Secret Wars: Secret Love #1
David Nakayama (cover), Pasqual Campion (variant cover)
August 19, 2015
Marvel has released a number of tie-in titles for its Secret Wars event this summer. The structure of the event has allowed for a number of spin-off titles with reimagined domains unlike any we’ve seen before, including books like, 1872, 1602: Witch Hunter Angela , Thors , and even a Runaways series featuring a teenage Bucky Barnes.
But perhaps none are as divergent from the typical event comic tie-in than Secret Wars: Secret Love #1 (which hopefully implies that there will be at least a Secret Wars: Secret Love #2, if not a Secret Wars: Secret Love #3, and so on). Secret Wars: Secret Love can best be described as a romance anthology, a collection of one-shot stories not unlike what one might find in a fanzine. That last time I remember Marvel spending a significant time on romance comics was with the Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane series almost a decade ago.
Do romance comics have a place at Marvel in 2015? We reviewed Secret Wars: Secret Love for you to find out. After the reviews, stay tuned for a mini-roundtable where we ask if Marvel should continue Secret Wars: Secret Lives as a series, and who we’d like to see in Secret Wars: Secret Loves #2!
Michel Fiffe (words and art)
VC’s Clayton Cowles (letters)
This is my first introduction to Michel Fiffe as an artist–I’ve read some of All-New Ultimates, which he wrote, but not his self-published series COPRA where he also does the art. The characters are delicately colored with what looks like colored pencils, in a limited palette that’s heavy on the pink and reds. His art, especially the faces, is a step to the side of Marvel’s “house style” — Daredevil’s cheeks are sharp and his chin is chiseled, but he has a little more character than he’s usually drawn with.
If all you know of Daredevil is the Netflix show, you might be confused by the romantic focus being on Karen Page and Matt Murdock, but it’s pretty clear what’s going on–Karen’s following Matt around because she’s heard him mutter Typhoid Mary’s name in his sleep, and Daredevil’s desperately clinging to his heroism in the face of impending doom. The panels are busy and crammed with detail, but setting the story during Inferno means it’s tonally heavier than the other stories in the book, a kind of desperate love in the face of adversity. I liked it, but I think it was a strange choice to open a book that seems to be way more cutesy and light.
“Fan of a Fan”
Felipe Smith (words and art)
Val Staples (color)
VC’s Clayton Cowles (letters)
The combo of Kamala Khan + Robbie Reyes had me SUPER excited, but unfortunately this one fell a little flat for me. It’s way too heavy on the Secret Wars set-up, but let’s be real, no one’s picking this book up because they care about how the stories tie into the wider event. All I wanted was Ms. Marvel and Ghost Rider teaming up for fun and potential romance, and the fact that is so little of the story is a goddamn crime. I don’t mind a little world building or supporting character action, but when it’s at the expense of actual character interaction from the leads there’s a problem.
The art is beautiful, especially Val Staples’ colors which make the Ghost Rider’s flame powers look amazing. Felipe Smith’s take on the characters is really quite adorable, and his facial expressions for Kamala are especially stand-out.
There is, alas, not enough team-up action to suit my fancy but what actions scenes we do get are dynamic and fun. The story around them just isn’t enough to sell me.
“Fan of a Fan” feels like a missed opportunity, because there are so many different ways this story could have gone. Kamala Khan is such an optimistic character who takes on being a hero to do the Right Thing, whereas Robbie got his powers after getting brutally killed and literally turns into a fiery revenge demon. So different, and yet they both try to keep the people they love safe! What we got instead didn’t really seem true to either character. I’m quite surprised, because Felipe Smith wrote All-New Ghost Rider and that book really surpassed my expectation. Maybe his hands were tied because this short had to make sense in the context of Secret Wars and Ghost Racers? Alas, I wish we could get a mulligan on this and do another Kamala + Robbie team-up without the event comic baggage.
“Misty and Danny Forever”
Jeremy Whitley (words)
VC’s Clayton Cowles (letters)
My favourite story in this issue which is saying a lot because all of these stories are fantastic. This is my first time reading anything by Jeremy Whitley, but I’ve seen Gurihiru’s art in the Avatar: The Last Airbender comics. This is a match made in heaven. Gurihiru sold us visually on what Whitley is selling us: the difficulties a relationship can go through and two people who love each other enough to fight for it (and a dinosaur). I really do hope there is an ongoing after this, Marvel! It’s a great read that can stand on its own and prior knowledge isn’t necessary (Danny does Misty’s bantu knots while watching a movie. THIS IS AMAZING). It gave me a giant grin which is awesome as far as comics experiences go. MORE.
“Squirrel Girl Wins a Date With Thor”
Marguerite Bennett (words)
Kris Anka (art)
VC’s Clayton Cowles (letters)
OMG, IT WAS SOOOOOOOO CUTE! Okay, I had to get that out. I was a bit hesitant about this one-shot because even though Bennett does great work, North and Henderson’s The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is sheer perfection. However it is Squirrel Girl, and Thor/Odinson, and Bennett and Anka…so I wasn’t that hesitant.
