Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #1-12
Issue(s): Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #1, Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #2, Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #3, Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #4, Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #5, Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #6, Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #7, Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #8, Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #9, Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #10, Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #11, Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #12
Why do i keep my comics organized in such a strange fashion, instead of alphabetically by title like a sane person? Why do i have an entire website dedicated to figuring out a good reading order for Marvel's comics? A lot of the answer is due to Secret Wars. I started collecting comics while this series was coming out, and i wound up with a lot of issues that showed various characters going to and coming back from Secret Wars. So from the beginning it was clear to me that all those various comics were part of the same story (i.e., the same "universe"), and that the Secret Wars series belonged in the middle of those issues. So i started putting my comics in an order where i could read it all through as one story (in the early days, i could read through my entire collection in a short period of time). And i stuck with that as my comic collection grew. It certainly became more unmanageable over the years, and events weren't always as clear-cut as the issues that i started with, but it was doable. So here we are.
Actually, since i was only 9 years old when these books were coming out, it couldn't really be said that i was "collecting" comics yet. My parents brought me comics when i was sick or on other special occasions. Beyond that, my fledgling hobby was dependent on somehow making it to a store that sold comics while i had allowance money in my pocket. Didn't happen too often in the beginning. But the fact that all of these various books related to each other had a real appeal to me in a way that other comics my parents gave me, like DC or Disney comics, didn't. So i was pretty much an exclusive Marvel fan from the beginning.
Because of my limited access to new comics, my first issue of Secret Wars was #6. Awesome cover, with all the villains leaping out at you. Inside, lots of characters referring to events that i had no insight into, but to me it was an intriguing challenge to decode all of that. Next i was able to use some birthday money to buy a 3 pack at Toys R Us that had issues #4, #5, and #6 again. So two more comics for me (and one to trade). Then somehow i managed to get issues #8 through #12 on my own as they came out. Good thing about issue #8 because for a while that was a collector's item due to the first appearance (sort of) of Spider-Man's new costume. It took years before i filled in the gaps. Issue #1 was also priced out of my reach for a while. Now you can get the whole series in the quarter bins.
And that brings me to this series' reputation. There are several layers to get through. First, the rise of indie and Vertigo comics has subsequently shown us how comics can be more than super-hero slugfests. So fans of such stories (as i am) may find themselves looking down on comics like this. But i also like super-hero slugfests! And this is a good one! Critics from that angle are just as likely to not like any Marvel comics, so that's not really worth defending against too much.
Beyond that, the Secret Wars series was originally devised as a tie-in to a toy line. So that tends to make people dismiss it ("Oh it was just an advertisement for the toys!"). But as we'll see, this series makes a serious effort to tell a relatively complex story with decent character development (compare to DC's Super Powers mini-series).
As far as concessions to the toy line, there are barely any. The first is that Dr. Doom's armor is modified to match the toy.
But that doesn't happen until issue #10, and there's a good in-story explanation - it's to help Doom contain the power of Galactus that he's absorbed. To a much lesser degree, Iron Man's armor is also modified. Beyond that, there was a stipulation that vehicles and playsets be included in the plot, and they were, although they don't in any way match the toys (apparently in part due to the fact that Mattel decided at the last minute to switch the toys around and the toys in question wound up going to the He-Man line). The fact that the characters in the book ride vehicles and live in compounds isn't really surprising or distracting from the plot. In truth, there seems to have been very little editorial interference from the toy company. For example, one of the few villain figures included in the toy line was Kang, and he was actually killed off in issue #4.
Finally, this is the first real example of a line-wide crossover, and for many that's a notorious distinction.
But if you are a fan of super-hero comics, and don't automatically dismiss something for being a toy-tie in or a crossover, this series can actually be pretty enjoyable. Obviously this series wasn't written by Neil Gaiman or Alan Moore. It wasn't even by Chris Claremont or Roger Stern. Jim Shooter's dialogue is pretty clunky, no doubt. But the plotting, is, in my opinion, spectacular. We'll get to that. Additionally, Shooter devotes a lot of time to character moments, both for heroes and villains.
