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Secret Wars Spin Off Series Mini Reviews

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With Marvel’s Secret Wars event wrapping up soon (hopefully), I thought I’d take some time to look at some of the spin off miniseries published during it. Secret Wars allowed for their stable of writers to really let loose and get to write some fun and interesting parallel universe stories revisiting fan favorite storylines while giving the readers a possible taste of things to come. With the majority of the regular monthly series on hold there was an insane amount of books that came out in the interim to replace them. I’m only going to focus on the four miniseries that I read in completion. For better or for worse here they are:

1872 (#1-4)

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Writer: Gerry Duggan

Art: Nik Verella

I picked this book up because it was originally solicited as having art from Doc Shaner. Something happened though where he had to pull out of the project, but I figured I’d try my luck with it anyway. Man, am I glad I did. This is exactly what an alternate universe/what if series should be. In particular, 1872 is a fun reimagining of our marvel heroes and villains in the old west. The Native American Red Wolf is our main character and to me the least interesting part, but his character frames the story. He is attempting to blow up a dam established by Governor Roxxon because it’s robbing his people of water. Wilson Fisk who is the mayor of the town Timely (a nice tip of the hat to Marvel’s pre Marvel name) has his lynch mob string him up to be hung that is until they are intercepted by Sheriff Steve Rogers. Red Wolf is transported back to town and jailed to wait until he can be judged by the eyes of the law in court.

This sets in motion our story, which in my eyes is just a springboard to introduce to you this great cast of characters. Tony Stark is a an inventor and Civil War arms dealer whose guilt has turned him into a drunk. Ben Urich plays a crucial role as a newspaper man to scared to print the truth because of Fisk’s stranglehold. We see Foggy Nelson as the judge, Carol Danvers, Bruce Banner, Bullseye (!) and many others nods and mentions. It’s a light and entertaining read, but I highly recommend it. The ending left it open ended which we know will continue in the ongoing Red Wolf series that’s been announced. My only hope is that they don’t bring Red Wolf into the current Marvel universe. Although, it’s pretty evident that they will. They also seemed to allude to some supernatural elements that would take place if the series did continue that could make for some interesting stories, but for my money they’d be better off keeping it as is. No superpowers, just familiar faces in an old west setting.

X-Men ’92 (#1-4)

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Writers: Chris Sims & Chad Bowers

Art: Scott Koblish

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a 90’s X-Men kid. I have no shame in that either (even though I probably should). So when X-Men ’92 was solicited as a Secret Wars miniseries boasting the same lineup from the fan favorite X-Men early 90’s cartoon I was ecstatic. Reading the actual series though was another story. The title took place in the Westchester portion of Battleworld where the X-Men were celebrities after stopping Magneto’s war on humans years earlier. This series revolves around Cassandra Nova and her facility she’s running where she reforms (i.e. brainwashes) mutants both good and bad to do her bidding. There’s more to it than that, but this one of the only Secret Wars spin off titles that wasn’t delayed so it’s already been wrapped up for a few months and my details on it are a little hazy.

I’m sure some people loved this book. In fact, I know they did because Marvel is making it into an ongoing series. My hope was that it would take the line up and feeling of that era and recreate it with a modern sensibility. Instead it’s more of a parody that’s played for laughs. Yes, everything was over the top and overblown just like the 90’s but more tongue in cheek. The issues were released as online only chapters before getting combined into print comics. Because of that each issue has a longer page count and higher price tag ($4.99) which if you’re not liking what you’re reading it can be torture. Do yourself a favor and skip this one.

Thors (#1-4)

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Writer: Jason Aaron

Art: Chris Spouse

Battleword in the main Secret Wars series is policed by Thors made up of thunder Gods from across all the different Marvel universes. Gods whom answer only to Doctor Doom. Jason Aaron who has been writing his Thor epic over the last few years comes up with a fantastic premise. Why not do a series that’s basically a police procedural starring the Thors? Which is exactly what he does. Ultimate Thor and Beta Ray Bill are partners solving the case of someone murdering all the Jane Foster’s across different ages and different kingdoms. When Beta Ray visits his informer Loki to get some information he winds up dead.

The first two issues are pitch perfect and a hell of a lot of fun to read. By the time the third issue hits it’s ok but the series is starting to falter. The 4th issue which experienced numerous delays so it could coincide with Secret Wars #7 ironically rushes the conclusion. The killer is revealed but their motivations aren’t properly explained. How it’s tied into Secret Wars makes sense given what the series is about, but could have just as easily been explained in the same 4 or 5 page count in the Secret Wars main series. Aaron does seemingly plant seeds for his main Thor book that picks up in the main marvel universe post Secret Wars. So if anything else, if you’ve been reading his series this is a side step that you should check out. For everyone else, take a look but know it doesn’t maintain the high quality set in the first two issues.

Where Monsters Dwell (#1-5)

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Writer: Garth Ennis

Art: Russell Braun

After seeing the cover of issue #1 this was a must read for me. Despite it being by Garth Ennis whom everyone seems to love but my own history with him has been…spotty at best. I decided to pick it up anyway. The series’ protagonist is Karl Kaufmann who was featured in a Marvel Max series a few years back also penned by Ennis. The character was kicked around in a few books in the 1970’s and the title of the series comes from an old monster anthology Marvel also did in the 1970’s. The two are seemingly unrelated. All you need to know is these 5 issues are full of good pulpy Indiana Jones style adventure.

Kaufmann is an american pilot and WWI survivor, he makes his money half way around the world flying people to where they need to go. A rigid British woman named Clementine Franklin Cox (or Clemie) hires him as a transport. During their flight they hit a massive storm and their plane goes down. They very quickly realize where they landed is populated with large dinosaurs and other creatures evoking a Land Of The Lost vibe. There seems to be no mention of it, but in my eyes they are clearly in the Savage Land. I’m not sure if the Savage Land is mentioned anywhere else in Secret Wars, but this certainly seems like this is it. All isn’t what it seems when Clemie begins to get rough with Kaufmann and shows her expertise for plane mechanics and fire arms. Shortly, they are captured by a band of primitive Amazon like Women tribe.

The ending of this story, I believe ties into events from the first miniseries Ennis did. I hadn’t read the original and it certainly doesn’t hamper your reading of this story but I guess would enhance the twist a bit more. This is another series that I think is sorely missing from Marvel’s old line up as well as their new one. It’s not superhero based, it belongs in another time period and is just fun. Who doesn’t love old school adventure?

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About Biff Tannen

Film Noir, Pulp, Comic Books and Hitchcock.

Posted on November 19, 2015, in COMICS!, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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