Secret Wars II #3
Issue(s): Secret Wars II #3
The Beyonder is solicited by a prostitute named "Toots".
When he tries to pay her with gold, and demonstrates his other bizarre powers, she runs to her pimp, who gets his boss, a guy named Vinnie Corbo.
Vinnie has more sense about him than any of the heroes who've encountered the Beyonder so far (giving a pass to Mr. Fantastic because he was interrupted by his wife). He recognizes the guy's power level and instructs Toots to make sure he's taken care of while Vinnie prepares things.
Vinnie takes the Beyonder under his wing, teaching him the basics, like how to eat and the joys of group sex...
...as well as the important things, like how to run an organized crime business. The Beyonder helps Vinnie out as well.
Now, you think you know where this is going. The Beyonder is going to get corrupted by an ambitious criminal who's going to use him to do Bad Things, but no. It turns out Vinnie Corbo has a heart of gold (when he's not exploiting prostitutes or selling people drugs), and when the Beyonder rises high enough in the organization, Vinnie tells him he's taught him all he can and he sends him off on his own (i love how he's wiping away a tear in that last panel).
The Beyonder goes on to take over all of organized crime...
...and finds even that to be too easy, so he then takes over the world, and every molecule in it.
Actually, there's one exception: the Molecule Man. Earlier, the Beyonder describes the Molecule Man as "the greatest among you". And now the Molecule Man seems immune to at least a passive attempt by the Beyonder to control him (the Beyonder says he could deal with him later if he wanted to). The Molecule Man notices what's going on but dismisses it as a phase that the Beyonder is going through so he doesn't do anything about it except restore Volcana's freedom (allowing Shooter to show his contempt for marital bliss, i guess).
The Molecule Man turns out to be right; the Beyonder eventually gets bored of controlling the world and he releases everything from his control, "leaving naught but the vaguest shadow of a memory of his conquest -- and that only in the subtlest of minds!".
The Beyonder is at least partially influenced to release the Earth by a cyborg called Circuit Breaker, who tells him that she hates robots because "for all their intricate programming, they have no true free will..." etc., and he sees the parallel with his new subjects.
Circuit Break is from the Transformers comic book, and her appearance here is Exhibit #2 in the case that the Transformers comic takes place in the Marvel Universe (Exhibit #1 being Spider-Man and Nick Fury's appearance in Transformers #3). It's not entirely ridiculous for fans to have assumed that this was the case. From Conan to the Micronauts, Marvel had incorporated licensed materials into their core universe and these sorts of crossovers certainly indicate that the same thing was going to happen with the Transformers. But now it's generally understood that the Transformers live in a parallel universe that happens to have a Spider-Man and a Nick Fury and a Savage Land and whatever else, but it's not the "real" universe. And what's happening here, i guess, is that the Beyonder is popping over into that other dimension for a spell. The real reason she's appearing (aside from some cross-promotional synergy) is that Marvel wanted to make sure they retained the rights to the character by having her published somewhere prior to the Transfomers series to prevent Hasbro from claiming ownership. See also Death's Head.
As for Toots, well now that she's had someone treat her with respect...
...she's decided to stop hating herself and not be a sleaze anymore.
Sure, it's just that easy!
So anyway, the Beyonder has taken over the world and then decided it's not for him. So i guess the series is over, right? Well, not quite. After going to the Avengers for guidance and instead making a mess of things (covered in more detail in Avengers #260), he decides that having already taken over the world the easy way, he decides that maybe the fulfillment lies in the trying, not the doing, so he decides to hire "the Avengers' lawyer".
I've been trying to approach this series with an open mind. There's nothing inherently wrong with the basic "what is desire?/what is the meaning of life?" theme, and i'm willing to go along with that and ignore the first Secret Wars if there's a good story to be had here, but Shooter is completely whiffing it. I guess this is supposed to be the "all powerful being gets caught up with some sleazy folks" issue but all of the crime and debauchery is neither shown as a bad thing or a good thing. It's just.. there. The Beyonder cheerfully walks around and collects his kickbacks from Vinnie's underlings who smile and joke with him. We're all friends here, having a good time. And Vinnie is a great fatherly influence, not a bad guy at all as far as we can see. Part of the problem here is the art -- everyone in this book is a sketchily drawn grinning idiot -- but the real problem is that for all his lofty goals, Shooter doesn't really have anything to say except the banal "achieving your desires doesn't mean you'll be happy", which is delivered with the subtlety of a hammer. There's nothing to recommend here.