Beyond all that, though, this is the ultimate Marvel Team-Up. The greatest Marvel super-heroes fighting the greatest villains.
It's fun! So i really don't understand why this series gets so much derision online.
Here are some of the themes of this series:
Dr. Doom's drive - Dr. Doom is the only character in this series who won't play the Beyonder's game (except for Klaw and the Lizard, who don't have the mental capacity to make a decision). All of the heroes are simply reactive, defending themselves against the villain's attacks. The other villains (even Magneto) are more than happy to accept the challenge. Even Galactus intends to win the Beyonder's game in order to have his hunger removed. Only Doom refuses the challenge from the beginning and strives for something more, namely stealing the Beyonder's powers for himself. His iron will allows him to move forward with his plans even as the Beyonder is performing a living autopsy on him.
Let Galactus win - Mr. Fantastic eventually figures out that the entire point of Secret Wars might be to end the menace of Galactus. Of all of the heroes and villains that were chosen for Secret Wars, Galactus stands out. Everyone else is basically a resident of Earth, except for the two Asgardians who have strong Earth ties. But Galactus is a cosmic being and a resident of the greater universe. So it's odd that he's included here. Mr. Fantastic realizes that if Galactus wins the Beyonder's contest (by eating the Battleplanet and everyone on it, naturally), the Beyonder will grant his request to remove his hunger. If the Beyonder reneges on that request, Galactus will attack the Beyonder and either force the Beyonder to comply, or die in the attempt. In any scenario, Galactus is no longer a threat to the universe, and Reed reasons that may be the point. So now it's just a question of whether or not the heroes will allow that to happen, sacrificing themselves and the handful of innocents on the planet for a greater good. Complicating matters further is that Galactus shares with Reed images of his wife back on earth, still pregnant with his baby. Is Galactus telling Reed not to let him go through with the plan? And the tragic irony is that readers of the series will know (because the relevant issues of the FF will have already been published) that Sue will miscarry.
Mutant mistrust - Magneto is placed by the Beyonder with the heroes. We are a long way from the point where Magneto is a member of the X-Men. So far we've seen only the very beginning of Magneto's reform from Uncanny X-Men #150 and God Loves Man Kills. So it was a pretty bold move for Shooter to put Magneto with the good guys. And while the X-Men are accepting, the other heroes are not.
This creates suspicion between the mutant and non-mutant heroes that eventually causes the X-Men to form a separate division in the war, much like segregated forces in the US army. (I feel like the fact that the heroes also didn't make a big deal about Rogue as well was a missed opportunity. As far as the Avengers knew, Rogue was a villain, and more, was responsible for the de-powering of the Avenger Ms. Marvel. That's no small crime, and it would be pretty personal for the Avengers. But i suppose Shooter might not have wanted to muddy things up.)
A subset of this theme is whether or not Magneto is in fact villainous. Doom reaches out to Magneto a few times in this series.
Magneto's responses are conflicted. He rejects Doom early on, but when Doom seeks help in fighting the Beyonder, Magneto is eager to lend aid (although it's suggested that Doom was using subtle mind-control).
Further, Magneto is more willing to participate in the Beyonder's contest, slaying his enemies in order to get the Beyonder to establish peace between humans and mutants.
Who will lead the X-Men - Although Professor X theoretically has had the ability to walk for some time now, it was only in the issues of X-Men and New Mutants that took place directly before Secret Wars that he was able to overcome the mental blocks and actually start walking without pain. Additionally, while Storm has been the leader of the field team, the X-Men's first and greatest field leader Cyclops is back in the picture for this series. So there's a lot of debate about who should be leading the team.
On to the basic plot. The series starts with all of the heroes in one construct floating in space, and all the villains in the other.
I especially enjoyed the Thing's introduction of his team.
As they all watch, the galaxy around them is destroyed, and a planet is formed from chunks of planets from around the universe (we'll later learn that one chunk is from a suburb of Denver).
