Fantastic Four #318-319
Issue(s): Fantastic Four #318, Fantastic Four #319
Editor Ralph Macchio had always hated Jim Shooter's Beyonder, and asked me to write the guy out of the Marvel Universe. I did not hate the character so I wrote him out with, I hope, some heroism and grandeur.
Now granted this is a quick summary by Englehart in a footnote, so maybe i shouldn't take it exactly literally. But these issues bring the character back just to write him out again, making Englehart's footnote sadly ironic and these issues seemingly pointless. I suppose the correct interpretation of "write the guy out" is "retcon the character such as to render all of his appearances meaningless", because that is actually the point of these issues. And i again say, "Why?". Secret Wars II may have sucked, but it didn't do any lasting harm to anything and between its various tie-ins and the first Secret Wars there are actually a lot of cool moments that are now sullied by what's "revealed" here. I doubt the issue was really that Ralph Macchio harbored a complaint that there once existed someone powerful enough to knock Galactus and the Celestials around, and i think the real issue here is that Macchio (and Tom DeFalco, who surely would have had to approve this story) harbored a personal grudge against Jim Shooter. And it just seems petty to take two issues of the Fantastic Four comic to force a story - this wasn't the book's writer's idea, remember - just to spite someone that had already been pushed out the door.
The story begins with Dr. Doom jumping the Molecule Man as he's coming home from grocery shopping.
He then heads to Alicia Storm's building (and we see some more evidence of the anti-Shooter grudge).
Doom then arrives at Four Freedoms Plaza with Alicia, and after they fight for a while, Alicia breaks it up saying that Doom has a legitimate reason for being there. Doom says that he's heard (through Quicksilver, although he doesn't divulge that) that the FF are going to the Negative Zone to seek the Beyonders or possibly even the Beyonder, and he offers to come along, since the current FF line-up is lacking in super-scientists (they're also a Fantastic Three at this point, since Crystal has left the team). The Thing laughs in his face, but Doom insists that the FF won't survive if he doesn't go along with them, and he says that they "must survive". So he throws a time-shift bomb that sends them two seconds back into the past, allowing him to get ahead of them and use Mr. Fantastic's Negative Zone portal to get there before them.
The FF follow, but are attacked by Blastaar.
Dr. Doom shows up to help out.
They defeat Blastaar and take his ship, the jerks.
Dr. Doom tells the FF that the Beyonder's power has expanded into a "new universe" after he was destroyed at the end of Secret Wars II.
And Doom directs the Thing to fly into it.
It's a little weird that the FF were originally interested in the Beyonders at the end of the last arc and now we're focused on the Beyonder, although they are still thinking about the Beyonders as well. There's so far nothing explicitly tying the two together.
As they enter the new universe, they first encounter Celestials and Cubes...
...and then get a brief glimpse at their two ex-members and the Silver Surfer.
They then arrive in a world like ours...
...except the Beyonder is the sun.
It's quickly clarified that he's actually everything.
And he's not happy to see people from the Marvel universe, especially Dr. Doom. He transforms back into his jerry-curled super-hero form.
Doom tells the Beyonder that he's here for "your honor". He says, "I want to make you whole". Doom also wants to make himself whole. He is missing memories thanks to the time paradox that allowed him to be in the first Secret Wars while his body was actually destroyed and his mind was occupying the body of a civilian. The Beyonder reads his mind and considers restoring Doom's memories when Kubik and the Shaper of Worlds show up.
Kubik engages with the Beyonder and proves at least his equal.
Then the Molecule Man and Volcana show up too.
The Shaper tries to stop the Molecule Man from helping the Beyonder, and succeeds in melting Volcana, but the Molecule Man recreates her and moves all the non-cosmic characters to the ring that was used to transport all the heroes to the first Secret Wars (this is used just for kicks, i guess).
Kubik continues to have the upper hand against the Beyonder...
...and soon nearly crushes him. But the Shaper stops him, saying it's pointless since the Molecule Man is now here. But while the Molecule Man has saved his friend, he won't let him restore Doom's memories, knowing that Doom will in fact actually try to steal the Beyonder's powers again.
