstadt.
• Baron Sinister is judged guilty of crimes against Higher Avalon but decides to take the trial by combat option to get out of punishment.
• After a fight with Brian Braddock, Sinister is just about to kill the young Lord when Doom intervenes.
• After some threats and some "being a living god" stuff, Doom sentences Baron James Braddock to the Shield, makes Brian Braddock the new Baron of Higher Avalon, and orders Baron Sinister publicly whipped. Good times.
• Valeria Richards and the Sheriff of Agamotto discuss the heritical nature of the life raft found underneath the world.
• James Braddock fights his final battle on the other side of the Shield.
• The Sheriff sends our two main character Thors to that life raft to shut it down.
• Instead, a Moloid opens the thing up and lets loose the Cabal on Battleworld.
You know the deal: Whoever picks up this hammer, if he be worthy, shall gain the power of Thor. Well, there's a hammer. And there's a contender.
Apparently, you don't get to wear much clothes when you're trying to lift up Thor's hammer. This dude is basically in an oversized diaper and wrist wraps. He's also blonde so maybe that's another requirement?
Well, whatever the case, that guy wasn't worthy. Maybe the next guy will have better luck.
Our next contestant is wearing the same type of diaper and wrist wraps but he's also got some added arm wraps. This is good because he looks to weigh all of 98 pounds and those arm wraps help to draw attention away from his skinny-ness.
OK. No, it doesn't.
No worries, though, because this guy just lifted up a hammer and immediately gained some muscles! Woo!
It's only after he's lifted the hammer that we learn that he's not the only one. A LOT of people have lifted up a hammer. A lot of people have gained the power of Thor.
Their boss is a one-eyed fellow who is probably purposefully supposed to remind us of All-Father Odin but is in reality a very old Thor. He tells the newcomer that he's really, really old and the legend he tells is older still. The sky used to be filled with stars. There aren't many left. The All-Father presumably uses them to make Thor hammers. You even get to name your hammer which is a nice perk.
The Thors and their hammers serve JUSTICE. In fact, they Cry For Justice. Basically, they're super-powerful cops in a new world order. If that doesn't tell you what kind of forces we're dealing with, I'll spell it out for you: THIS WORLD NEEDS POLICE OFFICERS WITH THE POWER OF THOR.
Sorry. My spelling is atrocious.
With the newcomer given his welcome speech, it's time for the Thors to worship god.
Oh, yeah. God is Doctor Doom. That's not terrifying, is it? It is? Huh. Yeah. It is. He's not even a real doctor.
God Emperor Doom
With worship services over, the All-New Thor is given a more Thor-like welcome from the rest of the Thors. They may have originally looked like Thor clones but now, we're given a closer look and can see their differences. Well, we can see that one of them looks like Beta Ray Bill and another looks like Storm.
This is Doomgard, home of Thors. It's basically precinct headquarters. Their Oa, if you will.
Becoming a Thor is a process. Sure he's got a new layer of muscles but there are other trials to face that will strengthen this new Thor's body and mind. Maybe he'll even be allowed clothes!
The Thors ask where the newcomer is from and learn that it's a place called Higher Avalon. This is agreeable. Higher Avalon is apparently a good place to live and at peace with Doom. The All-New Thor is then persuaded into telling them (and us) the story of creation.
It goes exactly like this:
There was NOTHING.
Followed by EVERYTHING.
Swirling. Burning specks of creation that circled life giving suns.
God Doom... created the light.
Then there was Earth. The firmament cooled and he raised up a land-- this holy land-- the world-- and upon it he set his kingdoms.
Oh... the Kingdoms! Let's learn about them. Old-Thor asks Young-Thor if he's ever traveled to any of the other Kingdoms. The answer is "no." This is the newcomer's first time away from Higher Avalon. This doesn't surprise the elder Thor. Traveling from Kingdom to Kingdom doesn't seem to be a common occurance. Barons (a Kingdom's ruler) have pretty much free reign over their territory and... most of them aren't for tourists, ok?
