Wednesday, July 27, 2005

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

This look at Secret Wars II concludes here!

The Mighty Thor #363

What Happens? Thor returns to Earth from Hell just in time to meet up with Kurse, who is still trying to kill Thor. Beta Ray Bill and Power Pack show up to help Thor out, and eventually, the Beyonder shows his face as well.

Was it good? Yes, it was. This was right after the absolute CLASSIC Thor issue with the Executioner standing his ground at the bridge. This issue is nowhere nearly as good as THAT one, but it still a fine issue. Simonson’s art is, as always, awesome. Also, he worked plot threads from his wife’s comic, Power Pack, very nicely. Simonson writes children well (as seen by the good job he does with the Asgardian kids). Of course, Simonson also has to run afoul of the deus ex machina powers of the Beyonder, as he has to come up with a reason why Beyonder can restore Thor’s hammer to full power, but he won’t fix Thor’s face.

How much did it tie in? A good deal, I suppose. The Beyonder is in it a lot, but he didn’t HAVE to be, ya know?

Was it better for being tied in? No sir. The issue would have been much cooler without the Beyonder. Simonson uses him well, I think, but it does not really add anything to the story.

Power Man and Iron Fist #121

What Happens? “Captain Hero” learns that he is going to die soon. He does not take this news well. Meanwhile, the Falcon shows up when he hears about the whole Beyonder thing. Power Man takes Beyonder to get some soul food while Iron Fist and Falcon get involved with SHIELD to blow up Beyonder’s base of operations. Iron Fist changes his mind and tries to stop SHIELD, but an agent decides to send missiles anyways, with everyone inside! Captain Hero and Iron Fist try to stop the missiles, but Beyonder eventually does.

Was it good? Yes, it was pretty good. This was towards the end of Jim (Christopher Priest) Owsley and Mark Bright’s run. I liked their run. It was funny, and Bright’s art was nice and clean and crisp. What is amazing to me is how the scene where Beyonder goes to the soul food restaurant with Power Man (and makes himself black, which angers the other diners) does not read all that awkward. How many racial references made in 1985 would NOT seem horribly, horribly dated today? Impressive job.

The Falcon showing up was pretty weird. I like this Falcon better than the one he would write 19 years later. But I guess he thought he wouldn’t sell.

The Captain Hero stuff was horribly dorky, but I liked Iron Fist deciding not to betray the Beyonder. Especially the scene where he destroys the missile with his fist.

How much did it tie in? Heavily. Beyonder is featured throughout the issue.

Was it better for being tied in? No, but then again, the issue’s entire plot is “Power Man and Iron Fist react to the Beyonder,” so if there was no Beyonder, the comic would not exist. That being said, I think the issue would have been better if the creative team had just been allowed to do a normal issue.

Secret Wars II #7

The lesson Shooter is teaching us here is that you have to find your own way in life, you cannot just follow false prophets, like “Power of Positive Thinking.”

In this issue, the Beyonder goes to an island just to think. Well, a guy sees him, asks what he is doing, and when the Beyonder tells him, the man decides to become a follower.

Well, a whole cult, basically, forms around the Beyonder. People come from all over to sit on the island with the Beyonder and just think.

Shooter is clearly taking the piss of the whole mental health guru movement of the 80s.

In any event, Mephisto is pissed at the Beyonder, because he is scared of him. So he decides to make a deal with a whole pile of bad guys to go after the Beyonder. What they do not know is that Mephisto has trapped all the power the Beyonder used to destroy Death last issue, and when they touch him, it will set off a device, destroying a third of the universe!!!

The thing is, Mephisto needs Beyonder to stay where he is, so he tricks the Thing into tussling with the Beyonder. However, the Thing’s good nature prevails, and he relents at the last moment – just in time for the villains to attack. Since Mephisto gave Thing extra power (to fight Beyonder and make sure Beyonder stayed on the island), the Thing is able to fight off all the villains until their power ran out.

Not a bad issue, really. Again, though, we’re just repeating things. I mean, the Beyonder’s plot is not moved forward at all, except for the idea that it is now his purpose to find OTHER people’s purposes (as he helped the Thing find his purpose as a defender of life).

New Mutants #36

What Happens? The Beyonder decides to visit Illyana again, and relieve her of her burden of the mistress of Limbo. Sadly, that means the burden passes to Kitty Pryde. Illyana, working as a herald of Beyonder, manages to make Cannonball a disciple of Beyonder as well, but eventually, the New Mutants snap them both out of it.

