Hey, everyone and welcome to another exciting installment of Super Reads. I'm here to read Secret Wars #4 and then spoil it for you. So that's what I'm gonna do.
If you hadn't heard the news...
There are Spoilers ahead.
How did we get here? I'll tell you how we got here.
It's complicated but the nutshell version is that the other-dimensional beings known as the Beyonders set off a time bomb across the multiverse that would have eventually destroyed the whole thing. The time bomb had a name. Molecule Man.
Yeah, that's a person. Molecule Man existed through every universe and was sort of the SAME person everywhere.
Molecule Man wasn't a huge fan of being a living time bomb so he set Doctor Doom about the task to foil the Beyonders' scheme. The solution? Killing Molecule Men. Doom would go from dimension to dimension, killing Molecule Man over and over again.
This led to a lot of awful stuff. For one thing, murdering Molecule Man destabilized the whole Multiverse, causing universes to crash into each other. Universes began dying a whole lot sooner than expected.
Doctor Doom eventually brought the fight directly to the Beyonders, bringing his good buddies, Doctor Strange and a quite insane Molecule Man with him. Most of the details of this confrontation remain unrevealed.
But the results are right out in the open. After every universe had been destroyed, Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom rebuilt a world from the scattered remains of destroyed Earths. Doom took the lead, becoming the god of this new, final world.
And he's got the power to back up that claim. Strange has described Doom as omnipotent but NOT omniscient. So: all-powerful but not all-knowing.
Doom lords his power over the rest of the world, known to the locals as Battleworld. He asserts his authority when necessary but he's a lot more even-handed than you'd expect.
Perhaps it's the company he keeps. Doctor Strange spends a lot of time hanging out with Doom but, more important, the god of Battleworld has Susan Storm as his consort. They're a couple. It's kind of weird.
I'm kidding. It's incredibly weird.
And that's because Sue Storm is usually known as the wife of Reed Richards.
Doom's main nemesis.
Doom is a very nuanced character, considering he was originally a one-note, mustache twirling, Silver-Age bad guy. However, one of his defining characteristics is his all-consuming rivalry with Reed Richards. Doom hates Reed.
It's mostly a one-way rivalry, though. Reed would acknowledge the threat that Doom represents and knows that Victor holds the mother of all grudges but Mr. Fantastic doesn't share that grudge. Reed wants to see his family safe and the world free from the danger of Doom but that's about as far as his vendetta goes.
Except now... Doctor Doom is hanging around his family. And is god of the world.
Secret Wars #4
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: It's the Cabal versus Thors versus the life raft heroes until Sue notices Reed Richards and Doom starts killing people.
• The Cabal fights Thors.
• Sheriff Strange reveals the secret origin of Battleworld to the remaining heroes of the Marvel Universe.
• With the fight going badly for the Thors, one Thor prays to god and projects an astral form into Doom's Court at Castle Doom.
• Doctor Doom looks in on events, witnessing Sheriff Strange and the Marvel Universe Heroes joining the fight against the Cabal.
• Susan Storm is the first to notice Reed Richards.
• I mean, she REALLY notices him.
• Doom finds his motivation to enter the fight.
• Mr. Fantastic and Doctor Doom talk about things and stuff.
• Mostly the new world order kind of things.
• Doom gives everyone the ultimatum that they're going to have to bow down to him.
• Cyclops uses all of his crazy Phoenix powers, attacking the god of Battleworld.
• This doesn't work out well for him.
• As Cyclops falls dead, Strange teleports the heroes and the Cabal all around Battleworld.
• After a good final talk, Doom kills Sheriff Strange for his insolence.
THE SECOND OFFENSE
You know what I didn't mention up above? I didn't mention that last issue ended with the Thors finding Thanos and the Cabal. These are basically the bad guys of the series. Thanos, Namor, Maximus the Mad, Black Swan, Terrax, Proxima Midnight, and Corvus Glave ended up surviving the end of the multiverse by riding in a life raft created by the Maker (Ultimate Reed Richards) and launched from the Ultimate Universe's Earth.
They exited the life raft into the brave new world of Battleworld and promptly killed a Thor in Secret Wars #2. In the following issue, the Thors began their search for the Cabal.
Seeing as they've already murdered a Thor, you can bet the rest of the Thors are PROBABLY mad as hell. They've got numbers on their side. Typically, this fight would be quick and the victors obvious.
But the Cabal is not going down as easily as the usual Battleworld resident.
Meanwhile at the Isle of Agamotto, Sheriff Strange is telling the newcomers about the nature of Battleworld.
To understand how different Battleworld is, you've got to understand how things worked BEFORE Battleworld. In a word, HARMONIOUSLY. Things were set up by an actual higher power and it was all mapped out and planned. Battleworld, on the other hand, was built from the remnants of broken Earths. Bits jammed into other bits by the omnipotent power of Doctor Doom.