A Thor, on the other hand, travels freely between realms. They have to. They're the hammers of god, dispensing his justice to the lands. The new guy is excited to serve his god, so it's time for a world tour.
His god is Doom. Just making sure you get that. Doom has a loyal following of Thors who are probably just as powerful as the original Marvel Universe Thor. Doom Thors.
Let's leave the newest Thor to get dressed and head on over to the Kingdom of Utopolis to visit another plot. A very sci-fi looking ship has landed so the occupants can talk to... some musclebound Moloids. Oh, hey. It's Alex Power and Dragon Man from the Future Foundation. And that's Bentley-23. Also from the Future Foundation.
Of course, we're essentially dealing with an alternate reality. Or at least, a different perception of reality. So, while these guys were all members of the Future Foundation in the regular Marvel Universe, here, they'd probably not even recognize the name even though they are part of an organization called "The Foundation." And Alex is a Minister. Dragon Man's a "Founder." He's also a lot more human-looking than usual.
They're here to investigate something uncovered after a recent earthquake. Except it wasn't an earthquake. It was a Hulkquake. On a world that's made up of multiple Earths/ events, you'd probably be dealing with lots of Hulks. In fact they have a whole Kingdom.
After entering a nearby pool, everything goes upside down. There's a world UNDER the world. Which is awesome.
Underneath the world, we see a gigantic stone hand, what look like stone ribs, and there's a face rising out of a hill. All giant. That hand looks suspiciously like one of Doctor Doom's armored gloves. Only made of rock and huge.
We also learn that Dragon Man isn't convinced that the world is natural. He's busy working on finding the true origin of their world but his fellow scientists are uncomfortable with this discussion and change the subject back to their current investigation.
They walk past a giant stone head (I don't recognize who it is but it's got a mask over it's eyes) on their way to something made of alien materials, stuff that's foreign to this world. It's...
A life raft. Like the one that held the survivors from the Marvel Universe. It looks like it's been here a LONG time and it's still mostly buried. Minister Powers tells the Moloids to dig it up.
Back in Doomgard, out Brand-New Thor is clothed and ready for patrol. His elderly partner, Old-Thor, is giving him a guided tour of the Kingdoms while providing some useful information to US on how this new reality works. Let's do this in list form.
1. Doom is god and rules over all.
2. The Kingdoms of the world only cover the territory from the large northern ocean to the Badlands in the south.
3. More on the Badlands later.
4. There are nearly a hundred major and minor houses.
5. Feudalism! The best form of government ever!
6. Doctor Doom seriously binge watched Game of Thrones before creating this world.
7. The Baron of Higher Avalon is James Braddock. That's the older brother of Brian Braddock (Captain Britain) and Betsy Braddock (Psylocke). He's typically a pretty bad guy but here, he's legitimately decent. The world is weird.
8. Thors are police over the entire world no matter what Baron is in charge. They deliver Doom's justice.
Speaking of Doom's justice, our two police Thors are heading to Bar Sinister to deliver some on behalf of Higher Avalon but, really, on behalf of Doom. The ruler of his zone is...
HOLY CRAP IT'S MISTER SINISTER! And not that awful version we got in Kieron Gillen's Uncanny X-Men who kept on gloating about being the Sistine Chapel of whatever. This looks like the real deal. Which is funny because: alternate realities all combined and stuff.
But still, this is the best version of Sinister we've gotten in a LONG time.
Bar Sinister does borrow from the Gillen version because every citizen of this Kingdom looks to be a Sinister clone. So it's likely Baron Sinister (he didn't go to four years of Evil Baron College to be called MISTER) can transfer to a different body when necessary. When Old-Thor announces that he's under arrest, he even jokes about whether or not they've got the right guy. Ha ha.