Was it good? Not really. Mary Wilshire does a good job emulating Bill Sienkiewicz (who inks her, I believe), but the story is just kinda blah.

I mean, the whole “He is perfect, we should follow him…but no, that would take away our free will!” plot was already done, like, three times in Secret Wars II so far.

Not impressed to see it here, especially as we know what is going to happen.

How much did it tie in? A lot. The Beyonder is featured in most of the issue.

Was it better for being tied in? I say no. This book already had plots that it could have addressed (like the short amount of time given to the reaction of the New Mutants to Magneto as their headmaster) that were missed out on because of having to tie into the crossover.

Amazing Spider-Man #273

What Happens? The Puma is tasked with killing the Beyonder. The Beyonder shows up at the end. That’s really about it.

Was it good? No, not really. I was never a fan of the Puma. I mean, he was interesting enough, I suppose, but not as much as the Spider-books thought he was. I mean, there is a REASON that A. He never got his own book and B. No one used him in the past decade. Frenz’s art was nice, and I like the interaction between Peter and Mary Jane. But Defalco did not do much with this issue.

How much did it tie in? Not a lot, really. The Puma is tasked with killing the Beyonder, but the Beyonder doesn’t appear until the end.

Was it better for being tied in? No. It would have been better if there was no Puma plot.

Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #111

What Happens? The Puma is transported to Japan, where he meets up with a wise man who is also advising the Beyonder. The Beyonder knows that Puma’s place is to kill him, so he decides to let him do it. But at the end, Spider-Man causes Puma to doubt himself enough to not kill the Beyonder. The wise man is killed by someone gunning for the Beyonder, for some random reason.

Was it good? Yes, it was pretty good. Rich Bucker’s art was strong, and Jim Owsley’s script was good. A lot of things introduced here are present in Owlsey’s later work, like the stereotypical “wise man” who is secretly very modern (in this instance, he loves rock n roll). In addition, the ending is a real downer, as the Beyonder lets the wise man die because he thinks that is how it was meant to be, or something like that.

I don’t like how you HAD to have read the issue of Amazing to understand this issue.

How much did it tie in? A LOT.

Was it better for being tied in? I guess so, as the stuff that happened would NOT have happened were it not for the Beyonder.

Uncanny X-Men #202

What Happens? The Beyonder gives Rachel a lot of power and gives her a choice – kill him or save the X-Men from a Sentinel from the future. She chooses the latter, reluctantly.

Was it good? Not really. John Romita Jr’s art was good, as usual, but otherwise, the whole plot of the issue was kinda dorky. I mean, we just HAD this same plot in Spider-Man! Will Puma kill Beyonder? DUH, of course he won’t! Will Rachel kill Beyonder? DUH, of course she won’t!

How much did it tie in? A lot. The whole issue is about the Beyonder.

Was it better for being tied in? I say no, as the issue was pretty weak, so the fact that it tied into to Secret Wars II was a detriment for the story.

The New Defenders #152

What Happens? Moondragon tried to kill the Defenders. They stop her, but Beyonder gives her more power, and she tries again. This time, the day is saved by the dorkier Defenders apparently giving their lives to stop her.

Was it good? Oh lord, no. But first off, how lame is it that the LAST issue of Defenders is a freaking Secret Wars II tie-in!?!? Isn’t that, like, terribly insulting?

Not as insulting, I guess, as the fact that the climax of the issue is all the dorkier Defenders (Interloper, Andromeda, Manslaughter, Valkyrie and Gargoyle) give up their life force to stop Moondragon, ultimately “killing” all of them (all but the DORKIEST ones returned to life soon after).

Don Perlin’s art is average at best.

Peter Gillis’ story is strictly “let’s get this over with and let the popular characters go to better books.”

So basically, the whole issue is just letting Beast, Angel and Iceman have their stories wrapped up.

Just a lame, lame issue.

How much did it tie in? Not much. Beyonder just shows up to give Moondragon a power up.

Was it better for being tied in? No sir. But then again, it was pretty bad, so that’s not saying much.

Secret Wars II #8

Wow.

This issue was REALLY bad.

In it, the Beyonder just gets sick and tired of the universe, so he decides to destroy it.

That’s it, but that’s stretched out over the entire issue.

Shooter really had no other plot, so the rest of the issue is just filled with meaningless cameos.

