The standard sales pitch for events goes something like this: “Yes, the primary story is limited to the title series. The tie-ins expand upon it. They are not necessary, but they flesh things out more.” Great in theory, though in practice it usually results in a bunch of subpar tie-ins which tangentially have something to do with the main story. (Hey, we put Skrulls in three pages of our issue, can we use the Secret Invasion banner?). On rare occasions you end up with a tie-in more compelling that the main event (if Fear Itself was necessary to get Kieron Gillen’s Kid Loki run, then that whole mess was worth it).
What has been so impressive about Secret Wars so far is not only how strong Hickman’s title book is, but how well the various tie-ins have been handled. No, you do not need to read any of them to understand the main plot better, but yes they do add new layers to the world building. Hickman’s multi-faceted Battleworld is an ideal setting for letting creators loose in a variety of styles. In Weirdworld, Jason Aaron & Mike Del Mundo take full advantage of this situation by crafting an exciting, utterly nuts comic book.
Weirdworld was originally created by Doug Moench & Mike Ploog in the late 70s. These tales of fantasy and sorcery ran in various Marvel anthologies of the period. For its Secret Wars revival, though, Aaron selects as his protagonist Arkon, a warrior barbarian type cooked up by Roy Thomas and John Buscema during their fabled Avengers run. Like many of the other tie-in creators, Aaron shows keen willingness to mix concepts instead of adhering to any set preconception of what these Realms should be.
The issue opens in dramatic fashion with Arkon fighting monstrous Gaint Squidsharks. He quickly overcomes the danger, yet his spirits remain low. He has vague memories of a distant land, Polemachus, his home and dominion. Try as he might, though, he cannot find his way back. He has a crude map of Weirdworld (also one of the best visual gags of the week), but it is of little help. He keeps stumbling from one life-threatening circumstance to the next. First Squidsharks, then dragons, then gunner Orges, then sea-diving apes and so on. Clearly, Aaron is letting his imagination run wild, and having great fun in the process.
The same can be said of Mike Del Mundo whose art shines throughout the issue. Del Mundo brings to Weirdworld the same lush, dynamic sense of action which so invigorated his recent work for Elektra. Here, however, he goes one step further, delving deep into the fantastic. He is able to infuse each page with both a sense of awe and light-heartedness. These are beautiful images which never deny their absurdity. (A nod to Marco D’Alfonso who assisted del Muno with the stellar coloring).
Altogether this is a thrilling first issue, which left me wanting more. (How could you not want to buy a next issue blurbed “Escape from Apelantis”?). Indeed, it may be the best Secret Wars tie-in I have read yet. Further testimony to what happens when two talented creators are able to run free with their ideas.