By Dustin Weaver & Gerry Duggan
Weaver and Duggan’s Secret Wars tie-in continues along its own idiosyncratic path. The first issue centered on the dynamics within a family unit trying to survive a ravaged world. There was plenty of action, though little linking the title to its 90s Event namesake. Weaver and Duggan seemed little concerned with retelling a familiar story, instead focusing on a batch of new characters. The second issue, broadened the scope, adding some familiar faces, yet still traveling in its own narrative direction. That trend continues with the release of #3 as Weaver and Duggan keep on delightfully subverting reader expectations.
Last month’s issue ended with the revelation that Thanos was currently in possession of the Time Gem. As expected of The Mad Titan, he is determined to gain the other five Stones as well, yet, each attempt ends in failure. Luckily (for him) he has the Time Gem, which allows him to rewind the clock after each defeat; it is essentially his own personal “do-over” button. However, after so many failed attempts, he has decided that a new approach is needed. The family at the center of the series has a mother who is a Nova, and she in turn possesses another of the Gems. Instead of direct confrontation, Thanos concludes that a more devious approach may be required.
Thus, Thanos comes to the defense of the main characters, saving them from a swarm of monstrous bugs. The mother is suspicious, yet, he is allowed to join their search for the remaining Gems. The mother hopes to use their untied powers to rid themselves of the invading creatures, while Thanos has his own goals in mind. It is a refreshing take on the character which emphasizes his intellect. Too often of late, Thanos is reduced to a cosmically powered mass murderer, who is motivated by nothing deeper than bloodlust. In the hands of his best writers (Jim Starlin, Keith Giffen, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning), he is much more. Watching how Thanos’ long game will play out promises to be compelling reading.
At the same time, Weaver and Duggan fold into their story other aspects of Marvel’s cosmic landscape. Star-Lord and Gamora are recognizable, yet different, variations on their 616 versions. Groot makes a brief cameo, which includes a clever play with his usual dialogue (“Eye hmmm grew root”). Drax makes an equally short appearance, which is intriguing if Weaver and Duggan are indeed riffing on Annihilation as well as Gauntlet. (While the menace stalking the land remains nameless it is instantly reminiscent of Annhilus’ Annihilation Wave). At the center of it all remains Anwen and her family, recently deputized by her mother into the Nova Corps. Duggan’s script does a good job juggling these various aspects of the story (plotted by him and Weaver) so that no element gets lost in the shuffle.
Weaver also supplies the art for this title, which is nothing short of striking. His work is able to convey both the ruins of the decimated landscape, along with the advanced tech of Star-Lord or the Nova Corps. His action sequences are clear and dynamic. In addition, he has fun with some of the redesign possibilities. As with the script, one of the visual highlights is Groot, who looks much more like a conventional tree than he has in a while.
Overall this issue continues to successfully balance action and character in order to create an exciting new concept. Like other excellent Secret Wars tie-ins, Weaver and Duggan have embraced the opportunity to craft something fresh. The result is something that all fans of Marvel’s cosmic corner should be reading. I know I am looking forward to seeing where their tale turns next.