ROUND 1, BATTLE 24
AGENT OF HYDRA HANK JOHNSON #1
SECRET WARS SECRET LOVE #1
Well, it finally happened. It turns out that there actually is only so much amazing material in the Battleworld canon. This week, in reading Hank Johnson Agent of Hydra and Secret Wars Secret Love, it became very clear that even the comics with the best intentions could only be allowed to go so far. In a very odd side step from the face-melting action that has been the Battleworld Battleworld tournament, Marvel sees fit to release two comics that take super heroes and put then in various “normal” situations. Both books are played for laughs and attempt to show how the super heroic would deal with the super mundane. Unfortunately, with high concepts come high risk and both books fall into the traps they have, perhaps unknowingly set for themselves.
In Hank Johnson, we see the everyday life of an anonymous HYDRA agent named Hank Johnson. He has a well intentioned, 50’s era nagging wife, three shitty kids and he really wants tickets to sporting events. Over the course of the first book he gets kicked in the face by Nick Fury, has “everyman” conversations with his co-workers, tries to get out of doing the shitty things every person has to do and gets kicked in the face by Nick Fury again. The scraps of action only serve as background to remind us that this dude’s job is bonkers. His boss is shitty, his family is shitty and he trudges through every day of his life trying to find a reason not to end it. Sounds like a fun read, no? No.
Then we have the nut balls world of Secret Wars Secret Love, a book that takes a look at various relationships in various stages of seriousness. We see Daredevil fight Satan while Karen Page comes to help, Danny Rand and his wife Lucy have a terrible date that is saved by fighting a giant T-Rex, a number of other B-level (and that’s being VERY generous) Marvel characters go on blind dates and then there’s a weird few pages of bug puns. Ugh. It’s a gutsy idea that falters in execution. Though watching Squirrel Girl and Thor reenact Disney’s Cinderella is a an amusing idea on paper, it’s less amusing when the paper is a comic book and you actually have to deal with all of the intricacies.
In a very weird way, this battle doesn’t come down to how these books treat the heroes but how they treat their concepts. Taking a HYDRA agent and putting him in The Honeymooners might seem like a great idea when you’re high as fuck and munching on Flaming Hot Cheetos, but having to make a readable story out of that seedling is nearly impossible. The jokes fall flat more often then they hit and the story ultimately ends up being a Warholian paint-by-numbers. At least with Secret Wars we get to see women be something other than a consummate punch line. Though Lucy and Karen’s motivations both stem from their ideas about their chosen mates, they kick the fucking ass off of anything they need to. And if you can tell me that you know where they’re going with any of these storylines, you are clairvoyant as fuck.
So dear Filterinos, in a battle as weird as it was hard to get through, Secret Wars Secret Love moves on for at least attempting to make all of its characters three dimensional. It wasn’t always pretty and it didn’t always work, but the effort alone will nudge Secret Wars into the next round of our bracket.
Jason R. Noble