By Jarrod Jones. Y’know. I was warned about reading Secret Wars the other day. “You better be careful,” this Marvel Zombie bothered to tell me. “If you haven’t been following [Jonathan Hickman’s] Avengers, you’re gonna be lost.” Well, drat.

And while it’s true that I’m wholly ignorant of most of the comings and goings of the Avengers these days (New or otherwise), I am cognizant enough of the Marvel Universe as an entity. I have enough of a cursory awareness (thanks to the multitude of press releases I read in a given week) to know that all of the various Marvel Universes exist, and I know that Secret Wars is looking to put the fix on all of that. When you subsist on a steady diet of comic books (with the occasional binge here and there) for a good majority of your life, you know that events are pretty accessible. It’s in their very nature.

And sure enough, Marvel’s Secret Wars is an accessible, thorough, and exciting read. Jonathan Hickman’s time on team books means the man knows how to balance a large stable of superheroes, and with a convergenc – er, Incursion (pardon me) going down between the 616 Universe we all know so well and the upstart 1610 Universe that seeks to supplant it, Hickman doesn’t merely toe the line of success — he glides on it. Even for a fella who only pops in on Marvel when the publisher poaches writers from their Distinguished Competition (Charles Soule, Ray Fawkes, et al), or reads big time events like, um, Secret Wars, this latest showdown has me tossing aside a certain other eight issue mini-series in order to absorb this calamity in full. The rest of my summer looks like it’s gonna be war.

Hickman’s the sort of writer who knows when to curb the sarcasm when the Beyond is staring back at you, and when Secret Wars offers oblivion, we actually feel it. (Witnessing Doctor Doom stare into the abyss is a chilling moment I won’t soon forget.) There was never any doubt that artist Esad Ribic could handle such a spectacle — his run with Jason Aaron over on Thor is a big favorite at DoomRocket HQ — and his carefully placed linework gives each hero in either the Marvel or Ultimate universes an instantly iconic look, one that faintly recalls George Pérez’s exhaustive work on another reality-bending crossover I could mention.

That’s a damn fine thing, because coupled with Ribic’s eye-grabbing splash pages is Alex Ross’ monstrously classic jam covers, which give Secret Wars the feeling that it’s far more than a cynical summer crossover, or a mere house-cleaning cash-grab. As a whole, Hickman’s Secret Wars is the real deal, taking away everything we’ve ever come to know while paradoxically making the Marvel Universe feel everlasting. Which is great. Being a Johnny DC myself, I know a Crisis when I see one.

Marvel Comics/$4.99

Written by Jonathan Hickman.

Art by Esad Ribic.

Colors by Ive Svorcina.

9 out of 10