With the survivors of Earth-616 (and one from "Ultimate" Earth-1610) having entered the mix on Battleworld, it was inevitable that they would upset the perfect balance "God Doom" created. But you may not have expected them to change things this fast.

Secret Wars #4 picks up exactly where #3 left off, with the villainous Cabal taking on an army of Thors, while elsewhere, Doctor Strange continues his story of how Battleworld was made. At last, he gets around to explaining how Doom gained the power to create an entire world —and it's a tale that contains a real shocker of a reveal.

Both storylines collide in a fight that draws the intervention of Doom himself. Or rather, the presence of one individual in the battle is what draws his attention — Doom's oldest and greatest foe. As Doom is reminded, this person is the only one he still fears, despite all the power he's amassed.

Speaking of power, Cyclops/Phoenix steps up to assert his own version of absolute power, while another character switches sides, realizing what matters to him most. It's impossible to reveal any more without getting into spoilers.

Secret Wars #4 is a fast-paced issue, both in reading terms and story time. For the characters in the story, the whole thing plays out in probably an hour or less. But like the last three issues, writer Jonathan Hickman keeps the intrigue and plot twists coming, ensuring you'll keep turning those pages, no matter what.

It's not easy to bring meaningful emotions into a tale that has so many plates to keep spinning. So occasionally, a character gets a throwaway line that, had there been time to explore, could have resonated much deeper. Miles Morales gets one such moment — a heavy, heartbreaking snapshot of what's happening in his heart and mind, and I wish Hickman could have given it more time to breathe.

But this issue is really a star vehicle for Stephen Strange — for how he's changed in the eight years since Battleworld was formed, and how choices always have consequences, even for a Sorcerer Supreme.

I've sung the praises of Esad Ribic's art after past issues, and he continues to impress with this one. One thing I appreciate is how he's able to convey the action of a scene every time from the right perspective, at the right proportions — making for beautiful, cinematic imagery. It also helps that it's always perfectly clear in the action scenes what's happening; that can't often be said of others.

Now that we've had some time to live with Battleworld and the various tie-in titles, some of the story logic of Battleworld doesn't quite add up. I'm having trouble getting my head around how these Earth-616 heroes in Secret Wars are the real ones, and yet in Ultimate End, in the Manhattan region of Battleworld, they appear to exist there, too — alongside the heroes of Earth-1610. Peter Parker/Spider-Man exists in both — and in both, he acts and behaves exactly the same in both.

What's that about, Marvel?







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