Esad Ribic (1972-) is a croatian comic-book artist who’s working for Marvel. He designed both covers and interiors of comic-books, like the covers for House of M (2005) or Uncanny X-Force (2010-2012). His most important job might be his drawings for Thor : God of Thunders (2013-2014), for which he drew 17 issues. He’s now working on the most important crossover Marvel ever planned, Secret Wars.
Battleword might be understood as the dream world created by God-Doom, who finally achieved to get everything he ever wanted. Whereas Strange has hesitated, Doom had not think that much and seized the powers of the Beyonders. Thus he created a world where he could be a true God. Before that, Doom and his allies, Strange and Molecular Man, had to break into the Beyonder’s dimension. And once again, Doom was in the front line. Protected by his armor, he pushed forwards the worlds’ boundaries. The last panel of this page is impressive, especially Doom’s wide-open eyes. Behind the mask, his eagerness for power is clearly visible. Although the confrontation with God – or the Beyonders – might not go all planned, Doom’s self-assurance is astonishing : his is the heroe who’ll save the world, our Earth, even the multiverse. The presence of less and less of characters on each panel is revealing of Doom’s role. First, Strange, Doom and the Molecule Man are represented ; then the worlds’ frontiers open and only Strange and Doom are represented ; the last panel is a close-up on Dooms’ hand and face. Step by step, the other characters first involved are removed from the drawing, for Doom alone to appear as the savior of the worlds. Like Joe Madureira (see Inhuman #1-3), Esad Ribic doesn’t use solid black to represent the shadows on his drawings. Rather he seems to “color” it – we even can see the pencil strokes – giving them a more realistic appearance, a handwork side.
But Doom’s authority is often disputed by his own barons, like Jamie Braddock. Luckily for them, Doom’s wrath is not limitless and unfair. His wife, Susan Storm, has the power to cool it down. Doom’s infatuation for the Invisible Woman is well-known, and it’s not a surprise to see her and her children – Franklin and Valeria – surrounding Doom as his own family. Doom has finally what he always wanted : the world at his feet, the powers of an almighty God, and the wife of his arch nemesis. It’s impressive how Susan’s voice can calm down Doom. The almighty god was wrathful in the third panel, whereas he is already calm and thinking peacefully on the fourth. Her power on Doom is stunning. Thanks to his entourage – his wife and children – Doom might become the righteous God the universe needed so much, rather than the Beyonders. The last panel show a totally different Doom, even different from the previous page we saw. He’s no longer eager for power, he has it, plus a wonderful family. Alone, Doom was never satisfied and always wanted more. Surrounded by Susan and his children, Doom is finally happy.
Unfortunately, his stolen happiness, built on a lie, could not last forever. Two spaceships were discovered on Battleword. His occupants, the members of the New Cabal and some heroes from Earth 616, had memories from their homeland, and therefore don’t recognize Doom as their God and leader. For the first time in years, Doom is facing a threat for his powers. One in particular represents a danger for him : Reed Richards himself, and the two version of him : the Reed from our Earth and the Reed from Earth-1610, alias the Maker. See how little Doom represents for the Maker, how contemptuous he is when Doom himself shouts his name. If not fear, at least terror is the main emotion on Doom’s face when he discovered Reed wasn’t dead. With Reed alive, it’s all Doom ever built that’s in jeopardy. Certain of his victory, he doesn’t hesitate to stand alone against the Cabal and the heroes united.
Doom will not surrender so easily without a fight, even against a cosmical force as powerful as the Phoenix Force. How did Cyclops get reunited with the Phoenix force anyway ? I guess we’ll have to wait for Uncanny X-Men #600 to find the answer. Confident in his powers, Cyclops could not predict that in his dream world, Doom would be so powerful. The poor Cyclops is strangled by the strong hand of God-Doom, and with him the future seems to die. Cyclops for once appears powerless against such a God. This page really is the point of no-return. By killing Cyclops, Doom is indeed trying to protect his kingdom, but he has shed the first blood, making him the enemy. This page is not only wonderfully designed, it’s also mark the beginning of a new era for Battleword.
The apparent threat that is Richards is nothing compare to the Cabal and Thanos himself. If Reed can endanger Doom’s happy life with his family, Thanos mustn’t be forgotten. Especially when he’s so close to the Mjölnir : maybe in Battleworld, Thanos will be worthy of Thor’s powers? Thanos isn’t the only one that I’m interesting right now. After the discovery of the two space ships, Doom’s pretend daughter Valeria wants to know everything about them and their inhabitants. She seems ready to protect her father and his kingdom at all cost, even against her real father.
Like the X-Men when they had the power of the Phoenix Force as the Phoenix Five, Doom created a new world. Maybe this world isn’t perfect, but Doom managed at least to save the worlds – or some pieces of worlds. Because of some so-called heroes, the peaceful world a mighty God created is now in danger. Like we saw during Avengers versus X-Men, there is no doubt the finale battle between Doom and his foes will end Battleworld, and we’ll find again a “real” world, where no one is an almighty God, but where there is so much to do. Battleword wasn’t perfect, but it was the dream of a wounded-man. Couldn’t we let him dream a little more ?