Welcome to Read This Next, an ongoing feature designed to help you find more comics to love. We take a comic that's a big hit with readers, a comic that's been in the news lately, or both, talk a bit about why it's great and why it's noteworthy, and then steer you toward other comics connected to it in some way. Whether you're a new reader looking for a guide to more than just that one series your friend recommended, an old reader hoping to find new stuff, or just someone looking for something to read, we're here to help.
This time, we're talking about what else you can read if you love the epic crossover event Secret Wars.
IF YOU'VE READ: Secret Wars by Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic
The original 1984 Secret Wars series began as a glorified toy commercial, to the point that the title was literally conceived because Mattel told Marvel that their market research suggested kids like the words "secret" and "wars." The resulting story was mostly an excuse to get various fan-dream combinations of heroes and villains to slug it out, and to offer up new things like the black Spider-Man costume (because you want to make two Spidey toys, of course). It's a bonkers but entertaining event, though it's nowhere near as ambitious as what's happening in Marvel Comics right now.
The 2015 Secret Wars series by Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic is, like the original series, a kind of sandbox generator. While the original series was very much like playing with all of your action figures at once, the 2015 series is both a chance for Hickman to construct an ambitious mythos dominated by a God-King Doctor Doom and a chance for his fellow Marvel writers and artists to weave new realms on Battleworld while also remixing old ones. This event has given us everything from an all-female Avengers squad to a world where the X-Men fight all their battles at the mall, but Hickman and Ribic's work stands out as something that, if it maintains quality to the end, might just be a landmark superhero event.
If you've read Hickman's past Marvel work, you know that he's woven it all into Secret Wars. Things he set in motion from the very start of his Avengers and New Avengers runs are deeply woven into the fabric of the story, as are some things that go all the way back to his Fantastic Four work. With that foundation, Hickman constructs an elaborate mythology in which Doom has the absolute power that he finally craves, ruling over all of Battleworld, until the unexpected discovery of several heroes once thought to be lost to the incursion of universes. I might just be a nerd for complex mythologies and clever dashes of the familiar sprinkled in among the alien, but it's all really fun.
So, what if you agree, and you want to read something just as big and complex, or maybe even bigger? Well, complicated event crossovers have been a staple of comics since the mid-'80s, but if I had to pick just one, I'd go with this:
READ THIS NEXT: DC One Million by Grant Morrison, Val Semeiks and Prentis Rollins
When it comes to complex superhero mythologies, Grant Morrison is a master. This is a guy who finds a single weird Silver Age Batman story ("The Batman of Zur-En-Arrh") that almost no one else remembers and then spins it into one of the best Batman events ever (Batman R.I.P.). So, if you want to do a massive crossover that takes brings together the present DC Comics and an imagined DC Comics that exists in the 853rd century, he's probably your man.
And boy, did he deliver. DC One Million is ridiculously entertaining, particularly if you're a fan of Morrison's run on JLA and, well, Justice League comics in general. Even if you're not, though, there's a lot to love here. The initial premise is fairly simple: Justice Legion Alpha, the 853rd century's version of the Justice League, comes back in time to invite the present-day (at the time, 1998) Justice League to a series of a Olympic-style festivities to celebrate the return of Superman Prime (the future version of the present Superman), who's been living in the sun for 15,000 years. Of course, an unforeseen supervillain plot turns that into a disaster, and both future and present Justice Leagues must fight to save the future, the past and the dynasty of Supermen.
I really want to tell you more and reveal which villains are involved and just how intricate and cool the story turns out to be, but I don't want to ruin the reveals for anyone who might be new to this particular era of DC Comics. Suffice it to say it's very satisfying, and ... OK, I'll just go ahead and spoil this one bit: At one point, Superman punches a hole in time and it's awesome!
Aside from the intricacies of its plot and mythology, DC One Million also has something else in common with Secret Wars: Grant Morrison playing the long game. Obviously this event is spinning out of Morrison's previous work on JLA, which he started in 1997, but it's also a setup for events that will ultimately transpire years later in All-Star Superman. Morrison had big plans for the Man of Steel, and he laid much of the groundwork here.
So, if you want another big event to fill your time in between Secret Wars issues, DC One Million just might be what you're looking for.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Want more? Check out these titles:
Final Crisis by Grant Morrison, J.G. Jones, Marco Rudy, Doug Mahnke, and Carlos Pacheco: If you like Grant Morrison getting super-complicated with the DC Universe, this is pretty much the pinnacle.
The Manhattan Projects by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra: Hickman takes his love of mythologizing and applies it to a stunning secret history of 20th century America.
Fantastic Four #67-70 and Fantastic Four #500, "Unthinkable": by Mark Waid, Mike Wieringo, and Karl Kesel: If you want more great Doctor Doom stories, this is about as good as it gets.