Tuesday, July 26, 2005

This Crossover Was Bad - Secret Wars II (Part 2 of 3)

Here, I will continue the look at Secret Wars II...

Avengers #261

What Happens? The Avengers come home from their space adventure to find out that the government has a problem with the Avengers holding their aircraft in the middle of Manhattan. The Beyonder shows up, and tussles with the Avengers (meanwhile showing how the government was basically right not to want the Avengers hosting their aircraft in the middle of Manhattan). Wasp offers the Beyonder Avenger-in-training status, he turns them down, repairs all the damage, and leaves.

Was it good? Not really. Buscema’s art was great, as always. Likewise, there are some good character moments, like Captain Marvel visiting her parents, but too much of the issue was caught up in “laundry list” moments, you know, just taking care of business and stuff like that. Like Starfox leaving the team, or the Avengers being told not to park their aircraft in Manhattan…but mainly, the whole battle with Beyonder was just so silly. However, I DID like Wasp’s offer. That was clever.

How much did it tie in? A lot. Beyonder is in almost the entire issue.

Was it better for being tied in? No. Without the Beyonder plot, there might have been an actual plot in the issue.

Secret Wars II #5

This issue’s lesson is about despair and how to deal with it. It also marked the introduction of a very interesting plot device, who went on to become a notable character in the Marvel universe, including soon being a member of Warren Ellis’ upcoming superhero team book, Boom Boom!

Boom Boom was an interesting character, too bad that they felt as though they needed to pretty her up later on. She was more interesting as the “plain Jane.”

Beyonder and Tabitha bond in the issue, and it is great to see how flippant she is with a being she KNOWS could destroy her in an instant.

It also gets weirdly serious when she tries to kill herself a few times in the issue (she was abused by her father).

I liked her “I win…ten points” catchphrase, said whenever she gets over on someone.

The Beyonder takes Boom Boom with him to outer space, to see how the whole universe is afraid of Beyonder. Beyonder even roughs up some Celestials, just to show that he can (this would be made to seem pretty weird later on, when the Beyonder’s “true” nature was revealed in Englehart’s Fantastic Four run).

Eventually, even Boom Boom betrays the Beyonder, as she cannot see him in any terms but as a threat.

The Avengers (both squads) and Fantastic Four show up to kick his ass, and pound on him until they realize that the Beyonder is not even resisting.

He has appeared to have given up, muttering something about “Ten points” as he walks away despondent.

Not a bad issue.

The Thing #30

What Happens? The Thing, who is really mad at the Beyonder, faces up against the Beyonder, who, as we saw in the last issue of Secret Wars II, has basically just given up on life. The Thing beats him almost to death.

Was it good? Surprisingly, yes. Actually, the whole “Thing works for a Wrestling Company” plot was not as bad as you might imagine. Ron Wilson’s art was good, as always. Mike Carlin did not do a bad job with the writing on this issue, either. The Beyonder should have read that old Two-In-One Annual to know that the Thing likes to fight celestial beings in matches. In any event, the bit that I think got overlooked in this issue is that the Thing THINKS that his final blow was enough to kill the Beyonder. The fact that it WASN’T should not disguise the fact that Ben THOUGHT that he was killing the Beyonder!! That is lame.

How much did it tie in? A lot. It picks right up where the last issue of Secret Wars II ended.

Was it better for being tied in? Well, the sad truth is that Secret Wars and Ben Grimm were tied together a LOT at the time, so I guess it made sense to see Ben interact with the Beyonder.

Doctor Strange #74

What Happens? Dr. Strange gives the Beyonder a life lesson by forcing the Beyonder to relive Strange’s life.

Was it good? It was pretty good. Peter Gillis did a good job of making Strange out to be quite the hardass, as he made Beyonder live out Strange’s life, and if the Beyonder were not to follow Strange’s cue (decide to help instead of being selfish), then he was prepared to make the Beyonder live out Strange’s life FOREVER! In addition, this storyline picked up from the end of a big story arc with Clea’s realm. There is a really funny scene where a barber thinks he is going to be murdered for speaking out of turn. Good stuff. Mark Badger’s art was as good as I ever remember seeing it, especially the way he drew spells. Inking himself worked really well, I think.

How much did it tie in? Heavily. This was a major issue in the overall Secret Wars II storyline.

Was it better for being tied in? I think so, yes. It was a good issue, and the Beyonder part was the whole of the book.