Doom sheepishly says, "It was worth a try".
And now we get to the 'splainin' part. We start with the plural Beyonders, of whom the Shaper of Worlds says:
Somewhere in the Negative Zone - the mad conjunction of realms around us - is a lightness universe! They dwell there! No one has ever seen them! No one ever shall! But they see all of us -- and they wish us well! They want us to grow -- to become as they are!
I forgot to warn you to take your hallucinogenic of choice before working through the above text, preferably mixed with a heavy dose of caffeine so that you can stay awake. So you can be forgiven if your brain has fallen out of your ear at this point.
The Beyonder now interjects that the Beyonders are just like him thanks to their focus on desire. But Kubik tells him that he is still blind, and then the Shaper informs us that the Beyonders are responsible for the cosmic cubes, which is what the Shaper and Kubik have evolved from.
The Beyonder doesn't like where all of this is going and starts talking about how he is a being that exists outside our universe and is worshiped in his own dimension.
Recall that the original ending of Secret Wars II had the Beyonder giving up his consciousness and literally becoming the new universe. But this version has him becoming a god to the people of his universe, forcing them to worship him. Is this meant as a heavy handed critique of Jim Shooter's management of the Marvel editors?
Anyway, the story is that the accident that gave the Molecule Man his powers actually prematurely pulled in energy that the Beyonders intended to fill another Cosmic Cube.
The Beyonder is but a "tiny fraction" of the Beyonders' force.
The Beyonder sullenly says that he never desired to face someone else as an equal.
I still can't help read all this as bitter meta-commentary about Shooter. But in-story, the Beyonder agrees to merge with the Molecule Man and form a Cosmic Cube.
When the Cube is formed, Doom is able to briefly use it to restore his missing memories, but he's pulled off before he can do anything further with it. And then the Shaper of Worlds transports Doom, the FF, and Volcana back to Earth.
Arrggggh! First of all, what?! I mean, is there even a story here? This is a data dump, not a plot. I do begrudgingly admire Englehart's characteristic ability to create connections, like the Beyonder to the Beyonders and the "desire" that was the main theme of the Secret Warses and the Cosmic Cube. But even as a data dump, a lot of this stuff is extremely unsatisfying. Like, the Beyonders created the Savage Land to study humanity's ability to produce super-heroes, something that we've never seen any evidence for (except possibly Magneto's ability to create the Savage Land mutates, but that's not mentioned here and Magneto's been shown to have genetic manipulation abilities that aren't Savage Land dependent). And to do that, Englehart has to use the non-chronological thing (since obviously the Savage Land existed before there were any super-heroes this side of Tuk, Caveboy) which really makes it feel forced. Then we go from there to the Fortisquians from the obscure Comet Man series, and for that matter, these Beyonders themselves are from some obscure issues of Marvel Two-In-One. This is hardly the stuff that ought to be the source material for two mainstream line-wide crossovers.
And getting beyond how this is all delivered and where it's all coming from, the implications are pretty awful. No one can say this adds anything to the Secret Wars minis. And now we have to look at all of the events there and say well, yeah, but he wasn't really an entire whole separate universe, completely content until he became aware of ours, which was the whole goddamn point of the books, and instead he's some misplaced cosmic cube juice. It doesn't (yet) actively harm anything that occurred in the sense that we're dealing with such incomprehensible levels of power that for the most part it really doesn't matter if he was a cosmic cube or a sentient separate universe or just the Grandmaster on a good day. But it does immensely hurt the character arc of Shooter's story, and the ending, which neatly wrapped things up. Instead, again ironically, far from "writ[ing] the guy out" it's brought the character back into play, and we'll be seeing more of him soon enough (and at that point the revisions will go further vis a vis his power levels compared to the other cosmic beings in the Marvel universe that he's interacted with)(and per Michael's comment below, here's an allusion to that).
The Beyonder may have sucked, but this revision sucks worse.
