I’m loving Secret Wars, Marvel’s summer crossover event. The central story, by Jonathan Hickman and artist Esad Ribic, is compelling and complex. And the books that circle around the central narrative are innovative and fun, quirky and imaginative takes on Marvel characters and Marvel landscapes. At this point in the summer I find myself eagerly awaiting the next installments of Marvel’s memorable divergence from its decades-long continuity. Yes, I will be glad to see how things are going to shake out when everything returns to normal, but I sure am having a lot of fun along the way.
I’m having so much fun, that in some instances I find myself wishing that this summer could go on forever, that these stories could slip into regular rotation and become permanent parts of my comicbook pull list.
Jason Aaron’s and Mike Del Mundo’s Weirdworld is one of those books.
I was hooked from last issue’s fifth page. At the very beginning of the issue, in the opening splash, we are told everything we need to know. Arkon the barbarian is lost and is searching for a way home, for a way out of Weirdworld’s green and pink and yellow and bloody red landscape. Two pages more and a two-page spread staggers the mind. Del Mundo’s Weirdworld is weird indeed, weird and wonderful. Then turn the page once more and the deed is done. There is no going back.
Arkon says, “I have walked and crawled across this land for more days than I can fathom and seen sights that defy even the most demented imagination. I have spilled enough blood to drown a lesser man a thousand times over. I have done things to survive of which I never dreamed myself capable. But now I do something I have never done before—I weep.”
With that, I’m a believer. Hooked. No going back.
The latest issue of Weirdworld is equally compelling. Arkon had claimed and mastered a dragon and found a means to traverse the alien landscape from above. But the dragon was taken from him, both beast and barbarian captured by the underwater apes of Apelantis.
Del Mundo paints everything the color of an ocean rich with life. It is an ocean of green.
Green that soon runs red with blood.
Teaming with the titanic and diamond-hard warrior, Warbow of Crystallium, Arkon battles his way to freedom and to an even stranger adventure in the lava-red halls and caverns that are the home of the ruler of Weirdworld, Morgan le Fay.
I don’t think that I want this to end. Two issues in and I can already tell that I don’t want this summer excursion to come to a close. This needs to go on past the time for the kids to go back to school, the time for vacations to end, the time for all of us to go back to work, to get down to business, to take things seriously again.
Aaron has tossed us, unwarned and uninitiated, into a world filled with barbarians and sorcerer queens, dragons and squidsharks, ogres and underwater apes. He has given us a barbarian king who battles and struggles with both his sword and, quite literally, his head. He has given us a barbarian at his wits end, at the end of his rope, at the brink of tears.
And Del Mundo has given us a world both weird and wonderful, a world both terrifying and beautiful. He has given us the most beautifully rendered series of the year, a masterpiece in pastels and scarlet reds.
I grew up on Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian. I grew up with the great Roy Thomas and the great Barry Windsor Smith, and later, the great John Buscema. How many summer days, summer nights, did I spend reading and re-reading those pages? The stuff of dreams. The seeds of imagination. Greater by far than Schwarzenegger’s silly romps. Greater (dare I say it?) than what Robert E. Howard wrought.
With Weirdworld I am right back there again. Sword and sorcery. Dungeons and dragons. Conan the Barbarian. Kull the Conqueror. Red Sonja. Stalker. Claw the Unconquered.
Aaron and Del Mundo had me, Weirdworld had me, right from the start.
Arkon the barbarian king—Arkon weeps.