The very first page of “Secret Wars: Battleworld” #1 features the Punisher, whose war journal notes that the year is 2099, but it’s not the Punisher from 2099. Instead, it’s Frank Castle, possessed by Doctor Strange, who soon faces off against the Infernal Four, alternate versions of a brief and nearly forgotten incarnation of the Fantastic Four. “Soldier Supreme” is the title of the story cobbled together by Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson and typifies the happenstance fusion of the quiltwork planet known as Battleworld in this spinoff from Marvel Comics’ “Secret Wars” series. That pureed scenario only comprises half the comic, though, as Ed Brisson and Scott Hepburn go for a more comedic mishmash with “M.O.D.O.K. Madness,” where the head big head summons his counterparts from across this patched-together planet.
If one is able to abandon all pretense of logic, not take the events within too seriously, tilts their head and squints just right, Williamson and Henderson’s entry is fairly enjoyable. The lifespans of alternate reality characters tend to be pretty short, though, and things are no different here. With both big guns and big spells available to him, the so-called Sorcerer Extreme is able to dispatch his foes pretty easily, making readers wonder how these characters lasted so long in whatever reality they came from. Everyone except Castle conveniently seems all too willing to accept their roles here, for reasons not expressly mentioned in this issue. The fact that there’s another Doctor Strange in the same story is put forth with no explanation. Instead, Williamson just throws everything against the wall to see what sticks but, surprisingly, most of it does.
There’s a curious kind of wow-factor to an amalgamation of a gun-toting badass and a spell-wielding magician that’s hard not to like, at least a little. The alternate take on an already alternate take of the FF is just crazy enough to captivate, especially when comprising of “a” Spider-Man and “a” Hulk that plays into the jumbled nature of the series. Henderson is clearly having fun with the idea, too; his Punisher looks intimidating both as a soldier as well as a sorcerer, and his alternate Wolverine is even more grizzled than most incarnations but confidently appears as though he’s still the best at what he does, even on this bizarre world. Jordan Boyd’s sedate colors work out well and help the dazzling bright pink weapons that the Punisher conjures up stand out.
Brisson and Hepburn’s M.O.D.O.K. story has a much more tongue-in-cheek tone that makes the suspension of disbelief a little easier than it was for Williamson and Henderson’s effort. Hepburn renders M.O.D.O.K. more as a caricature that isn’t meant to be genuinely threatening, and Brisson’s dialogue has the ideal amount of sarcasm and wit that urges readers to just play along. Hepburn gives readers a Spider-M.O.D.O.K., an alien M.O.D.O.K and a creepy baby M.O.D.O.K., who Brisson makes one of the focal characters in the story, and the amusing daddy-daughter dialogue is good for a couple of laughs. Matt Milla turns on the brights with his colors, fitting the over-the-top mood of the story and contrasting Boyd’s in the previous chapter.
It’s a likely presumption that any creative effort with the word “Battleworld” in the title isn’t meant to be high art. “Secret Wars: Battleworld” #1 doesn’t try to present itself as anything other than what it is: a fanboy jamboree that’s meant to be fun, not logical.