For the next story, probably not the best marketing strategy to tie in the changes to the Thing and the Hulk with New Coke.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: This takes place after Fantastic Four annual #21. As i mentioned in the Silver Surfer issues, the scene where the two casts of characters see each other happen while each is traveling in space-time, so it's not necessary that they line up, but i'll keep the issues together as long as it doesn't cause any problems. Based on the High Evolutionary's thoughts in West Coast Avengers annual #3, this takes place concurrently with that annual.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (10): show
A letter from a fan complaining about Englehart's writing of women was published in issue 318, followed by a less-than-satisfying response from Englehart (including a claim that it was Gruenwald's idea for Sharon to be raped).
Posted by: Michael | July 27, 2014 3:33 PM
I've added that "ultimate end" scan.
That letter about Englehart's treatment of women is actually in issue #317. In #318, there's a letter reacting to the final panel of issue #313 (Johnny thinking "It felt so good holding Crys again--!") by just saying "DIE!", and there's also a theory about how the cosmic rays affected the FF based on their personalities from Sean Kleefeld.
Posted by: fnord12 | July 27, 2014 3:43 PM
Just a heads up - you've referred to Kubik as 'Kubrik' throughout the review. Don't know if that's your way of admitting you've decided to stop worrying and love this bomb of a storyline, but still...
Posted by: James M | July 27, 2014 6:00 PM
Thanks, James. I think that R is sneaking in there because all this talk of sentient cubes brings to mind Rubik, the Amazing Cube.
Posted by: fnord12 | July 27, 2014 6:22 PM
You've convinced me about the Shooter meta-text, but as a 10-year-old I liked the grandeur of this story, and I still like the fact that it integrates the Beyonder into the Marvel universe rather than making him seem like the mother-of-all-Mary-Sues, the special pet of a writer who happens to be the EIC, and thus a character who is beyond all others in power and importance. The Shooter Beyonder was a terrible character and diminished the rest of the MU's cosmic beings, all of whom were twerps compared to him. Good characters aren't about power, but Shooter had written a story that basically said the stakes could never be as high again. I'm glad that was cancelled out: the Beyonder should be a part of the MU, not above and beyond it.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | July 27, 2014 8:56 PM
Wow. Such vitriol against Shooter. I hope someone writer a book or something about what drove those people to such absurd lengths of resentment.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | July 27, 2014 9:07 PM
Isn't it retconned that all Doom appearances from this time period were actually Doombots? You'd think the Beyonder, Kubik or the Shaper would be able to sense that. I think we'd all prefer that the Doom in that "It was worth a try" panel was actually a Doombot, though.
Posted by: Erik Robbins | July 28, 2014 1:35 AM
This hatred towards Jim Shooter shows more about the creators that were working under him than Jim Shooter himself. It seems like he was working with a bunch of petty kids who threw their toys out the pram whenever they had to take edicts from their BOSS.
Posted by: JSfan | July 29, 2014 5:56 AM
That is certainly my take on it, JSfan (hmm, I wonder what those first two letters stand for? :) )
It is also impressive how quickly editorial became both less competent and less accepted after Shooter left.
By rights Marvel should make him a generous offer to return, and should have done so for a few decades already.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | July 29, 2014 1:20 PM
Luis, you got me. Although I can't defend him for SW2.:)
Posted by: JSfan | July 29, 2014 2:08 PM
@ Erik - I also thought that all Doom appearances prior to FF #350 were Doombots. I would love to know the exact timeframe that it applied to. I would guess that FF# 260 & his appearance in Secret Wars featured the "real" Doom.
Posted by: clyde | July 29, 2014 2:13 PM
@ Luis, my guess for what JS stands for in JSfan is Justice Society.
Posted by: clyde | July 29, 2014 2:18 PM
Not good issues. There was no reason for the Beyonder to ever make another appearance as FNORD12 explained.
Doom is written horribly. This is Doom as he was written by Wolfman in the build up to issue #200. Utter garbage.
