Well, here we are again, on the third issue of what is rapidly becoming my favorite comics saga since House of M, maybe even since Age of Apocalypse. Even most of the tie-ins for this event — especially A-Force, Old Man Logan, and Ultimate End — are stellar, and I confess myself impressed.

Was that enough non-spoilery words? Yes? Then let’s get to it!

When we last left off, God Doom had created a new world full of all sorts of interesting universal remnants. As #3 opens, we learn that Sheriff Strange is indeed the Strange of 616, and that he had the chance to become God but turned it down. This is amazing simply because I always assumed Doom seized power for himself, but Strange essentially gave it to him.

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I loved the dialogue between Doom and Strange. To see such mutual respect and even friendship between two people who have been adversaries most of their lives was strangely (no pun, for once, intended) heartwarming. Even better was the dialogue between Susan and Doom, in which we learn that she genuinely loves Doom and believes he is a good person. Not God Doom, but Victor himself. She even takes off his mask and encourages him to walk amongst his peoples unmasked. We learn that Doom actually cares for his peoples, so much so that he wishes he had just created Battleworld and left, watching over it from above. This is a Doom I very much like, self-doubting and contemplative, because the arrogant, evil shtick of the last six decades was wearing very thin. This Doom is someone who has won the war, and it has actually changed him for the better. For her part, Susan is hinted to be a colder character, exemplified when it’s revealed that she sentenced her rebellious brother to serve as Battleworld’s sun.

Yep. Every time you see a sunny day in any of the Secret Wars books, you are seeing the light from Johnny Storm’s blazing body. Hickman, you magnificent bastard.

Anyhoo, Strange and the Thors investigate the life pod the Cabal popped out of in issue #2, where they meet Miles Morales. Miles is a welcome addition to the tale, mainly because he hilariously has no idea what the hell is going on, having been stuck as a stowaway on the raft until it was finally opened.

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Learning that Miles has memories intact while everyone else on Battleworld has only bits and pieces from their pre-Battleworld days, Strange leads Miles and the Thor who opened the raft to his inner sanctum...which has another raft. Strange asks Thor to open the raft, which Thor does — and out pops 616 Reed, Black Panther, Spider-Man, (female) Thor, Star-Lord, CyPhoenix, and Captain Marvel. Miles and Peter have a lovely reunion, then the group learns they are in a world Doom not only created, but is God of. Their reactions...

Just lovely. And then they learn they had been lost for eight years, three of which Strange had their raft in his possession. Reed gets all pissy that they weren’t let out as soon as Strange found them, but Strange chose not to open it due to “considerations.” Reed does not take that well, and I can’t wait for him to learn that Doom is married to his wife and essentially the father of his children. I sense a villainous future for our resident stretch expert.

Meanwhile, the Cabal is hiding out and plotting their next move when they are discovered by a rather large squad of Thors...which is where the issue ends.

I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised by how well Hickman is doing with this. Writing an event comic, especially one of this magnitude, is no easy task. He keeps things moving at a brisk pace, without sacrificing any character development. A one panel interchange between Miles and Peter reminds us of their transuniversal friendship, and seeing Doom without his mask, both figuratively and literally, is a welcome development. Ribic’s art is phenomenal, as seen above, and he really captures the look of the characters. His unmasked Doom alone is breathtaking. I can’t wait to see where this goes, but for now, I think it’s safe to say we are in for some amazing things.

Until then, as The Man says, Excelsior!