The participants are then told:
I am from Beyond! Slay your enemies and all you desire shall be yours! Nothing you dream of is impossible for me to accomplish!
They are then brought to the newly created planet and a series of battles take place.
Things heat up when Galactus summons his great worldship Taa II, leading everyone to wonder what he is up to.
Professor X and Magneto try to figure it out by reading Galactus' mind! It's a rare case where we see Magneto's little used mental powers.
But they push too hard and when Galactus notices them, he lashes out, nearly killing the X-Men. Their attempt also prevents Mr. Fantastic from talking to Galactus more conventionally, and causes him to send a robot to attack the non-mutant heroes.
Doom, however, sees an opportunity in Galactus' actions. He sends his villains to attack the heroes in order to draw Galactus' attention. The heroes are weak from having just fought off Galactus' robot, so it's up to the X-Men (shielded from Galactus' blast by Magneto) to save the day.
While Galactus is distracted, Doom beams up into his ship. As a delaying tactic, he has his villains try to create an instability in the planet, preventing Galactus from eating it right away. Xavier learns about the plot when he reads the villains' minds, but not the reasons why, since the Enchantress shuts him down.
So the X-Men are sent to stop the bad guys, and Wolverine seriously injures the Molecule Man in the process.
But after they drive the villains away, the X-Men decide to set off the instability anyway.
Eventually, however, Galactus does kick in and start eating the planet. It happens while the main group of heroes are off attacking Doom's villains, so it's up to the X-Men to hold him off.
It doesn't go well, and when the rest of the good guys show up, the X-Men are presumed killed (but are in fact just buried under a lot of rocks). It's worth noting that the Wasp, Captain Marvel, and Hawkeye are also in the area when the X-Men are seemingly killed, but they don't bother to try to help. Even later, when there's a break in the fight with Galactus (so that he can converse privately with Reed)...
....the main heroes head back to camp and don't try to help Colossus try to find his missing teammates.
This is when Reed comes back and tries to convince everyone not to fight Galactus. But later he changes his mind and helps with the attack.
But their efforts are irrelevant. Galactus goes forward and begins eating the planet anyway.
That's when Doom, who has already dissected Klaw in preparation...
...jumps in and steals Galactus' powers.
Having the powers of Galactus would be enough for any other mortal, but for Dr. Doom it's just a stepping stone to gaining the power of the Beyonder himself. And Doom succeeds.
The remaining two issues are really about Doom trying to contain his powers while the heroes decide whether or not to fight Doom or let him be. Doom claims that he's now above human concerns, but it's pointed out that one of his first acts is fixing his face.
He also intends to rescue his mother's soul from Mephisto's realm. After he's done with that, he intends to leave the mortal world, but in the meantime he's maintaining his human form and it's causing him some problems.
Another early act by Doom is to enlighten the Molecule Man.
With his new-found power expansion, the Molecule Man takes the remaining villains to the suburb of Denver and transports it home.
The act is too much for Dr. Octopus to accept, and he goes crazy. The Molecule Man immobilizes him and says that he's going to have him institutionalized when they get back to Earth.
This is actually making sure that Dr. Octopus will be institutionalized in Fantastic Four #267, which takes place soon after the FF get back from Secret Wars.
Back to the main plot, the heroes decide to fight Doom. Doom kills them all immediately, but he subconsciously brings them back. Klaw is possessed by a weakened Beyonder at this point, and when Captain America finally confronts Doom, he keeps bringing him back from the dead.
Eventually Doom is defeated, and he, Klaw, and the Beyonder all disappear.
It's a pretty complex plot for a toy advertisement! Much simpler to just have the good guys fight the bad guys and win and be done with it.
In the wrap-up, Mr. Fantastic figures out how to send everyone home. A stray dragon friend of Lockheed's screws up the X-Men's transport, which will lead to them re-appearing in Japan instead of Central Park along with everyone else. The Lizard's alter ego, Doc Connors, travels home with the unaffiliated heroes instead of the villains. And, of course, the Thing opts to remain behind.