The petty digs against Shooter continues, and not just at Marvel. John Byrne drew a terrible story in DC's Legends whose sole purpose was to mock Shooter. Then there are multiple stories of people celebrating in big fashion that he was fired. I get it - Shooter had burned a lot of bridges by then and generated a lot of resentment - but everything people did really makes them look mean spirited and petty. When I see this kind of pettiness, it really causes me to discount a lot of their animosity towards Shooter. Furthermore, many of people's stated complaints are often contradictory; does not prove true; or are repeated about every other editor or editor-in-chief.
In contrast, Shooter eventually starts up Valiant and begins producing some great stories on par with his quality level at Marvel. The man knew how to do something right.
I think Shooter must have had some personal faults, but a lot of this reads like scapegoating and people engaging in some dark behavior.
Posted by: Chris | July 29, 2014 10:15 PM
On the off chance that there are people who read this site but don't have CSBG bookmarked, here's a writeup on the Byrne "metamessage" dissing Shooter in Legends:
Posted by: Cullen | July 30, 2014 9:01 AM
To be fair, Shooter himself wasn't above this very thing (as detailed in the very crossover this FF story is trying to derail.) I like some of Shooter's work, but he could give as good as he got with the metatextual "dissing." Of course nowadays, these creators could just rant on Twitter and call it a day.
That being said, I wonder if dislike of the Beyonder as a character himself WAS part of the problem after all. I suspect a lot of people hated the jheri-curled demi-god (after all, Bendis was willing to do the umpteeth re-retcon him as ineffectual doofus 20 YEARS after-the-fact) and this was before a time when writers just blatantly ignored previous content they didn't like.
Posted by: Jon Dubya | July 30, 2014 5:18 PM
Dislike of the Beyonder looks like an odd reason to bring him out of a limbo where he was so strongly secured, don't you think?
As for Shoter giving as good as he got, I guess that is a job requirement of being an editor... and he nearly never did it anyway.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | July 30, 2014 9:56 PM
"Dislike of the Beyonder looks like an odd reason to bring him out of a limbo where he was so strongly secured, don't you think?"
Personally, I agree with this, but comic book creators have a long history of digging up up long dead characters and plotlines just for the sake of killing them/it all over again (case in point this won't be the LAST time the Beyonder is brought back into circulation just for the sake of point out how much he sucks.)
As for the second point, Luis, I was mostly refering to Secret Wars II #1, which also contains a "kick-em-when-they're-down" parody that could seem a little mean-spirited (and that's even before you consider who Shooter is aiming that little jab at.)
Outside of that, though, I wonder why the FF didn't get a replacement now that Crystal is gone. I don't particularly like this team, but I feel as if there should at least be four of them. Even as a "temp."
Posted by: Jon Dubya | August 5, 2014 9:48 PM
The Beyonders were created long ago in MTIO #63, IIRC.
Could the Secret Wars series be a culmination of a long-set storyline? Perhaps that's the reason for this story arc.
Also, is this the beginning of Doom establishing himself as Rabum Alal? Will we see Kubik and the Shaper of Worlds in SW?
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | May 13, 2015 7:45 AM
In light of Wreck-It Ralph, I find it humorous that the footnote for Reed, Sue, and the Silver Surfer's cameo is credited to "Read-It Ralf", and when the Molecule Man restores Volcana, he exclaims, "I can FIX it!"
Posted by: NES Boy | June 5, 2015 4:53 AM
Back Issue #82 confirmed that Macchio ordered Englehart to get rid of the Beyonder because he was angry at Shooter, not because he really couldn't stand the character.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | September 20, 2015 11:15 AM
In the present day, Jonathan Hickman's 2015 Secret Wars rests a lot on the events of the original Secret Wars, along with the retcons here, more so I think than it does on Secret Wars II.
You can, for instance, see the conflict between the ideas of evolution and god-hood, which is a theme here, being played with by Hickman.