“Hey Spider-Man, what’s up?”

“Hey Hulk, what’s shakin?”

“Oh, look, the X-Men!”

In this issue, Rachel chooses to destroy the Beyonder…but doesn’t. AGAIN.

The Molecule Man’s girlfriend betrays him, thinking that will make the Beyonder leave Owie alone.

And finally, the Avengers show up, and the Beyonder tosses a tornado at them, grabs Captain America, and runs off.

Sooooo bad.

The New Mutants #37

What Happens? The New Mutants have a showdown with the Beyonder – to the death. He forces them to get really bloodthirsty, and then just wipes them out of existence.

Was it good? It wasn’t that bad. The Beyonder parts of the book were terrible, but there are other, better scenes. For instance, the opening has the team watching a “Cowboys and Indians” movie, and Claremont explores what that is like to Dani, who is obviously a bit offended by the portrayals in the movie, which her teammates are oblivious to.

Then, later on, there is a good sequence where Sunspot tries to save someone trapped under a crane, but ultimately, fails. Luckily, She-Hulk was walking by, and she saves the day, but Sunspot feels like such a failure. There is a great exchange with a cop over how Sunspot shouldn’t feel down just because he failed.

Good stuff.

But then the Beyonder stuff happens, and the issue is a waste. Mary Wilshire and Bill Sienkiewicz do a good job on the art, but the story is almost non-existent.

How much did it tie in? Just the second half.

Was it better for being tied in? No, definitely not. The Beyonder scenes are the worst in the book.

Amazing Spider-Man #274

What Happens? The Beyonder and Mephisto make a deal. Mephisto gets a champion. If he passes a test of worthiness, the Beyonder will spare the universe for at least one more day. If he fails, the universe ends now. The Beyonder chooses Peter Parker as Mephisto’s champion, and makes the challenge whether Peter will renounce his responsibilities. The Beyonder uses the demon Zarathos to convince Peter to give up. Luckily, Parker pulls it off.

Was it good? This was a good issue, but you could tell that they thought it was REALLY REALLY good. They made it no ads and everything. DeFalco and Frenz clearly thought that this was, like, their best issue ever.

Zarathos (the Ghost Rider) really messes Spider-Man up. We’re talking boils on his face and everything!!

The responsibility Spider-Man cannot relinquish is to not let Kingpin be killed (as Spidey overhears an assassination plot).

Spider-Man is visited by many ghosts of people he knew who died, all telling him what a failure and a disappointment he has been.

However, Spider-Man still pulls it out, and saves Kingpin (who it turns out, didn’t even need the help), so the universe lives another day.

Lifting a pile of rubble to get Aunt May some medicine, it is not, but it is still a good issue and a nice example of Spidey overcoming odds to show how important responsibility is to him.

How much did it tie in? The whole issue ties in.

Was it better for being tied in? I guess so, but it doesn’t really read like a SPIDEY story, ya know? Kinda too metaphysical for him. Spidey works better when he is wrestling with INNER demons, not ACTUAL demons.

Uncanny X-Men #203

What Happens? Rachel decides for the THIRD time that she is going to kill the Beyonder. This time, she imprints every being in the universe, and is prepared for everyone to die if it means destroying the Beyonder. Ultimately, though, she cannot go through with it. Beyonder learns a valuable lesson. Meanwhile, Kitty is mad that she is the only one who can remember the New Mutants (due to her becoming head of Limbo with Illyana erased from existence).

Was it good? Not really. Remember what I said about repetition? Remember what I said about repetition? This is literally the second straight issue of X-Men where Rachel decides to kill the Beyonder, but something gets in the way. Add to the that the fact that the last issue of Secret Wars II #8 notes that the events of this, New Mutants and Amazing all touch place DURING #8, and it sorta sets you up that nothing is going to really happen in this issue.

John Romita Jr’s art is very nice (with able inks by guest inker Al Williamson), but the issue is a letdown.

Which is a shame, as it opens up strongly, with Claremont taking us into Rogue’s split psyche (remember, at this point in time, she was sharing her mind with the psyche of Carol Danvers).

Someone (I forget who) made a good joke, I think, about the whole “Phoenix dying was a bad thing” complaint, and that is, did she ever REALLY die? I mean, at this point, it was 4 years since she died (Jean Grey returned a month before this issue was released), and in that time, the Phoenix seemed to be in every other X-Men comic!! Either it was Madelyne Pryor and Mastermind making the X-Men THINK that the Phoenix was back, or else it was Rachel being the Phoenix.

