The end of all existence was, ironically, only the beginning of Battleworld. That patchwork planet of multiple Marvel universes was created by Doctor Doom -- now a god -- to save something of what was left. Of course, Doctor Doom being Doctor Doom, the primary antagonist of Marvel Comics installed himself as the god-emperor presiding over this splinter reality.
While most of the domains correlated to major known events and alternate universes, a few dug quite a lot deeper into Marvel's back catalog. One such development was Weirdworld, a floating hunk of rock inhabited by, you guessed it, a bunch of weird-ass nonsense.
We're talking ogres driving main battle tanks, upside-down castles, the ape-occupied underwater city of Apelantis, and an army of Man-Things just to pick and choose some of the best bits of crazy.
Penned by Thor scribe Jason Aaron the comic was actually a damn fine read, too. It featured the decidedly traditional Arkon (Marvel's Conan the Barbarian stand-in from days of yore) trying to find his way home amidst the madness. His hit-it-until-it-dies attitude doesn't work so well in the fluid reality of Weirdworld. Half the fun then becomes watching Arkon grow increasingly exasperated over seemingly insane crystal warriors, and renegade swamp queens.
More important, however, is the stellar five, full issues of interiors by regular cover artist Mike del Mundo. It's hard to say if anyone else could have sold the endless string of bananas ideas with quite the same color and energy.
Apparently, someone at Marvel agreed. Weirdworld was enough of a success to become its own ongoing series after Secret Wars with a new lead character and a different writer, but still with Mike del Mundo's critically crazy designs. If you haven't read either series yet, trust us when we say that this is a very, very good thing.
It's easy to tell where Jonathon Hickman got his idea for The Shield. The gargantuan wall of sentient stone was all that kept the "civilized" portion of Battleworld safe from the zombies, Ultrons, and Annihilation Wave of the southern hemisphere. The guards that operated it were heretics and criminals in God-Doom's eyes, and sentenced to serve until the end of their days. Usually, that wasn't very long given that life on The Shield was the stuff that fuels nightmares.
Author Kieron Gillen's Marvel swan song (for the time being, at least) went down that sticky, fleshy rabbit hole like no other. "Siege" had little to do with its event namesake. Instead it was the story of Shield leader Abigail Brand using whatever she could to protect the rest of the planet from whatever horrors she encountered. That's how we wound up with scenes of Cyclops directing his laser eyes through a giant magnifying lens built by Leonardo da Vinci at armies of screaming half-ant, half-Ant-Man kaiju.
Every issue featured such an ordeal, with a different guest artist depicting the madness in glorious two-page splashes.
The book is dire. Besides the otherworldly horrors that literally want to eat them, the watchers on the wall contend with a message from the future telling them that all of their fighting and dying is futile. Thanos -- the big, bad, original one who stowed away to Battleworld as well -- is coming, and he's taking The Shield down with him. Gillen never lets readers forget it, either. Every issue ends with a countdown to the end, and the reminder that "There is no hope."
Thanos does show up, as promised. Never let it be said that the Mad Titan is one to stand up a date. But he doesn't bring the wall down. He brings it with him. The sapient Shield hears Thanos out about the way of the world, and the two walk to Doc Doom's home away from reality hand-in-hand. Of course, that leaves the already crumbling Battleworld defenseless. At the same time, however, putting Doom on the ropes rekindles some of that missing hope for a resurrected Marvel universe.
When that looming Doom/Thanos confrontation finally happens, it goes... a little differently than expected.
Let's hope Thanos doesn't forget his Infinity Gauntlet at home when he finally gets to Earth in the movies.