Posted by: FF3 | September 22, 2015 5:15 PM
I suppose it's rather ironic that Engelhart would write story dissing Shooter as a tyrant, since he does so at the behest of an editor who has already forced him to rewrite at least one story and under an EiC who will fire him from of all of his books because he hates one of Engelhart's pet characters.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | October 27, 2015 9:41 PM
In the present day, Jonathan Hickman's 2015 Secret Wars rests a lot on the events of the original Secret Wars, along with the retcons here, more so I think than it does on Secret Wars II.
Actually, Hickman retcons most of this story away (if he's even read it). The Beyonder we first met is revealed to be merely a child version of Beyonders, not a incomplete Cosmic Cube or anything. So his actions were justified by his immaturity, which I think works pretty well with the original SW and SW II.
As for the Molecule Man, he's revealed to be something quite else... I don't want to spoil it for those who haven't read Hickman's Avengers and the new Secret Wars, but let's just say that Hickman's retcon means the origin for Molecule Man presented in this story (which of course is itself a retcon of his original origin) simply can't be true.
But Hickman's never even addresses the events of these issues, which I think is a good thing, because it would just make the whole Beyonder/s thing pointlessly complex. So I think it's safe to say that in the new Marvel universe the original SW and SW II are canon, and any subsequent revelations about the Beyonder are simply false information.
Posted by: Tuomas | February 29, 2016 5:06 AM
Avoiding too many spoilers, I don't really see the connection between Hickman's Beyonders and any other information we had about the Beyonder/Beyonders before him, beyond that they're very powerful. I had understood them to be multidimensional beings or something, that might not even have a form we could understand, but as depicted in Hickman's run they look surprisingly conventional, and *mild spoiler* apparently don't even understand time travel. Not a criticism of Hickman, just sayin' I found his version of the Beyonders a bit underwhelming.
Posted by: Jonathan | February 29, 2016 10:33 AM
Yeah, I'm not sure why Hickman decided they should look like that, instead of something truly alien. Considering how big a role they play in the crossover, it's a bit odd how little effort he puts into developing them.
(MILD SPOILERS FOR SECRET WARS)
The time travel limitation is kinda arbitrary, but it was necessary for the story Hickman set out to tell. If they could time travel at will, the story would be over before it even began. OTOH, I'm glad he at least chose to address the issue. In many other stories like this, time-travelling should be a game-breaking ability, except that the heroes/villains conveniently forget they can do that,
Posted by: Tuomas | February 29, 2016 10:56 AM
My guess on the Beyonder's fluctuating power levels hinges on both origin stories from these issues and both SW miniseries: while he is half of a cosmic cube, it's possible that he also tapped into a universe that hasn't been formed yet. Hence before he completed the universe from its original blank white space into what we saw at the end of SW II he was able to go toe-to-toe with cosmic heavyweights like Galactus and Eternity, but without the power boost that unformed universe provided, he can only do what half a cosmic cube can do with its powers.
Posted by: D09 | May 24, 2016 3:52 PM
I'd like to make a small amendment to my previous statement: that it's not a single unformed universe that amplifies the power and control of the cosmic cube half that embodies him and it's not an unformed multiverse, but rather an unformed megaverse, separate yet connected to the Marvel megaverse. As for the difference between the depiction of the dimension seen at the end of SW II and here, I'd wager that relying just on his own original abilities his mind isn't running at full tilt and that whenever he emerges from his home within the sun, he subtly alters the realm to depict him as their god.
Posted by: D09 | May 28, 2016 4:33 PM
I've been looking for this issue for years, thanks for the article, scans and synopsis. I can totally see the meta-bashing of Jim Shooter going on and agree with other posters that, much like Byrne's digs at him mentioned above, this just comes across as pretty mean spirited.