Baron Sinister is too suave to resist arrest and even has his attendants add some more of those creepy tendril things to his cape. Old-Thor tells the Baron that the High Court is waiting for them. The Younger Thor draws runes into the ground: Fehu-Nautiz-Uruz. These signs will return a Thor to Doomstadt and the Court of Doom.
OK. Here's a few minutes of research. Fehu is the rune for earning income. It stands for success and making money. Nautiz is the rune for delays. It stands for patience. Uruz is the rune for strength and health. It stands for wish fulfillment. These runes send you to Doom who basically stands for success, patience, and whose wish has pretty much come true.
In a bolt of lightning, the Thors and Baron Sinister blast off to Doomstadt where the High Court of Doom await them. We get a nice arial view of Castle Doom. The largest feature is the massive tree that runs throughout the palace but the thing you'll probably notice FIRST is the Galactus. Because it's on fire.
If you were wondering if Doom would make an appearance, wonder no longer! There he is, seated on the Iron Throne Throne of Yggdrasil. At his side and doing most of the talking is the Sheriff of Agamotto (Doctor Strange). Also by his side but mostly quiet are Susan Storm (wearing her Future Foundation suit) and Valeria Richards (probably not actually "Richards," though). James Braddock is near the throne because Baron Sinister's supposed crimes were committed against Higher Avalon.
The court is filled with Barons. We'll see Hyperion (Utopolis), a female Moon Knight and a literal Black Panther (Upper and Lower Egyptia), Baroness Pryor (deposed by Baron Summers from Limbo), Apocalypse and his Horsemen (Domain of Apocalypse), Maestro (Future Imperfect- Dystopia?), and a host of unnamed and blurry others.
Various charges are laid against Baron Sinister. They probably aren't REALLY important (to US) but just in case you're curious: He's probably allied with Hyperion of Utopolis against Braddock of Higher Avalon. Baron Braddock claims Sinister's using Iron Pirates to send messages since their territories are separated by an ocean. The last charge is calling Brian Braddock's wife a cow. She's pregnant.
Of course he's found guilty but, as a Baron, Sinister has an Ace to play. He can challenge his accuser in the ring. Fight it out. Like Kirk and Spock but with a whole lot more animosity.
Since that final charge was laid down by James' younger brother, it is BRIAN Braddock that faces off with Sinister. James is uncomfortable with this but relents to having Brian fight his own battles. Because this is gentlemanly combat, the two use stun batons.
As an opening move, Brian remove Sinister's head. Then, he begins strutting around the ring like he's won the fight. Unfortunately, he's facing Baron Sinister and taking off the villain's head is a slowing maneuver at best. Sinister's body swats Brian around the ring before reaching down to pick up his missing head. The Baron swings a killing blow of his own.
But it's stopped by a living god. Doom demands everyone bow. And they do.
Doctor Doom hasn't spoken since this moment, allowing his Sheriff to run the court as his right hand. But now? Now, Doom takes a personal hand. It's not because of his benevolence.
Higher Avalon is said to be the place to go if you want access to an area called "The Silent Chambers." This is where all the cool revolutionaries gather and plot Doom's downfall. Them those who wind up getting caught have given up the name "Braddock." Doom wants to know exactly WHERE the Silent Chambers ARE.
Brian claims to not know. For his ineptitude, Doom lays out the punishment: loss of tongue, eyes, and all those dangly limbs. A terrible price and not one that James is willing to have his brother pay. Baron Braddock speaks up, admitting that the "Braddock" the revolutionaries speak of is HIM.
The Sheriff orders the Thors to take Baron Braddock into custody but Doom isn't done speaking just yet. He is ENRAGED. Just as Doom is ordering the death of anyone who's ever even THOUGHT of having the last name "Braddock," Susan Storm lays a hand on his shoulder and says two words.
After a brief pause, mercy is laid out. Brian Braddock just got promoted to Baron. Baron Sinister is to receive lashes in a public setting. As for the former Baron, James, he gets the Shield. The Thors teleport him away.