There's also Zsaji, a healer whose people were brought to the Secret Wars on one of the planet chunks that the Beyonder used to create the Battleplanet.
It's theorized that her healing ability also causes her patient to fall in love with her; a sort of reverse Florence Nightengale effect. The Human Torch has a little fling with her, but it's Colossus who really falls for her in a big way, causing him to doubt his already unstable feelings about Kitty Pryde. Zsaji eventually gives her life saving the heroes, so we'll never see her outside this series.
Also, there's Klaw. He's not a new character, of course, but he's here only incidentally. A while back Dazzler absorbed him and then shot him at Galactus, and he's been bouncing around the hull of Taa II as energy since then. While Doom's on the ship, he finds Klaw and revives him, but the experience has left Klaw mentally deficient.
He develops a friendship with the Lizard, on the grounds that they both talk funny.
Klaw mainly plays a King Lear's Fool role in this series; a foil to Dr. Doom.
Finally, there's a new Spider-Woman.
She's been an active super-hero in the suburb of Denver that got pulled to the Battleplanet. In her first fight in Secret Wars, she says that it's the fifth time she's been in a fight. In addition to Spider-Man style strength and speed, she also has the ability to generate psionic webbing.
The Wasp is out of the action for most of the series. She's captured by Magneto early on. He attempts to woo her but she doesn't fall for it. When the X-Men show up to join him, the Wasp attacks them all and then makes a break for it. She winds up in a swamp the Lizard has wandered off too after the first battle, and she's in the process of befriending him when the Wrecking Crew show up in a big vehicle to collect the Lizard, and seemingly kill her.
She's later revived by Zsaji, but she's effectively away from the hero team for more than half the series.
During the course of this story, the Thing reverts back and forth to Ben Grimm.
Eventually he learns to control it. Assuming it's related to the nature of the planet, he opts to stay behind when the other heroes finally leave. He asks She-Hulk to take his place in the Fantastic Four.
Another major change is Spidey's new costume. After the last major battle with the villains, most of the good guys are in need of new costumes. The Hulk locates a machine that creates new clothes (it's how the X-Men wind up with their bizarre John Romita Jr. outfits).
But Spidey goes to the wrong machine.
He winds up with a costume that generates its own webbing, responds to his thoughts, and looks a lot like the new Spider-Woman's outfit.
Mike Zeck's art never did a lot for me. He was a rising star from his work on Master of Kung Fu and Captain America prior to being chosen for this series, but his characters just don't have a lot of depth to me. Everyone looks a bit small and tapered.
On the other hand, he's a very good storyteller, and i imagine this series was quite demanding and speed was a factor. In fact, two issues of this series had to be drawn by Bob Layton (and aren't quite as good). So overall, the art isn't fantastic, but it it isn't bad.
Imagine if this series was drawn by John Byrne, though.
Aside from a run on the Punisher and the critically acclaimed Kraven's Last Hunt, Zeck didn't really do much more of note for Marvel. I read that Zeck nearly had a nervous breakdown working with Shooter. I don't know if that was meant figuratively or literally, but it may explain why he didn't do much else for Marvel.
In the very beginning, Ultron freaks out and starts trying to kill the other villains. Doom convinces a terrified Molecule Man to nudge Galactus into taking care of the situation.
Later, Doom will reprogram Ultron to act as a personal bodyguard.
Save perhaps Thor:
Of course, this just lets She-Hulk know that she can unload on the Enchantress full-strength, which she does, causing considerable injury.
Spidey vs. the X-Men:
Before Spidey can tattle, Professor Xavier wipes his mind, an action that causes him considerable guilt.
The Thunder God:
Doom makes his own super-villains:
It's also worth noting that while the good guys had a decent male-to-female mix, outside of the Enchantress, the villains were an all-males club, so it's nice to see their forces balanced out with some women. And not 'strike a pose and point' ladies, either. These are characters with physical powers. Finally, although the art doesn't do a great job of showing it, Volcana is meant to be an overweight woman, which is a rarity in comics.
