Jonathan Hickman's Secret Wars

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

In 1984, when Marvel premiered its mega-super-hero crossover, Secret Wars, I was lost. I didn’t know many of the heroes, and only knew half the villains. I read it because I had to. I was a child and my parents owned one TV and that TV had six channels. We had no VCR.  (What you have heard is true—I am quite old.) Worrying about “continuity” and whether I would “understand” were rich people’s problems. Reading anything, for me meant getting lost.  And so very often, I found myself taking on reading—including comics—that at didn’t understand. It was either be lost or be bored. And boredom was the enemy, and the enemy was always advancing.

Now in an era where the entire entertainment landscape is Choose Your Own Adventure, it’s tougher to argue for comic books—especially legacy ones that rely on years of history. But being the oldster that I am, I am going to make an argument for the ultimate oldster book:

Marvel’s ongoing Secret Wars series written by Jonathan Hickman and illustrated by Esad Ribic. The basic premise finds Dr. Doom defeating a God-like enemy—the Beyonders--which has destroyed much of human existence.  Doom then robs this enemy of its power, and restructures what remains of the multiverse into a world. Doom is the undisputed cosmic power in this world.

Everything I usually hate is here—specifically parallel worlds, and multiple versions of the same character. (There is an entire legion of “Thors.”) But Secret Wars is proof-positive that story does not make the writer, writer makes the story. Hickman’s Doom is a nod to the Doom of the original Secret Wars—a  sensitive thug of galactic proportions.

“I can’t help but notice you’ve decided to put yourself on a throne,” Doom’s main antagonist, Reed Richards says.

“A throne?” Doom responds. “A throne was my birthright. I’ve placed myself a good bit higher than that.”

Indeed, he has. And so has Jonathan Hickman, who has been working to this end point, through various Marvel books, for years now. Read this series. Don’t fret about you don’t know. Get lost. Again.