It shouldn't BE but it is. Strange explains that because of it's unnatural state, "survival is it's first and highest purpose." Strange finishes his lesson by proclaiming how awesome Doctor Doom is for keeping this all together.
The newcomers he's teaching? They're the surviving Marvel heroes from the previous universe. Reed Richards, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Star-Lord, Spider-Man, Cyclops, and Thor escaped the destruction of the multiverse by riding a life raft created by the Future Foundation and launched from the 616-Universe's Earth. Ultimate Spider-Man is here too, having hitched a ride on the Maker's Ultimate life raft.
Everyone is shocked at the reverence Strange shows towards Doom. When Reed asks how Battleworld came to be, the Sheriff explains the Beyonders' wicked plot and Doctor Doom's response. When telling the story of Victor's encounter with the Beyonders, Stephen says that the Beyonders were all killed, leaving only their power behind. Doctor Strange was unwilling to take up that power. Doctor Doom was totally willing.
So the multiverse was destroyed and Victor Von Doom saved everything that could be saved. The Sorcerer Supreme explains that no matter what they think, the god of this world is Doom. Omnipotence and all that.
It ought to surprise no one that when the realization hits that the Ultimate and 616 Universes are both destroyed, some people are going to have strong reactions to that. After all, those universes were where these heroes put all their stuff. Miles Morales is the one to puts that into words.
Sheriff Strange offers what comfort he can. Some things survived. New York, for instance, lives on. So does part of Wakanda. Stephen is philosophical about this. He's had eight years to build his world view. Battleworld isn't always satisfying but it's real. It's still here. That has to be enough.
And then Cyclops opens his mouth and makes everything... awkward.
You know what you should never do? TAKE ON THE ALL ENCOMPASSING POWERS OF AN INSANE COSMIC FIREBIRD. That never turns out well and you pretty much go insane with power. Granted, Scott took on the Phoenix at the end of all that was so it was kind of the mother of all hail mary's but, having survived the end of the world... things get creepy.
What Cyclops is wondering is why Doom doesn't just burn it all down and start it over, better than before? If you've got the power, why just deal with remnants from the past when you could remake everything in your own image? It's actually a good question but there's no time to ponder it. The rookie Thor's hammer is glowing. And that means GOBLINS.
I mean... it means there's trouble happening somewhere in Battleworld.
I'm surprised it's not glowing all the time.
Though, to be fair, this particular trouble is PRETTY big. It's the battle between the Cabal and the Thors (happening in the Kingdom of Utopolis) that started this issue off. The Thors aren't doing so well.
One of the Thors (the one with the boar face) decides that the only way to turn the tide is to appeal to god. So he begins praying. The Boar Thor projects an astral from at Castle Doom and straight into an audience with Doom. Also in attendance are Susan Storm and her daughter, Valeria. Val is the head of the Foundation and she tells Doom about the object her team found in Utopolis and how she had turned it over to Sheriff Strange as a potentially heretical item. Things have clearly slid in a downward trajectory from there.
After listening to the Boar Thor's account, Doom decides to give this matter a personal look. That doesn't mean he's going to make an appearance in Utopolis. It just means that he's going to use his wide screen television to look at events in progress. In this case, he'll look directly through Boar Thor's eyes to see the big fight between the Cabal and the Thors.
OK. Things look crazy but Doom remains unconcerned. Val explains that what's important isn't WHO is fighting because Battleworld has multiple variants of most of the Cabal. Thanos, for example, shows up in more than one domain. No, what's important are the power levels. These guys are much stronger than the local duplicates. Sue points to the Maker and Maximus and mentions that the force field protecting them has to be INCREDIBLE strong because it's taking multiple hammer blows without showing signs of breaking. Her own invisible force fields couldn't take nearly that kind of punishment.
But like I said, Doom doesn't feel like this confrontation warrants his intervening. For a moment, this seems to be true because Sheriff Strange shows up on the scene with a pack of super-heroes. Things look like they're well in hand.
Except... Strange made the mistake of bringing Reed Richards with him. Classic blunder.
Doom doesn't notice him at first. In fact, it looks like a typical day in Battleworld as local heroes fighting local villains with a bunch of Thors mixed in to make it interesting. Val tells him that, again, these heroes are DIFFERENT. Doom begins to feel a bit uneasy about the whole event.
It's Sue who notices Reed. Because: of course.
Remember, in this reality, Susan is Doom's consort. She loves him. He loves her. It's bizarre but that's the reality of things. So when she looks at Reed and says:
I don't know what it is about this one, my love...
But there's something different about him. Something... SPECIAL.
It's the kind of thing that'll drive a man to murder. I mean, if you were a guy like Doom who held so much animosity for a guy like Reed Richards that you'd hold a life time grudge against him. Then murder might be the case.
But we're dealing with a new Doom here, right? He's at peace. He's wearing white. He's the master of all he surveys.