Court is over. Doom leaves. Susan follows him. Valeria stays because she needs to talk to the good Sheriff. She reminds him of the different roles they play in Doom's court. The Sheriff is the law. The Right Hand. She's the Foundation. The Left Hand. They represent the "dueling ideologies" of Doom. So they come into conflict a lot.
Doom has rules in place to negate that. Those rules are now being followed. There's something that has been found that must come to the Law's attention. It's the life raft. The problem is that it's older than creation. Which means it's very nature is heretical. The Sheriff tells Valeria (and Minister Powers) that research of the craft is suspended and a team will be sent to seal off the area from further investigation.
And, yeah, as they walk around Castle Doom, they walk up to the flaming Galactus. Floating above his hand is Franklin Richards. Again, "Richards" is probably not his last name.
Meanwhile, James Braddock is transported to the Shield. This is the barrier that separates the Kingdoms from the Badlands to the south. Braddock armors up for his new responsibilities. His words let us know that he doesn't intend on a long life. Remember, the young Thor was a citizen of Higher Avalon and still hold his former Baron in esteem. He doesn't wish to see James Braddock fall.
James lays this on the newest Thor as a lesson. We're all at Doom's mercy. It's his final words that sum it all up, though.
When they come to pull you down, don't let them drag you, son.
...and take as many of the bastards with you as you can.
That said, James Braddock leaps off the Shield and into the Badlands. He lights up his sword. Here come the zombies, led by Venom. He finally gets to say that line about eating brains and MEAN it!
As the former Baron fights his last battle, Old-Thor tells us all about the Shield. It not only holds off the Zombie Horde (from Marvel Zombies), but it keeps the Annihilation Wave (from Annihilation) and the Ultron A.I. (Age of Ultron) at bay. It's a constant fight. Many have died. Many more WILL die.
The Thors return to Castle Doom to report in with the Sheriff. It's late and Old-Thor would like to head on back to Doomgard for a drink. Instead, the Sheriff of Agamotto sends the two to seal off a heretical life raft. Much later, it will be studied. But today, quarantine is the name of the game.
A mention is made of A.I.M. which in this reality stands for Advanced Idea Mythologies. Apparently, they spout off heretical talk but no one takes them seriously.
Night falls. The Thors find themselves looking at an unburied life raft on the inside of the world. The Moloids are still here. One of them is upset that they had to stop digging the ship out. You might want to watch that one.
In the meantime, let's listen in as Old-Thor tells the new Thor on the block why this particular vessel needs to be cut off from the world. Schism, my friend. Something like this, that pre-dates what everyone believes to be the creation of the world, it causes believers to doubt. And what is a god without followers? It's worth noting that the evidence in front of him doesn't shake Old-Thor's beliefs in God-Doom. He simply doesn't think this kind of thing is actually important. At least not where Doom's omnipotence is concerned.
He... he might be wrong.
Remember that curious little Moloid? It just accidentally on purpose opened up the life raft. Inside is something that absolutely terrifies Old-Man-Thor. He orders the Young-Thor back to the Sheriff. It's too late for the older version. A bladed weapon has already run him through and it's followed by more perfectly aimed tools of distruction. A spear finally lances right through his head.
This is not the life raft you expected. The Black Panther, Captain Marvel, and Star-Lord were never on board. Reed Richards was but it was the wrong one. This craft holds Thanos and the Cabal. The bad guys.
Ultimate Reed Richards, the Maker, created this life raft from schematics lifted straight from the Illuminati originals. Apparently, the Cabal was in stasis until the ship was opened. So time might have actually passed while they slept. Still, the readings the Maker is getting are concerning.
Thanos still wants to know where they've landed. One of his minions, Proxima, gets her hands on a local, most likely the same Moloid that opened the ship. Thanos demands to know what planet he's treading upon.
The Moloid lists a number of names. Doom's World. Latverion. But what he and the commoners call it?
But seriously. Let's see the good guys next issue. OK?