The story is short and sweet and definitely feels like a fanzine, as Kate pointed out. It’s like a fan wrote Squirrel Girl’s dream date…with the opportunity to objectify Thor, which I so support. It does stand on its own, but I think knowing more about Squirrel Girl is makes the sweetness and goofiness of the story even better. I mean, she starts naming Thor’s pecs!
I really enjoy romance comics and the silliness of this one was in keeping with the sweetness and quirkiness of Squirrel Girl, though I did miss Ryan North’s tiny little comments at the bottom of the page. I really hope there’s a Secret Wars: Secret Love #2. I think this sort of one-shot approach is great because romance storylines in superhero comics just get so convoluted and tortured and ugh. This is refreshing like a mint mojito.
I do have one critique. There was no Tippy-Toe, there should ALWAYS be Tippy-Toe.
Katie Cook (words and art)
I haven’t read anything by Katie Cook before, and I’m not really familiar with the Ant-Man/Wasp love story, but this was a sweet introduction to both. Cook’s style is creative and endearing, with the premise of the story being a “Bug World” domain on Battleworld. Although these bugs (and insects! and arachnids!) are anthropomorphized, they do not appear to have the power of speech, and their communication is represented through pictures within speech bubbles, augmented by descriptive word iconography, captions, and narration by Katie herself. Because of these little reader asides, I felt like I got to know Katie in addition to being entertained by a good story, and that’s something I enjoy as a reader.
It’s also the kind of one-shot story that could easily become an ongoing universe in its own right, not unlike Skottie Young’s covers and AvX that have spun off into Little Marvel. It’s also just as all-ages friendly. A child would see this story and want to read it, but there is a depth of characterization that keeps adults engaged as well. It’s adorable, but with depth.
Look at tiny blushing Potato Bug Hulk!
My only complaint is that it’s only five pages. Give me more, Marvel!
Do romance stories like these have a place in Marvel Comics?
Kate: Absolutely. The thing that struck me when reading this comic was that all of these stories could have been their own individual series. Although Secret Wars: Secret Love is being marketed as a romance anthology, the emphasis isn’t on romance. The emphasis is on the characters, and their relationships with people outside of their superhero lives. It’s what made Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye so successful–people want to see superheroes on their days off. People want to see superheroes talking with the people they work with about things other than saving the world. These stories are vital, and if Marvel’s publishing schedule is too cramped to allow this kind of development, these anthologies are a great supplement.
Kat: I really enjoyed these slice-of-life, not in the 616 Marvel Universe stories. They’re short and sweet, and a fun way to see your favorite characters in different environments without having to commit to a complicated, multi-book crossover.
Gin: I prefer the anthology approach rather than turning these into stories. So like Kate said, a sort of supplement. I don’t want a long, dragged out storyline, but a little snippet like this. Yes, please.
Catie: I agree with Thor! The anthology format is good for me too, since Marvel has so many couples and characters it doesn’t regularly feature. It’s a way to peek in on those characters with little stories that are fun, but might not justify a solo title.
Should Secret Wars: Secret Love be an ongoing series or a once-in-a-while event comic (like the What If? series)?
Kate: I posed this question before the comic came out, and what Secret Wars: Secret Love did more than anything was convince me that it can not only serve as a standalone series, but also as a pilot for new series. Misty and Danny SHOULD ABSOLUTELY have their own series written by Jeremy Whitley, and I think Bug World by Katie Cook should be Marvel’s next Little Marvel-esque kid-friendly spin-off.
Gin: I like it as an ongoing romance anthology with a mix of one-shots and ongoings.
Kat: I could see it working best as a once-in-a-while event, but agree that I would definitely read spin-off series that originate from it.
Ardo: It can be a romance anthology that comes out every 3-4 months and potentially be a launching pad for a miniseries or ongoing depending on the success of a given story.
Catie: The Secret Wars tie-in part was my least favorite part of this book, so I’d prefer the future romance anthologies not be tied into any events.
If the series was going to continue, whose love story should Secret Wars: Secret Love tell next?
Kate: I remember when the first announcement came out, it had stated there would be an America Chavez/Kate Bishop story, and I was heartbroken to find out that Marvel later deleted that from the post. [Editor’s note: the mention of an America Chavez/Kate Bishop story in a Marvel.com article was a misprint incorrectly associated with Jeremy Whitley.] My only disappointment with this series was that none of the stories were LGBT. All of the romances were heterosexual. Do better, Marvel. Queer people deserve more representation than just a few panels.
Gin: I need some adorable queer ladies hanging out.
Kat: Agreed, America/Kate. I also wouldn’t mind a schmoopy romance story with Hulkling and Wiccan, any of the ladies from Fearless Defenders, or if I wanna be reckless, maybe a Wolverine/Hercules story!
Ardo: Or a love story between Captain America and patriotism.