Review by Ian Keogh
An unwieldy title indicates this anthology’s thrown together concept. Battleworld is a succession of stitched together lands featuring alternative versions of Marvel characters, except for the ones that are the primary versions. We open with alternative Young Avengers in the 17th century of King James I if that’s any indication.
Much of the Journal content seems tryout strips, concepts given to writers and artists relatively new to Marvel so they can display their wares. That most stories concern alternate worlds where continuity isn’t an issue provides near enough a blank slate provided people are true to character, but while there’s thankfully little mediocrity, very few contributions stand out. Si Spurrier’s mixing Daredevil and Elektra with Mr Sinister has a neat twist to it, but best overall is Jen and Sylvia Soska’s story of Night Nurse, a creative piece of horror, well drawn by Alec Morgan. Some better known names appear in the Battleworld section, Joshua Williamson leading off with his Punisher/Dr Strange combination, and Peter David’s simple Silver Surfer story a standout. That’s immediately preceded by another highlight as James Stokoe turns in his ultra-detailed and utterly demented take on the Silver Surfer.
Thankfully this collection also mops up two Battleworld strips that didn’t find a home in the other collections. Tom Taylor’s tongue in cheek Agents of Atlas is consistently imaginative, making prime use of what the characters can do, and Steve Pugh responds wonderfully to the visual cues the strip provides. Gorilla Man is the focus, and early on Taylor slips in something pertinent to his finale that transmits as something else entirely. It’s an admirable piece of writing. So in a different way is Skottie Young’s take on Howard the Duck. This is Howard the Human, the only human trapped in a world of anthropomorphic animals, a cynical barfly working as a private investigator. It’s a clever story, but doesn’t work as well as it might due to Jim Mahfood’s jagged art not bringing out the contrast between Howard and everyone else on his world. Howard’s made an earlier appearance, by the way, under surprising circumstances.
Too much is too ordinary, but it would be shame if the arbitrary inclusion of Taylor and Pugh’s Agents of Atlas story languished among the forgotten content. That’s definitely worth the price of a cheap used copy.