This, and a couple of the other Secret Wars tie-ins, are actually pretty hard to review because they’re not really a single story, but a whole pile of entirely unrelated shorts, several per issue, done by different writers and different artists, that tell vignettes about some of the characters that are generally off-camera in the main mini-series.
So why don’t we take a look at the Secret Wars Journal 5-issue mini-series to see what’s going on in the outskirts of Battleworld, far from the main action of the Secret Wars event.Because there are so many different stories, it does no good to try to summarize and there’s such a mixed bag in these five issues, I really wouldn’t know where to begin. From what I understand, all of these side stories take place somewhere after issue #4 in the main mini-series, but since none of them have any impact whatsoever on the main storyline, they really represent little more than a cash grab from Marvel and a “wonder what this character is up to?” what if. Some of the stories, I enjoyed more than others, but to be perfectly honest, I never felt like I was getting anything particularly valuable out of any of them. Sure, seeing Punisher in the guise of the Sheriff of Nottingham, it was cute, but if I never read it, if I never read any of these issues at all, I don’t think I would have missed anything. Instead of taking parts of the main storyline and expanding on them, it’s more like “look at what’s happening over there out of the spotlight!”
Now that might sound pretty negative, but there are some common elements here that might appeal to some readers. The majority of stories throughout feature characters up against nigh impossible odds, they are all being challenged in a way that isn’t often seen, they are being pushed to their limits by circumstances beyond their control and forced to make uncomfortable or even impossible choices. Some stories certainly do this better than others, but if you don’t get into characters facing impossible odds, you probably won’t find a lot to like here. What’s worse though, at least to me, isn’t that there are characters pushed to their limits, but that there’s no real context to any of it. You know the characters only by their former selves, which really might not apply anymore, you never get to identify with them beyond knowing who they used to be, you never get to see how they get into this situation and you’re never invested in them getting out of it. After all, 10 pages or so and the story is done and it will never be addressed again, what difference does it make if they live or die?
So no, I really can’t recommend this mini-series. I’d like to. There were some situations that I was intrigued by, at least by the possibilities that they introduced, but since none of it really matters, it was a momentary distraction and then it was gone. I want the stories I read to mean something and I never got the sense that anything here really did.