Phoenix didn’t go anywhere.

I did enjoy the moral quandaries Claremont kept putting Rachel into, and seeing how she really didn’t do all that well most of the time (leading, of course, to the famous issue where Wolverine is forced to stab her rather than let her kill a bad guy), she was an intriguing character.

My problem is that she was nowhere near as interesting as all the OTHER characters Claremont had to work with, so it was more than a little annoying to see them take a back seat to Rachel.

Jessica Drew was in this issue, by the way, but Romita must have screwed up! Her breasts were not the size of watermelons!

How much did it tie in? A lot. The whole issue is Rachel absorbing people throughout the universe to go kill Beyonder.

Was it better for being tied in? No. If it were not for Beyonder, this might have been a good issue, actually.

Fantastic Four #288

What Happens? John Byrne explains Doom’s return. That’s it.

Was it good? No, no it was not.

Byrne’s art was nice, but the story was non-existent. Basically, if you recall, during Secret Wars, Doom appeared. However, at the TIME of Secret Wars, Doom was dead.

John Byrne did not like that, but Shooter thought that he needed Doom in Secret Wars, as he was one of the most famous Marvel villains.

So Byrne spends the entire issue explaining Doom’s appearance in Secret Wars, apparently it was through the efforts of the Beyonder, but the Beyonder of 1985, who…ah, fergit it…it is beyond convoluted.

In any event, Doom is back to normal in this issue.

Nice art by Byrne!

How much did it tie in? The Beyonder is featured a lot, but it really has nothing to do with the overall Secret Wars II story arc. It doesn’t even really fit in with the overall crossover arc.

Was it better for being tied in? No. Without the Beyonder, maybe Byrne would have found a better way to bring Doom back and explain his presence during Secret Wars.

Avengers #265

What Happens? The Avengers recover from the tornado BEyonder threw at them at the end of Secret Wars II #8. Beyonder and Cap talk, and Cap tries to attack him. The Avengers show up to stop Beyonder, but fail. The issue ends with the Beyonder more certain than ever that he will destroy the universe – to be continued in the last issue of Secret Wars II!

Was it good? Not really, but Roger Stern really did a marvelous job of trying to make lemonade out of the lemon of a plot he is given.

In this issue, Stern plants the seeds for Captain Marvel to become the Avengers leader, seeds which do not grow fully for over a YEAR! Talk about planning in advance!

The good thing about this issue was how well Stern gets into the psyches of each Avenger.

Captain Marvel is the calm, convincing leader.

Hercules is the brash one, practically moronic in his plans (He tells the group about how he beat this demi-God, to explain to them how they will beat Beyonder. They all basically roll their eyes….but it is funny to see how he really thinks it will be that simple).

Namor, who only recently joined the team, uses his past as an enemy to humans to try to fool the Beyonder, so that his teammates can free Cap.

Black Knight is as Stern always portrayed him…a nice guy, but a bit of a dork.

Captain America is handled well, as we see Cap come to terms with having to perhaps use deadly force on the Beyonder.

Buscema’s art is outstanding, especially his Hercules. He handles Hercules’ righteous fury BEAUTIFULLY.

How much did it tie in? Directly bridges the gap from the end of Secret Wars II #8 to the beginning of Secret Wars II #9.

Was it better for being tied in? No, but Stern DOES try to make the best of it.

Secret Wars II #9

A double-sized final issue!

Too bad it had about a half an issue of plot.

Milgrom and Leialoha really dropped the ball, art-wise. In an issue where they have to draw pretty much every known superhero in the Marvel Universe, they really do not put a lot of detail or effort into their depictions.

It’s too bad.

In any event ,the Beyonder has decided that he wants to become human.

So he makes a….sigh….make-people-human machine.

He firsts tests it by using it to re-make the New Mutants, and it succeeds.

He then makes himself human, and he HATES it, so he goes back.

He makes himself human AGAIN, but Mephisto shows up, and he has to suffer through some torture before he makes himself omnipotent again.

He then starts again, but that’s when all the heroes show up to stop him, including the Molecule Man.

To ward them off, Beyonder destroys a good chunk of the galaxy with a giant death ray blast, severely harming Earth in the process.

Molecule Man saves their lives.