Titania quickly earns the respect of her peers.
Molecule Man drops a mountain on the heroes:
Equally impressive, the Hulk holds up a mountain:
Mr. Fantastic deliberately keeps the Hulk angry so that he can maintain his strength.
Reed rigs a device using Spider-man's web-shooters to build a device that allows Iron Man to blast them out.
Then he apologizes to the Hulk, who at this point has figured out why Reed was rankling him.
This scene also leads into one where Piledriver very stupidly goads Molecule Man for being a nerd and his newfound girlfriend Volcana for being fat. Considering they just saw the Molecule Man lift and drop a mountain by waving his hands, it's a dumb move, and it works out about as well as you would expect.
Doom rejects the Enchantress:
Rogue the Kree Warrior:
I suspect that means the Kree training that she would have absorbed from Ms. Marvel along with her powers. It's not something that's mentioned very often. Neat little throwaway line.
Get off the can:
On to some of the negatives...
First, as i mentioned above, the scripting isn't great. It's especially grating to hear Iron Man talk. Since it's James Rhodes in the suit, and James Rhodes is a black man, Shooter is always giving exclamations like "Sheeeoooot!", which is just awful.
Along those same lines, everyone's a bit melodramatic and moody. Half the characters are just completely mopey about being away from their wives and girlfriends and terrified that they'll never make it home again. It's a perfectly reasonable thing to be upset about. But the way it's written and the degree to which it is raised takes it from realistic to maudlin.
Now into some more fanboyish complaints. The Hulk is given short shrift throughout this series. While he's certainly the star of issue #4 where he holds up an entire mountain for the team, he's pretty ineffective in most of the fights. Sure, he's got Bruce Banner's brain in this series, and Mantlo had already established that he therefore doesn't have the savagery needed to get really angry, but he should still be pretty damn strong. Instead he's generally one of the first characters to get knocked out.
It's in this last scene with Ultron that the Hulk breaks his leg and winds up with a crutch that he carries for a few issues of Hulk post-Secret Wars.
Additionally, none of the villains in this series come from his rogues gallery (except, arguably, the Absorbing Man, but he first appeared in Thor and has been an Avengers foe as much as the Hulk). The same is actually true of the X-Men as well, since Magneto winds up being an ally.
In general, there isn't much by way of grudge matches, or any real acknowledgment that some of these heroes and villains have special histories with each other. Dr. Octopus never freaks out about Spider-Man, for example. It's probably for the best as scenes like that could wind up being pretty bad, but if done well it could have added a little more personality to some characters. Similarly, there aren't any really cool scenes where, say, the X-Men go up against the Absorbing Man and realize what a powerhouse he is. The fights aren't badly written but they don't have the right sense of uniqueness.
Some continuity errors from the first issue are subsequently covered for in the dialogue of later issues. First, Dr. Doom should be dead at this point. Unlike previous deaths, John Byrne intended this to be a definitive 'Dr. Doom is really dead this time' plot that would set the ground for a dramatic return in a later issue of FF. Having him appear here is incongruous, but on the other hand of course the premiere villain of the Marvel Universe was going to appear in this series. We'll learn much later that Doom was actually plucked from time so that the Beyonder could include him in this contest. On a smaller scale, Cyclops was not a member of the X-Men at the time they went into the Secret Wars construct, so it's later said that he was plucked away from his honeymoon. Similarly, Lockheed the dragon wasn't shown to be with the X-Men ether, but he's here as well. No explanation for him. This makes Cyclops (and possibly Lockheed, unless he was in Colossus's jacket the whole time in Uncanny X-Men #180) the only hero to have been forceably brought to Secret Wars, as opposed to lured into the construct in Central Park. However, presumably all of the villains were brought this way, so it's not that unusual (The Beyonder provides some more information on how everyone was brought to the Battleplanet in Secret Wars II #3). Finally, Xavier is in a wheelchair in issue #1 even though he wasn't in X-Men #180. It's stated that the Beyonder must have corrected all the little things that seemed 'wrong' to him.
