Marvel have put out a ridiculous number of tie-ins for their ongoing, universe-rebooting mega event Secret Wars. But one of their latest spinoffs, Secret Wars: Secret Love, is surprisingly unique. Not only is it a superheroic romance anthology that works—it might just end up being one of the best Secret Wars comics out there.
Secret Wars, as an event, has been pretty interesting for Marvel; while it’s main series is a little (and necessarily) grim at times with all the drama, the spinoffs have allowed writers and artists to stretch their legs a little and do some wild stories that find themselves getting better the looser they are in their connection to the mashed-up world of Battleworld. What I didn’t expect that one of the best of those wild ideas would end up being the anthology series Secret Love, which began this week. Secret Love, like several other of the Secret Wars tie-ins, is actually 5 short stories collected in a single book. It means each one is told over only a handful of pages, but they’re all connected around the theme of romance.
Well, actually, to say romance is a bit of a disservice. Despite what the pop-art homage front cover might tell you, these aren’t cheesy love stories or steamy homages to classic romance, but short stories about relationships—some romantic, some platonic. The more serious stories in the first issue—one featuring Daredevil and Karen Page, by Michele Fiffe, and the other featuring Danny Rand and Misty Knight, by Jeremy Whitley—aren’t necessarily overtly about their respective pairings love for one another.
The Daredevil story, “Guilty Pleasure”, is about Karen exploring the strength she sees in Matt Murdock (this version in particular is trapped in a demon-filled section of Battleworld called inferno) before the pair find themselves about to be wiped out by the demonic hordes. The Danny Rand and Misty Knight story, “Misty and Danny Forever”, places an emphasis of the duo reigniting a strained relationship, through the eyes of Misty Knight seeing the man Danny Rand has become beyond the mask of the Iron Fist. They’re not monumental, and while there’s a bit of the perquisite superhero action to break the character dialogue up (Misty and Danny fight a T-Rex, because, why not?), they still both manage to be intimate character moments. They’re small-scale pieces of storytelling among the superheroic excess of Secret Wars, exploring aspects of these heroes that are otherwise brushed over.
But when it’s not being entirely serious is when Secret Love is at its best—it can be funny and kooky, and ultimately refreshingly sweet. Kamala Khan’s story, “Fan of a Fan” sees her team up with Ghost Rider Robbie Reyes—not for romance, but to beat the crap out of a giant monster, because they’re both slightly dorky fans of each other’s superhero personas. The ultimate in silliness though is “Squirrel Girl Wins A Date With Thor”, by Marguerite Bennt and Kris Anka.
It’s a story you could rip straight out of Squirrel Girl’s current ongoing series, a lighthearted jokey date and dance Doreen Green wins with Thor that, though comedic mishap, ends with Doreen and a Topless Thor riding through Asgard in a sleigh pulled by Squirrels. It’s as adorable as it is completely absurd.
Above all, it’s fun, as is Secret Love as a whole. Among the seriousness of Secret Wars, not many of these comics take the time to do something a little lighthearted and goofy, a refreshing break from the madness of the event as a whole. Secret Love might not be a comic you’d expect to put on your pull list at first glance: but if you want a break from the gritty superpowered antics and a little more fun in your comics, it’s worth giving a go.