The stars of this issue are Dr. Doom and Dr. Strange. Or really, Ennui and Angst, my two favorite SAT vocab words whose presence helps distinguish a good comicbook.
While Doom broods about the daily tedium of being a god, Strange investigates the liferaft opened last issue, finds an ultimate Spider-Man, and opens the other liferaft to bring the rest of our heroes into the story along with their recrimination.
Oh, and the Molecule Man shows up in this issue, too. You remember him, right? The important lynchpin to the entire plot of a five year epic? Yeah, there’s a statue of him in the garden. What? How? Why? I’m not saying that I want all the answers right away. A good mystery is always good fun. Some token acknowledgment that there’s *supposed* to be a mystery and that the creators haven’t forgotten it is really quite necessary, though. Otherwise you get ABC’s LOST series, and no one wants that.
A key plot point is revealed, however, in that it’s been eight years of time between issue #1 and #2. Eight years?! This implies that the Battleworld was never born fully formed but perhaps lived up to the first part of its name. “Once every day was dark like this,” Strange remarks earlier, too. Does this mean an age shift for everyone? At least Valeria now be drawn to look age-appropriate. And although it does track with other things we’ve seen in the tie-in comics (even the X-Men ’92 Infinite Comic talks about some great war that happened to its original status quo), that is a *lot* to process and has implications for literally every published tie-in. Will the Invisible Woman be pushing forty? Will Spider-Gwen have graduated from college and be on track for her career? Will Luke Cage/Jessica Jones’ baby be in third grade? What’s that time in Rocket-Racoon-years, anyway? Sorry, but my disbelief can’t be suspended while making such a mental hurdle.
The art contains any number of little flourishes that help make this a visual treat. Dr. Strange’s little wisp of hair on his forehead is such a subtle and distinguished touch. Miles Morales/Spider-Man “speaks” with a different font than the others. The Hidden Isle of Agamotto is shaped like an eye.
Essentially, though, it’s a talking-heads issue, but the figures are all well-placed and allows the reading to flow nicely. There’s a good balance between tightly focused panels and more expansive layouts, environments. The colors and textures are well-rendered, and the painterly feeling enhances the realism of the world.
However, some things get lost in the storytelling. What, exactly, does Strange do by lifting the fallen Thor? What does the Invisible Woman do with Doom’s mask? Why is the Young Thor’s opening of the liferaft door more effective than just holding your hand on a big oval space? Does Mr. Fantastic have a headache or is he wracked with survivor’s guilt? And my, but how quickly did the earth’s survivors come out of stasis! What’s missing, as is often the case, is a nice superhero fight. I do hope we’ll get to see someone punch someone soon.
There’s a good amount of character development here, with a deep focus on our main characters. It’s wonderful feeling to finally scratch something that’s been itching for quite some time. However, it may feel out of left field if you hadn’t been following Doom and Strange from the pages of Avengers three months ago, or if you forgot that Fantastic Four characters like Susan and Johnny weren’t a part of the pages of Avengers at all. It also means our point-of-view character is pushed aside and used simply as a door-opening device. Perhaps Miles Morales can emerge as a new point-of-view outsider, but that would mean he would have to have more prominence over the likes of the Illuminati, and that’s as unlikely as Captain Marvel getting a better haircut any time soon.
I enjoy the philosophical implications, too. If you remember the full quote from Thomas Grey, “Where ignorance is bliss, ‘Tis folly to be wise.” Is it better to be ruled through perpetuated ignorance? What is the connection between knowledge (that the world should not be this way) and responsibility (to fight back to change it)? Is Doom doing the right thing by fostering fear and subjugation? Is the Doom that you know better than the doom that you don’t?
It’s an issue of character-building right after one of world-building, with some touches of revelation that confirm/clarify a few things while leaving some mysteries still lingering. The art beautifully renders the characters and their expressions with a good number of subtle details to make every panel a visual treat. There is a momentum to the plot that propels our interest, proving the story is nicely hitting its stride.