Fantastic Four #285

What Happens? A kid who idolized Johnny Storm sets himself on fire, causing Johnny to give up being a superhero, until the Beyonder visits him and shows him how such a decision would be foolish.

Was it good? You ever see the Growing Pains episode about cocaine? Watching it today, it is still pretty decent, but it is also pretty hokey. I think the same would apply to this issue of Fantastic Four. Art-wise, this was one of the strongest issues of FF that I have seen from Byrne, as he convincingly handles the little boy who is a fan of Johnny Storm (by the by, what’s up with Byrne and drawing big round glasses on women? He draws the kid’s teacher with them, just like how he draws Heather Hudson’s glasses. It is weird). Granted, he also designed Johnny’s…uhmm…unfortunate choice of a haircut, but otherwise, the art is strong.

As for the STORY, well…it is kinda dorky. I mean, the kid lit himself on fire to be like the Human Torch! That is just IDIOTIC!!!! It is really a shame, as Byrne does an AMAZING job detailing the kid’s sad life. I mean, an EXCELLENT job (even little details like having the kid’s mom tell him to record a show the same time the show he was looking forward to is on).

And then he has the kid light himself on fire to be like the Human Torch?

It really takes you out of the drama when it is that stupid. So when Johnny gets all upset over it, it really does not ring that true. Byrne has some good scenes that would have worked nicely if the plot wasn’t so stupid, like when he draws Johnny flaming up…then stopping and calling a taxi. Great, dramatic scene…but for an idiotic plot!!

So when the issue ends with an F. Scott Fitzgerald quote, you expect that the preceding issue was, like, special or something…but sadly, the whole “lighting himself on fire to be like the Human Torch” part of the plot is just too dumb to take seriously.

How much did it tie in? Not much. The Beyonder shows up to show Johnny how the kid’s whole life was made worth living BECAUSE of Johnny.

Was it better for being tied in? Nope. It felt REALLY tacked on. Byrne must have been quite pissed to have his “very special issue” of Fantastic Four be a freakin’ Secret Wars II crossover!

Secret Wars II #6

In this issue, the lesson we learn is about fitting in, having a place for yourself in the world. The Beyonder decides that Dr. Strange has inspired him to become a force for good, and he goes about being a force for life. Amazingly enough, the cover of the Beyonder pushing heroes aside actually appears in the comic (albeit in someone’s mind)!

A local reporter becomes Beyonder’s representative in his fight against death.

Eventually, the Beyonder even DESTROYS Death!

The Molecule Man shows up to point out how that is a bad idea, and ultimately, Dave (the reporter), finds his place in life by becoming the NEW Death (as Beyonder took up too much of his power destroying Death, so he would need someone willing to die to become the new Death).

It was a decent enough issue (although Milgrom’s art seems rushed), but it is starting to get repetitive. I mean, didn’t Beyonder decide to become a superhero, like, three months earlier?

So Shooter is really beginning to repeat himself. And we still have THREE months to go!!

Cloak and Dagger #4

What Happens? Cloak and Dagger have a big talk with a priest about how Cloak is being too hard on drug dealers, but then, in the issue, they learn a lesson from Beyonder about moral absolutes.

Was it good? It was pretty good. Mantlo uses the Beyonder well, I think. He has him first kill every drug dealer in the world, which, of course, Cloak and Dagger object to. He then cures them all, and there is a big speechifying about how that is not the way to do it, about how you cannot play God, stuff like that. Rich Leonardi’s art is good, and the subplot about the cop who suspects that most of the police force is crooked was good. There really was a LOT of speechifying, though. Cloak sure could do soliloquies. The book is practically Shakespearean!

How much did it tie in? A lot. The whole issue, mainly.

Was it better for being tied in? Actually, yes. I think Mantlo uses the whole deus ex machina aspect of the Beyonder well.

Power Pack #18

What Happens? Kurse, a creature Beyonder let loose to attack Thor, barrels through Manhattan to find Thor, and in the ensuing destruction, severely hurts the Powers’ mother. The Power Pack then attack him, and Alex Power is extremely vicious when it comes to handling Kurse, as he wants revenge for his mother’s injury.

Was it good? It was quite good, as most Power Pack comics were. Louise Simonson basically on this title just created four incredibly in depth personalities, and then just spent the rest of her time on the series working the characters off each other and guest stars, with great success. Brent Anderson’s art, in addition, was quite good.