But when they get to the gestation device, a booby trap explodes, but luckily, Sue Richards puts up a forcefield, which is reinforced by Rachel and the Silver Surfer, so they survive the nuclear bomb level of force.

They dared not mess with the device while the Beyonder was gestating, or else all his energy would leak out. So they will wait until he is born, and decide what to do THEN.

But the Molecule Man destroys the machine ANYways, and a giant explosion occurs, which the Molecule Man saves them from, but the Beyonder lies dead.

As the issue ends, though, we learn that the Molecule Man secretly sent the Beyonder’s energy to a new dimension, and in this dimension, the Beyonder explodes, creating a Big Bang…and a NEW Universe is created (yep, the actual New Universe, folks).

So, in case you are wondering, that was THREE climatic explosions in the last few pages, in which the heroes were miraculously saved each time.

How silly is THAT?

A silly ending to a silly series…but wait…that’s not all!!

Avengers #266

What Happens? The Avengers, Fantastic Four and Silver Surfer try to fix the damage done to Earth by the Beyonder. Molecule Man ends up fixing everything.

Was it good? Nope. The ENTIRE issue was basically just waiting until the Molecule Man fixes everything, licketedy split.

I thought that was pretty boring.

Buscema’s art was awesome, as usual, though.

However, a whole issue devoted literally to just cleaning up the mess made by a prior series?

UGH.

How much did it tie in? A lot. It was the epilogue.

Was it better for being tied in? No. It was just an explanation of how things were fixed.

Doesn’t get much more boring than that!

FINAL THOUGHTS

So there you have it, and I think the problems with the crossover are evident. A good deal of the issues were not REALLY meant to be tie-ins, or had to go out of their way to tie-in to the crossover.

Meanwhile, the issues almost as a whole were not improved by being part of the crossover, and if the crossover is not helping the issues be better, what is the point exactly?

As for the series itself, it started off strong enough, with a decent concept (although the Beyonder sure went to weird people for advice, didn’t he?), but it just could not last for nine issues.

You can’t build a nine-month crossover around “Guy learns about Earth.”

I admire Shooter, in a way, for trying to use the crossover format to tell a story filled with a heavy sense of meaning, which I think was in direct response to critics who knocked the first Secret Wars as brainless, but I think he lost sight of the fact that comics are supposed to be fun, and while one series about a guy learning about life, despair, hope, fitting in, etc. may be interesting, you do not want to bind other comic writers to telling the same story, especially as there are only so many ways you can tell it before getting repetitive.

So that, all in all, is why I think that Secret Wars II was a bad crossover.

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7 Comments:

Blogger David said...

I have to commend you on a job well done, Brian, but you put a lot of effort into a conclusion ("bad crossover") that everyone already knows :)

Thanks for the analysis and nostalgia.

7/27/2005 06:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Dan Coyle said...

There was one last Secret Wars II crossover- Deadpool Team-Up #1, written by James Felder and drawn by Pete Woods. The story takes place in present day, but the first few pages are a flashback sequence to the time Beyonder was working for the Kingpin.

Deadpool is hired by Yakuza (I think) to whack the Beyonder. The Beyonder respond to this how you'd think: By transforming into Elvis in the middle of an office building, fat Vegas Elvis, with a stage and everything, knocking Deadpool off balance.

And, once again, the Beyonder showed up in last year's "Samaritan" storyline in Thanos, locked inside Kosmos, I believe.

7/27/2005 11:00:00 AM  
Blogger Bill Reed said...

That Thor issue was pretty good, yes, despite the Beyonder.

And, man, Spidey is the Job of the Marvel Universe.

Anyway, what were the actual "Secret" and "War" part of Secret Wars II?

7/27/2005 03:03:00 PM  
Blogger Nik said...

Like I said in a previous commment, I gave up on reading "Secret Wars II" about halfway through, but I did read "New Mutants" at the time and actually thought the whole "Beyonder just kills them all" issue was really good. Seemed very stark and dramatic compared to the usual stories of the time, and had some good long-term effects on the title. Haven't read it in years, so it might not be as good as hindsight tells me, but I liked.

7/27/2005 04:24:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

If I were to stretch it, I would say that the Secret War in Secret Wars II was that the heroes of the world were "secretly" fighting a "war" for the very fate of the universe.

7/27/2005 05:51:00 PM  
Anonymous f. chong rutherford mandell said...

So, bottom line things for me here, are you saying that Secret Wars II is a bad comic?

7/27/2005 05:53:00 PM  
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