In terms of how Hickman's 'Time Runs Out' and 'Secret Wars' tie in to this and two the earlier mini-series, I'd say Hickman has left it reasonably open ended for readers to take what they want from each version of events. I don't see why (SPOILERS FOR SECRET WARS 2015)
...the Beyonders creating the Molecule Man as a reality bomb in 'Time Runs Out' can't fit with Englehart's version of his origin - I took it to mean, there was always an Owen Reece but the Beyonders imbued him and all his otherdimensional counterparts with their molecular abilities and capacity to destroy their home universes upon dying via the transfer of extra-dimensional 'cosmic cube juice' during his accident at the power plant (or wherever it was). This would still kind of make sense with the remainder of the energy (the Secret Wars Beyonder from the '80s) having manifested as an immature 'child unit', as referenced in Hickman's story. I don't know how Kubik and the Shaper fit into Hickman's version though (are they 'child unit' Beyonders too?) - not the whole thing with Owen and the Beyonder having to bond to form a cosmic cube (which then goes on to become a superbeing called Kosmos, I believe).
Posted by: MrShortt | September 4, 2016 5:38 PM
Posted by: MrShortt | September 4, 2016 5:40 PM
Eh, the meta-politics are beyond me. But anything that wipes out the Shooter version of the Molecule Man ("Oh, Owie!" "Marshmallow!" Blecch!) is fine, fine, FINE with me!
Plus, as Walt notes, nice grandeur and sweep. And Englehart doing housekeeping is pretty much fanservice for me, I admit.
Posted by: Dan Spector | September 4, 2016 7:56 PM
Mr Shortt, I agree with you. I just read this issue now and see now where Hickman got his ideas for the Beyonders and Doom killing off Molecule Men. Brilliant to discover this issue because I thought until now that Hickman's story continued from SW1 and 2.
Posted by: Grom | September 6, 2016 12:47 AM
Fnord doesn't have a scan of that panel here, but the Radical Cube the Beyonders use to contact the Nuwali is clearly of the same design as the Radical Cube Reed Richards used to access the negative zone in FF 51.
Posted by: Andrew | September 18, 2016 8:37 PM
There's a scan and a Reference in the previous entry, from Fantastic Four #317.
Posted by: fnord12 | September 19, 2016 9:45 AM
By the way given the summary of both this and Secret Wars (2015), does the mean the the Beyonder(s) are Marvel's answers to DC's "Moniters" (and does the means we must be weary of sone lame-ass "Countdown to Secret Wars" miniseries on the horizon?)
Posted by: Jon Dubya | January 3, 2017 2:03 AM
Well in some ways they're like the Monitors, in that they observe the Multiverse from the outside. But Hickman gives them a motivation that's very different from the Monitors, who are closer to Watchers in that regard. Though I guess the Beyonders resemble the Anti-Monitor from Crisis on Infinite Earths when it comes to their plan. Hickman's Secret Wars actually has a lot of similarities with CoiE; besides the Beyonders/Anti-Monitor comparison, the premise of both series is pretty much identical, both feature an Earth that's made of different bits of the Multiverse, both restart their respective universes from scratch, etc.
Posted by: Tuomas | January 3, 2017 5:45 PM
Though Secret Wars' ending lifts more from Morrison's Final Crisis than CoIE.
Posted by: Tuomas | January 3, 2017 5:48 PM
I just read this issue and this article and I STILL do not understand what it was about. My memories of this issue will fade and I will still remember that the Beyonder (singular) is the personified reality outside of the Marvel Universe and he sacrificed said persona to become A New Universe outside of the Multiverse. Say what you will about Shooter bit SW II was perfectly clear about what it was and how it ended.
This issue has zero explanatory powers. It's just a collection of random words. I don't understand how it got past proof readings and an editor.
Posted by: will | November 5, 2017 6:48 PM
It got past proof readings and an editor (or two or three) because the "in" editors were using it to spit on an "out" editor. Shamelessly, really, and not a big feather in Marvel's PR cap either. I'm not really a big fan of any of the three big Secret Wars things, but I agree with the above comments about the secret wars books standing better on their own legs, and not needing to be sullied by anything out of these two unfortunately-conceived sons of stories. These issues are deserving of the same cosmicbook whiteout that DC used in the first DC Crisis whiteout event, IMO. That's probably about the nicest thing I'll ever say about secret wars, but I'll give 'em that much.
Posted by: Holt | November 23, 2017 2:26 PM
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