The way Alex Power blamed himself for his mother’s injury (she was picking up tagboard for him) was nice, and the way he got so bloodthirsty – so realistic, but in the end, he learned his lesson, which was great to see.

The end of this issue set up the classic next issue, which was when Katie Power invites everyone they’ve met over the past year to come to Thanksgiving dinner, including, of course, Wolverine…hehe.

How much did it tie in? The Beyonder set Kurse loose in one of the issues of Secret Wars II (he was giving Kurse what Kurse wanted, which was to kill Thor). He also takes the kids’ mother to the hospital, and helps them to get to see her.

Was it better for being tied in? No. The Beyonder was extremely peripheral to the issue.

The Micronauts: The New Voyages #16

What Happens? The Beyonder comes to the Microverse, and listening to this weird guy named Scion, agrees to help the Microverse by destroying several galaxies (to create a firewall to give time to save the entire Microverse). The Micronauts object to this, and fight the Beyonder and Scion.

Was it good? Not really, but I think partially because the story really drops you in the middle of a confusing mess. I barely remember any of the characters, and they kept referring to things that happened a while ago. Peter Gillis did a much better job with Dr. Strange. Kelley Jones’ art was nice, though, and Gillis probably DID so SOME good stuff with the whole “Deal with the Devil” idea. IS it worth letting millions die if it means saving multi-trillians?

How much did it tie in? A good deal, as the Beyonder gets involved a lot.

Was it better for being tied in? I do not think so. This issue was deus ex machina, but in a BAD way. I am especially growing weary of “big destruction that Beyonder fixes instantly.”

That’s it for this installment. I will finish up this look at Secret Wars II later tonight!

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7 Comments:

Blogger T. said...

Man does this bring back memories. Indeed, some of the tie-ins were pretty good, even if the main series was hit-and-miss (mostly miss). I wonder how Infinite Crisis and its tie-ins will stand the test of time when compared to the older crossovers like SWII?

7/26/2005 11:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Dan Coyle said...

"Byrne was pissed"

No kidding: Byrne has said that as written, it was the doctor, not the Beyonder, who explained to Johnny how the kid "Really lived!" because of him. By the Beyonder actually showing it to him, incontrovertible proof, Byrne felt it ruined the story.

Byrne has said he's offered Marvel to publish the story as originally drawn for free, but they weren't interested.

Around 1991, Danny Fingeroth wrote an issue of FF that was sort of a thematic sequel to that, only in this case the kid was significantly older and was committing suicide. In Byrne's story, it's not clear whether the kid lit himself on fire because he's stupid or because he's finally had it with life.

#5 was probably the strongest issue of the series.

7/26/2005 02:51:00 PM  
Anonymous woodmania said...

I think you brought up a good point, that the series and it's crossover hit a few ruts. Beyonder shows up, breaks stuff, fixes it, leaves. You get that more than once a month for nine months, it loses it's impact. Another negative was the impact on your regular titles, especially the Avengers if I remember right. It crossed over to SW2 one month, not the next, crossed over for two issues, not the next two, then the Beyonder's back. It makes it a tough read for the main titles when the tie-ins are on-again, off-again.

Also, I forget what the Beyonder's true purpose was revealed to be later on in the FF. Can you hit that up once you're done with these?

7/26/2005 03:28:00 PM  
Blogger Nik said...

I too would be interested in knowing what happened in those post-SW FF issues (weren't they even called "Secret Wars III" or somesuch?). I actually gave up on SWII with #5, and am not full of regrets, but this posting has been an interesting walk down memory lane.

I still stand by "Secret Wars" one as a great guilty pleasure, the 'Armageddon' of superhero comics.

7/26/2005 05:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Dan Coyle said...

I think it was Fantastic Four #317-319, during the Steve Englehart run. IIRC, it ends with The Beyonder., Kubik, and Molecule Man becoming the new Cosmic Cube. Owen later popped out of the Cube and went back to Volcana.

In the "Samaritan" storyline in Thanos last year the Beyonder made an appearance of sorts, locked in a female cosmic being's body (I believe it was the former Kubik) in a galatic prison.

7/26/2005 08:31:00 PM  
Blogger layne said...

That issue of Power Pack is the only one I've ever read, and to this day, despite not knowing what the hell was happening, I can quote full lines from it.

That's the mark of a great comic. I'm going to have to start planning a new back issue safari now, thanks to you!

7/26/2005 08:45:00 PM  
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