Jonathan Hickman's Secret Wars: A Modern Classic

by Harlan Ivester on March 30, 2018

Secret Wars (2015)
            Imagine reading nothing but Spider-Man, wanting to keep up with the larger Marvel universe, and then reading the 2015 multiverse-shattering event known as Secret Wars. Needless to say, I was confused. Absolutely lost, but I was able to fill in at least some of the blanks and really enjoyed the story as a newcomer, despite the messy release schedule and mix-ups with the All-New, All-Different relaunch. Nowadays, I read a lot more and keep up with more characters in their individual books. Thanks to the beauty that is Marvel Unlimited (#NotAnAd), I have access to just about everything Marvel that ever was. I’ve heard so much about the greatest contributors at the House of Ideas, and one that people consistently talk about is Hickman. Fantastic Four, Future Foundation, Avengers, New Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D. – I wondered what I was missing out on when I read Secret Wars as its own story rather than as the climax of a much, much larger one, so I decided it was time to check out the rest, because the Secret Wars Prelude sure didn’t help. Having now read through the series’ that are arguably most important to the build up of Secret Wars, I see now what a huge mistake I made. I should have hopped on sooner. Marvel shouldn’t have let one of their best writers go.
            If there’s only one thing I can say about Hickman’s work at Marvel, it’s that it’s just oozing with imagination. He takes every idea they have, everything people love, and takes it an extra step, in a way that can come off as simple comic book fan service and impossible levels of creativity at the same time. What if the Human Torch was the sun? Or Doom’s throne was Yggdrasil, the World Tree itself? These are details and concepts that are so grand in scale, they’re the perfect example of the kind of beyond crazy thoughts that make comics a medium that is so unique. I wasn’t too keen on the Fantastic Four before, but the Council of Reeds and the paths that stemmed from each alternate reality drew me in, and how something so out of this world ended up bringing Reed back to his family sealed the deal. Hickman made me a fan, and now I eagerly await Dan Slott’s start on the new title. The downside to some of Hickman’s ideas is that a story may occasionally have too much exposition all at once, but if you’re like me, you love that exposition just as much because it’s presented in a frame and pace that keep it interesting. Rather than your professor reading to you from a power point while you doze off in the back, the hows and whys are given to you during your first day on the job, keeping you on your toes and wanting to know more. Exposition dumps can be an easy hole to fall into, but thankfully, he knows how to make it work.
             Hickman doesn’t just take extra steps for the world, though; they’re for the characters, too. How they interact, how they view each other, themselves, and their surroundings. Avengers and Secret Wars especially give Hickman a stage to show that he doesn’t just understand the stars of one or two books. He understands clearly every corner of the Marvel universe. Maybe Marvel actually gave him the boot because he was too powerful and had to be stopped. He knows its people inside and out – what voices these people should have, what motivates them, what holds them back, etc. They get the chance to evolve further, by being in situations where they can only lose. You can’t punch your way to victory when facing an incursion. New Avengers and Secret Wars are highlighted as journeys for both heroes and villains, blurring the lines between them. He knows exactly what it is that makes their relationships interesting and how to resolve their conflicts in meaningful ways, with Reed and Victor’s battle at the end of the event being the perfect example. Nothing could be so satisfying. Doom’s confession of fear and envy, and the gesture of good will from his rival – these types of conclusions are present throughout Hickman’s work and are what makes it so impactful and lasting. Secret Wars rewards us still, paving the way for stories that I think will also be talked about for years, such as Doctor Doom as the Infamous Iron Man, a story of redemption that I never knew I wanted to read, and Avengers: No Surrender, (so far) one of my favorite Avengers stories in years.
                Today, if Hickman came back to Marvel, they could put him on any book and I know I would be stoked for it. Between his evident comprehension of the mythos and his ability to apply that knowledge to a web weaved across years of stories while still keeping the build up as entertaining as can be, the man has thoroughly cemented his place as one of my favorite writers of all time. I hope that now that Marvel is reeling it in with the events and the mandatory tie-ins, maybe he’ll come back to us one day. Otherwise, I’m just glad we got what we did. His stories hold up well, with great reread value, interesting themes, some damn good quotable lines throughout, and the list goes on. Thanks for everything, Jonathan.

Our Score:


A Look Inside