In Defense of Secret Wars Delays
It’s been an odd summer for Marvel fans. The long-awaited Avengers: Age of Ultron was released in May, to mixed acclaim. On the other hand, we got the release of Ant-Man, which despite loads of behind-the-scenes drama, turned out to be an incredibly fun and well done superhero caper movie. Expectations and reality were wildly different on each of these films and that mentality wound up bleeding over to their comics line.
Announced last year, Marvel’s Secret Wars event had fans cautiously optimistic. The culmination of Johnathan Hickman’s recent Avengers and New Avengers books looked to be the biggest and most ambitious summer comic book crossover in years. Callbacks to classic Marvel storylines like Civil War, Old Man Logan, and House of M created excitement at the recognition of Marvel history, but also hesitation that these stories may be somehow corrupted in the pursuit of comic sales. Understandably, fans were hesitant to embrace the event due to lackluster crossovers in the past. But when Secret Wars #1 launched on May 6th, Marvel fans everywhere breathed a sigh of relief as the book was met with critical and commercial success. Thankfully, against all odds, it looked like we had an epic on our hands.
Here we are, almost five months later, and we still are not done with Secret Wars. Many of the tie-in mini-series have ended, but the main title is still on issue #5, with a ninth issue added to the overall story. That’s an entire extra issue filled with content that was not solicited at the beginning of the event. Originally, Secret Wars #7 was solicited for September, but we won’t even get #6 until October 7th. These delays have made many fans upset, and understandably so. Secret Wars has been so fantastic, overall, that those of us reading it can’t stand the thought of having to wait months on end for the next installment. As somebody who absolutely loves this series, I share in these frustrations, yet fully believe that the delays are for the best.
Simply put, there is a direct correlation between the amount of time put into this project and the quality of the final product. No stranger to delays on books (*cough* Dying and the Dead *cough*), Johnathan Hickman still produces quality stories and is one of the absolute best comic writers currently working. Esad Ribic is also no stranger to delays on his art, but the quality of his work speaks for itself. And with Hickman taking a break from writing Marvel stories at the end of Secret Wars, it’s that much more important for him to go out on a high note. Hickman is crafting a story that he’s been laying the groundwork for since his time writing Fantastic Four, so for him to rush a story would belittle his entire career. Hickman and Ribic aren’t simply corporate stooges, writing whatever Marvel wants them to. These guys are artists, and good art takes time.
Despite the massive delays on a book that is changing the landscape of the entire Marvel universe, Marvel is moving ahead with plans to release their “All-New, All-Different” titles (mostly) on time. That means we’ll be seeing a Marvel Universe that takes places eight months after the end of Secret Wars….before we see the finale to Secret Wars. You’d think that this would be a big deal, right? Why read the aftermath of a story before the story is concluded? Well, as is the nature of comic book solicitations, we can pretty much figure out how certain parts of Secret Wars will end. For instance, we know Marvel is planning an Old Man Logan series for the future, so it’s safe to assume that Old Man Logan is making it out of Secret Wars unscathed. These future solicits are minor spoilers, at best, and shouldn’t affect the impact of any story’s ending. From a collecting standpoint, knowing which characters to follow at the moment means potentially grabbing future high-dollar books. If Marvel’s recently announced Red Wolf series becomes wildly popular, current issues of 1872, the Secret Wars tie-in featuring the Native American hero, have the potential to rise in value. One of the strengths of Hickman’s Secret Wars is it emotional core, particularly regarding Doctor Doom and the Richards family. Other than confirmation that we won’t have a Fantastic Four title post-Secret Wars, we have yet to receive any sort of news on the state of these characters in the future, so I would bet that Marvel is still holding on to its most important secrets.
Even though Secret Wars has stretched from the end of summer to the end of the year, I’m confident that by the time it’s over, readers will be saying how glad they are that these delays happened. Video gamers in particular are no strangers to massive setbacks and gaming delays, but it’s almost always to ensure that the final product is worth consumer’s hard earned money. I would have liked to play Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End this year, but it looks like I’ll have to wait until March. But I know that Naughty Dog, the studio releasing the game, is only pushing it back to make sure it’s up to their standards, which are impressively high. Hickman strikes me as a writer that also has high standards for his own work and I’m thankful that Marvel isn’t rushing him or Ribic and making them slap some sort of ending together just to have an ending. I’d rather wait patiently and get a good story than be done with another epic crossover that becomes forgettable over time. As it stands, Secret Wars has the potential to become a celebrated classic that people talk about for years to come. Despite your feelings on the state of Marvel comics as a whole, you’ve got to admit that this story is ambitious as hell and worth the wait.