The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Everything you’d want to know about Marvel’s epic war is in this new book

Courtesy of Marvel 2016
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Despite a few scheduling shifts and hiccups, Secret Wars — the galaxy-blasting moment that made the Marvel Universe whole again — indeed deserved to be called a comic-book “event.”

The nine-issue miniseries, written by Jonathan Hickman and illustrated by Esad Ribic (with covers by Alex Ross), has been collected in a hardcover edition that’s newly available (list price $50). And the beauty of this collected “Secret Wars” is there are multiple ways to approach it.

You can dive into this edition and let it be your guide to the construction of Marvel’s current comics universe. Or you can take the scenic route and look at all that Hickman built leading up to Secret Wars. Hickman’s previous Marvel works, including his runs on Fantastic Four and the Avengers, provide the blueprint for what leads to the eventual destruction and rebuilding of all things Marvel Comics here. It’s a lot to take in, but then again, the destruction of a universe doesn’t happen overnight.

Reading Hickman’s prior works is the long way to go about things, but it is a rewarding experience. (The hardcover “Secret Wars” does not include those other Hickman works.) And such a Hickman run-up enhances reading this miniseries all at once.

And with this book, you’ll hold in your hand the last great Fantastic Four story (that we know of). On the heels of what happened at the Hollywood box office last year with “Fantastic Four,” great comic tales featuring Marvel’s first family are also few and far between. Who knows whether we’ll ever see the Fantastic Four again — at least as we’ve known them for so long — in a Marvel comic. Yet if Secret Wars is anything besides the rare comics “event” that lives up to the hype, it is also the ultimate battle between Mr. Fantastic/Reed Richards and Doctor Doom.

Sometimes, narratively, it can be difficult to see the forest for the Reed. There is so much going on in the Battleworld that Doctor Doom has created in Secret Wars. Battleworld serves as the pieced-together fragments of alternate realities that Doom rules over while Reed Richards and a select few other Marvel heroes try to stop him. Ultimately, the grandest event in recent Marvel Comics memory came down to a battle of its two brightest minds: Mr. Fantastic vs. Dr. Doom.

That’s the main event — yet those who have already taken the journey know this tale offers much more.

Secret Wars accomplished its mission: End one world and begin another. Just like the ’80s miniseries it shares a name with, Secret Wars now belongs to the ages.