Secret Wars #2 “God Emperor Doom” Written and Designed by Jonathan Hickman Art by Esad Ribic Cover by Alex Ross
I love Elseworld, or in Marvel parlance ‘What if?’, stories. They allow for the reapportion of an understood grammar into new but at times still universal ways. It is through this twist in the vernacular that we can better understand the seemingly universal qualities of these mythic characters. After the end, writer and designer Jonthan Hickman, has unleashed his ultimate twist on the Marvel language in the creation of Latvarion, God’s Kingdom, or as the common folk call it BattleWorld.
Created by Doom himself, according to his self designed religion, Battleworld is a mishmash of Marvel Universe events or timelines transformed into their own countries. These countries are part of a worldwide feudal oligarchy wherein Doom is titular God Emperor, Doctor Strange and Valeria Richards are his right and left hands respectively, and countries are ruled by Barons, such as the Braddocks of High Avalon.
Both due to its status as an “Event” book with something like 40+ tie-ins and just the sheer scale of Hickman’s Battleworld a lot of exposition must be dumped just so there is a framework to hang whatever greater thematic/emotional point Secret Wars will try to make. Laying this foundation isn’t as laborious or mind numbing as it may sound due to the always good narrative idea of showing this brave new world via an audience surrogate; in this case a freshly minted member of the Thor Corps, the paramilitary enforcers of God Emperor Doom’s Law on Battleworld.
After being deemed worthy by a hammer, Thor is paired with what appears to be Old King Thor from God of Thunder and sent on patrol. Traveling from Bar Sinister and taking to the High Court in Castle Doom wherein Sheriff Strange and Doom settle disputes between the Barons of Battleworld. The High Court is and feudal social structure of Battleworld has clear ties both Medieval times(only the transnational Catholich Church is the ultimate State) and more popculturally current something like Game of Thrones. Old King Thor describing the manner of the Court and by extension Battleworld as “it is always this formal…yes it is. Until it is not.” “God Emperor Doom” dose a fantastic job laying out in broad strokes the geography and social structure of Battleworld by using the language of melodramatic courtly intrigue.
With the multiverse seemingly dead there is no need for artist Esad Ribic to have a pair of styles, here everyone is drawn with the same finely inked style with a light pastel color pallet. The lightness of the color pallet and character design is evocative of some neoclassical art, which sounds like something Doom would want. Without Ribic’s clear artistic unity this world could easily fall apart by the sheer pastiche it is articulating. You have on one level a medieval social structure with clear sci-fi elements, and Venom zombies. It is the Marvel U crammed into one place in time and space and somehow it all makes sense. Or at least holds the promise to make sense and tell interesting stories.
Bits At The End
I have a crazy theory, that isn’t Victor Von Doom under the Doom mask. It’s really Reed Richards. Doom hanging with Valeria makes sense but Sue Storm, not so much