Doom mentions that he looked for Reed but in all the remnants of the multiverse, he couldn't find any Reed variants. This is probably because a lot of other universe versions of Reed Richards were killed during Hickman's run on Fantastic Four. We saw a lot of alternate Mr. Fantastics in New Avengers but... well, the overall number of Reeds is much lower than, say, Spider-Man.
Though, let's face it. You get, like, eight Spider-Men per universe.
Telling Susan to have the medics prep for the injured, Doom finally decides to make things personal. His arrival is big. It gets everyone's attention. But the only one who has Doom's attention is Mr. Fantastic.
To be fair, there are two Reed Richardses in these scenes but Doom doesn't care about the Maker. It's very likely that because of the Maker's elaborate helmet, Doom isn't even aware that there are two Reeds here. Still, 616-Richards would always be the priority.
Reed starts things off by congratulating Victor Von Doom on what he's accomplished here. I mean, credit where credit is due, right? Maybe he's being a little sarcastic? Probably not. The scientist in Reed Richards would definitely be impressed by all of this.
Because he's Doom, Victor follows Reed's compliments by bragging. Mr. Fantastic admits that, while he was able to save himself and a few others, this accomplishment falls far short of building a whole world out of nothing.
From here, it's all talk about how Doom made himself king. But, ha, he's not king. He's so much more.
Thanos interrupts this conversation because, as a mad god, he'd like to see a fellow almighty being stop talking AROUND the word "god." I mean, if you can't admit to being a god, maybe you aren't one?
But timing is everything and Doom was clearly building up to the point.
"I am god."
To punctuate that, Doom makes the ground erupt. He's such a benevolent superior being that he tells everyone that they get a whole moment to come to terms with the way this world is. After that, they kneel before Doom.
Immediate response? Cyclops makes Doctor Doom burn. He also keeps. On. TALKING. No one cares, Scott! You're crazy. I say this as a huge fan of Cyclops but crazy Phoenix-possessed Cyclops is sad.
But to his credit, Cyclops is able to do some damage. He burns the god of Battleworld and even makes Victor scream in pain. But when you're all powerful, you trump cosmic firebird power. Doctor Doom recovers quickly and all of that nice damage inflicted on his person is reversed.
Oh, he's got one all-powerful hand around Cyclops' throat. Which leads to this:
Now, I don't think we've seen the last of Cyclops or at least the Phoenix Force. Life and Death just seem to be kind of a useful component in recreating the Marvel Universe and it would be sad if Cyclops was just brought along to job for Doom. For the moment, however, this is a good sign at just how powerful Doctor Doom is.
Which is pretty powerful.
Sheriff Strange knows how this whole thing is going to end so while Doom is busy killing Cyclops, he's busy prepping a spell. When Scott Summers hits the ground, Stephen casts his magic, scattering everyone, hero and villain alike, across Battleworld.
He could have probably kept the Cabal here to face justice but, well, everyone has a part to play, right?
You know who's excited about losing Reed Richards? And everyone else?
Oh, the rage. He demands that Strange bring everyone back. Stephen refuses. He knew that, had they remained, they would NEVER have bowed to Doom and they would have all died. Old friends. REAL old friends. Stephen couldn't let that happen.
Doom knows that they'll try to find a way to... fix things? Get rid of Doom as god? Whatever heroes do. Hero it up. Probably fight other heroes. That's what heroes do.
And if you think Doctor Strange's defiance is going to get him a cookie, oh, what book have you been reading? Not one about Doom as god, that's for sure. Strange says the last eight years have been great. They've done miracles. But... old habits.
Plus! The Sheriff never even told Reed about how Doom had essentially stolen his life. Sue as a consort? Val and Franklin as his daughter and son? Oh, Reed is gonna be pissed. I mean, even before that affront, Reed was still gonna be working on the problem of Doctor Doom but the family bit? That's going to focus Reed like a laser.
"Even with all this power, you're still afraid of him. Well, you know what, old friend?
I think you should be."
Thus falls the Sheriff of Agamotto. Doom's greatest ally and maybe his only friend is dead.
Oh, man, that's not good for anyone.
EDIT! I initially ended this article by wondering what had happened to all the Thors. That's because I hadn't paid close enough attention to the bottom of page 16. In my defense, it's because I thought it was just another fight panel preceding the arrival of Doctor Doom on the battlefield. What's ACTUALLY happening is the Thors are being teleported to Castle Doom just as Victor is ENTERING the battle.
Not only does this explain why there aren't any Thors roaming around during Doom's talk with Reed, but it also assures us that Susan and Val aren't able to watch the conversation (or it's aftermath) since the whole Castle Doom monitor thing was actually looking through the eyes of Boar Thor while Boaris was on the field of combat.
This was pointed out by BubbaKanoosh in the comments so: Thanks, Bubba!