Review by Frank Plowright
It may have meant waiting a couple of months longer, but Marvel’s British office did the right thing in releasing the entire Reckoning War story as a single collection in the first instance rather than splitting it over two volumes as the US branch did. It’s an indication of the different levels of respect for the audience.
The promotion for Reckoning War was that it was a story fifteen years in the making, the seeds first sown when Dan Slott was writing She-Hulk. He may or may not have intended a glimpse into the future shown there to be a springboard for a later plot, but the thought of him returning to it after many years is a neat story. The gist is that before the Watchers restricted their activities to watching they attempted to use their advanced technology to advance primitive races, and this went disastrously wrong when a warlike race wiped out 90% of other lifeforms before destroying themselves. The few survivors have hidden away for millennia, but have now re-emerged to provide the universe’s more feral races with advanced weapons.
For all the planning and supposed long gestation, this is a strangely muted affair. Slott realises an element of catastrophe fatigue is generated by so many planetary threat stories over the years, and compensates by concentrating on the characters, especially Reed Richards. He absorbs the full knowledge of the Watchers, but at great personal cost. However, even that is a dulled threat because while an unimaginatively staged death is so frequently a feature of superhero epics, it’s not going to be Mr. Fantastic, nor is it going to be on the scale suggested at the halfway stage.
Rachael Stott draws the most pages (sample art), but all other artists slot around her work sympathetically, with the exception of Farid Karami’s different approach. Why can’t schedules be devised to allow the same artist to draw eight consecutive chapters? Cafu’s work is on an unconnected coda introducing Reed’s half-sister in what transmits as a half-hearted concession to greater diversity in the Fantastic Four’s contacts.
Too much needs reduced to shorthand over the bigger picture of the title story, where there’s little purpose to Thor, and much the same seems to apply to the Silver Surfer for a long while. Considering She-Hulk is the starting point, her participation is also unconvincing. It is, however, nice to see Slott writing her again, and that feeds into Reckoning War’s best aspects being small moments. Doctor Doom is well-handled throughout, and given a spectacularly dismissive putdown, and there are a couple of well-planned surprises, but while the toys are neatly replaced in the box before he leaves the series, this possibly isn’t the successful departure Slott envisaged.