There’s no way of reviewing this comicbook without commenting on the ending.
That said, I’m not sure of the proper way of talking about endings for any given Secret Wars event tie-in miniseries. For some series, those tied very closely to the story and the creation of Battleworld, the endings involve some comment on Dr. Doom and the nature of their world, like Runaways. For others, with stories that are wholly their own “elseworlds” mini-worlds, like Master of Kung Fu, the endings can be simply wrap-ups of what they’re dealing with tucked away in their specialized little kingdom.
Then there’s Weirdworld, which ditches any wrap-up of its unique world because of some event somewhere else that literally explodes any chance of that. This is worse than a deus ex machina god-in-the-machine last-minute save— the very machine itself is disintegrated. But only for a little bit, because the entirety of Weirdworld is now safe in the “real” Marvel universe and Arkon has to start his personal quest from the beginning. Again.
So the ending feels like a cheat, with no pay-off for the journey we’ve invested in. Even within the pages of this issue, readers are teased with momentum and pending resolution only to have something else emerge that we’ve never seen nor been given hints to. And then we find ourselves back at the beginning. Literally, with a new issue #1 on the horizon. Now, maybe in some way that’s very “meta”— we can now understand Arkon’s frustration since our experience of trying in vain to find Polemachus matches his. In that case, it’s kind of brilliant, but dangerous, since the experience that’s replicated is one of frustration and disappointment. And unlike Arkon, we can abandon this fool’s quest more easily. It actually makes me pause to think if I should pick up the new series or not.
One of the key selling points for the series was some lovely high-fantasy art from Mike Del Mundo. That continues here, even in the opening splash page with an angled view of Arkon as the landscape of Weirdworld is comprised of a montage of his encounters. That example does require a bit of pause by the reader to really register what’s depicted, however, and that drawback occurs several times. As highly detailed and atmospheric as the art is, sometimes it can get in the way of clear storytelling. Did, for example, Arkon use his thunderbolt to hold himself from falling from the island? I’m not sure, but otherwise he would have suspended in mid-air for a page or two and that also doesn’t make sense. There’s a brilliant double-page spread with Arkon and his allies clashing against the Magma Men, all in their unique ways (the butterflies are carrying an ariel bomb!) but it’s vibrancy comes from the clash of textures and brightness that is also visually over-stimulating.
And really, it’s all battle for battle’s sake. Morgan le Fey is basically the antagonist because she does villainous things, with even less nuance than a Disney movie’s villain. There’s no depth to her nor really any motivation given. Arkon’s allies are merely tropes, too, because what exactly does each contribute to the battle more than just brute force?
It would have helped to have some kind of resolution to the battle, any kind of rousing finale, but instead, it’s interrupted. What we get in the last few pages are people crashing onto the new Weirdworld and finding Arkon as the wandering barbarian, as if we’re starting over. And why these people, anyway? I’m guessing they’re just random extras to provide a way for Weirdworld to introduce itself. It’s a bit on the nose that Arkon’s last pose shows him looking at the reader, saying “Now, run!”
There’s a lot to love about Weirdworld, because there’s a lot to love about a world full of weirdness. Especially when the art can deliver it through moody, painterly characters and landscapes in eye-popping colors and textures. Unfortunately, the weirdness trumps things like depth and nuance in our main characters, and the story never wraps its own arc. Instead, it lets someone else’s story in Secret Wars cause a different ending entirely, all in order to set up new series like it’s a do-over. Not a satisfying ending at all for something so intriguing at the beginning.