All in all, a fun epic. Not a groundbreaking work of art, but definitely a great crossover.
A few housekeeping notes: First, since Spider-Man's costume is itself a living entity, i need to track it as a character. But it's not accurate to call it Venom until it is bonded with Eddie Brock. So we'll be calling it Venom Symbiote as long as it's not connected to Brock.
Second, regarding the Historical Significance Rating. The way Secret Wars was published, a lot of the effects of the series were known in the main on-going books before we saw why it occurred in Secret Wars. So Spider-Man's new costume was first seen in Amazing Spider-Man #252, She-Hulk appeared as a member of the FF in Fantastic Four #265, etc. And then later we see in Secret Wars how Spidey found the costume, and why the Thing asked She-Hulk to replace him, and so on. For the sake of awarding Historical Significance Rating points, i'm giving a lot of credit to Secret Wars since this series was the driving factor that caused those events to occur. But i'll also give some points to the issues where those changes were first published. To be honest, and this may come as a bit of a shock to my loyal readers, these points don't actually cost me anything and i can afford to be generous with them.
Third, there's a brief scene where Galactus allows Mr. Fantastic to view Sue and Franklin at home on Earth. It's meant to be a real-time viewing, and that's enough for me to count it as character appearances (although the MCP doesn't).
Quality Rating: B
Chronological Placement Considerations: Rather than me list where every character here fits into their surrounding issues, just see the surrounding respective entries. See above for some notes on Dr. Doom's appearance here; he's basically been plucked out of time and he actually appears here during Fantastic Four #288 (Mar 86 cover date).
Continuity Implant? N
Reprinted In: N/A
Inbound References (56): show
i love this series. it is much more than just a slugfest. it has some of my favourite scenes in comics: spider-man trashing the x-men and later his epic defeat of Titania (who was a real badass and undefeated up to that point), dr doom vs galactus, every line by the absorbing man, it establishes cap as THE premiere leader of heroes (as well as respect from dr doom "of all the heroes, Captain, you of course would make it this far.") the final scene of dr doom phasing cap in and out of existance and ultimately cap still trying to save him.
While I agree this is the better comic, DC's Super Powers mini was written by Kirby and is, therefore, awesome.
The clunkiness in Shooter's dialogue stems from his experience under Superman books editor Mort Weisinger from 1966-69. Mort's Superman titles were very densely plotted and relied almost entirely on dialogue for exposition and moving the plot along, very much in "tell, don't show" mode. Shooter never quite reached the level of dialogue-as-plot-mover during his time as Marvel EIC, but in series like this one he came very close(and contemporary comic critics didn't like it one bit--they tended to find it juvenile and completely unsubtle).
Good reflections, although as many other you gave to much credit to Doom.
I see far worthy Magnetos attitude that Dooms and my conclusions does not only includes this issue but to all the profile of the characters over their life.
You see a undying will of Doom. I see the core disease of Doom who he is slave,captive of his hunger for power the same as Galactus for living. He saw Beyonder as his answer to his dreams or objectives the same way he try previously with Silver Surfer until Galactus remind him his position.
How Magneto acted here his actions make coherence with his way of thinking over time.
Magneto allowed, He accept to play the game and dontknow if it was for curiosity or to settle a challenge.
But Magneto also has courage and pride and did not accept submission to Doom rather he accept co-work some sort as equals with Doom realizing they have better chances in team that face it alone, Doom comprehend this too otherwise he havent bother to ask in his own peculiar way Mags help and also to see if he was going to cooperate with heroes and oppose him threat.
What! No mention of the awesomest piece of dialogue ever?! When baddies are bringing clawed Molecule Man home and Volcana asks Doc Ock can't you do something, you're a doctor and Ock replies "I'm a doctor of nuclear physics, not a MD." There is no topping that.
About Magneto and Thor, I think there's Mag's mutant supremacism talking. Thor as a god might be on par with him, but certainly none of the rest flatscan sapiens are.
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