One note on that. A blurb in the lettercol for Avengers #259 calls this issue "the most totally crazed book since the original Howard the Duck". Between that and the parody of Steve Gerber in issue #1, it's clear that this book is going for something satirical. It's not working for me (or,i think, for anyone) but i never really grokked the Howard the Duck series and there could be a similar problem here, compounded by the fact that despite my best intentions i'm not getting past expectations set by the fact that this is a sequel to Secret Wars. It's certainly a lot easier to see this series as a failed attempt at satire than a cosmic adventure story. Still doesn't work, but it explains it, i guess.
In this issue, the Beyonder gets the 80s-tastic look he's generally know for. The clothing style is specifically designed to be "the mod, with it look - like Duran Duran or somebody".
And the face and hair is "like Michael Jackson or somebody".
This is all per Vinnie, the oddly hip mobster with a heart of gold.
The Beyonder also tells Vinnie his history. It includes mainly a recap of the first Secret Wars, and you can be forgiven if your eyes glaze over at this 83rd recap of the original maxi-series, but there's actually a number of interesting tidbits here since it's being told from the Beyonder's perspective. It's the most valuable part of this issue, actually.
First, we get the closest thing we can have for an "origin" of the Beyonder, which is that he literally was his own universe, and then there was an "event of great magnitude" that opened a pinhole to our universe. We'll later learn that the event was the accident that gave the Molecule Man his powers, but not yet. However, the Beyonder says he observed Earth, specifically, "for years as you reckon time". The Beyonder was especially intrigued by the fact that Earth people were "incomplete" and had "desire".
I guess you can reason that the focus on Earth and humans as opposed to, say, Eternity, or the Celestials, or just the universe a whole instead of these tiny things called humans on Earth, was due to the Molecule Man being part of the trigger event.
And i guess it also kind of explains why his next move, years later, was to gather up a bunch of super-heroes and villains and have them fight each other.
Galactus was always an anomaly in Secret Wars, and there's a not-quite explanation of it that also provides a surprising fact regarding how everyone actually got to the Battleplanet:
Of the many who dwelt upon or visited Earth while I watched, I chose a few beings of great power, presence and palpable desire!
From what we've learned of the Beyonder in this series, it makes a lot more sense that the Kirbytech device in Central Park was created by Galactus', not the Beyonder. This is a tantalizing little factoid that i wish was expanded upon; did Galactus know that he was being manipulated? Did he even remember doing it? Was it Galactus or the Beyonder who picked which villains should come along? And since all of the heroes (except Cyclops) fall into the category of "other beings to come if they chose", would the Beyonder have been ok if all his participants were villains?
We also learn that the Beyonder is a pretty reliable narrator. Sure, he says that when he possessed Klaw while trying to get his power back from Dr. Doom, Klaw "attacked Doom in a a manner which I do not comprehend - subtly, psychologically, plaiyng upon things of the human mind called fears and doubts!". But in terms of the basic physical events of Secret Wars, his observations are a lot less child-like than you would expect given this series. I still say he should have at least understood what eating was.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: At one point in this issue, Vinnie, Toots, and the Beyonder are in a restaurant; a scene with them in the same restaurant is shown in Fantastic Four #282, so FF #282-284 takes place concurrently with this.
Avengers #260 takes place during this issue. The three tie-ins for the month are Daredevil #223, Hulk #312, and Avengers #260. At the end of this issue, the Beyonder says he's going to visit Matt Murdock "right now". Per that shot of all the heroes and villains bowing to the Beyonder, this takes place after the debut of Iron Man's new armor in Iron Man #200 (although i should note that i'm not counting that image as an actual character appearance for anyone). I'm using the world-mindwipe in this issue to greater effect than intended; see New Avengers: Illuminati #3 for more on that.
Cross-over: Secret Wars II
Continuity Implant? N
Reprinted In: N/A
Inbound References (3): show
Beyonder, Circuit Breaker, Jarvis, Kingpin, Molecule Man, Rose, Volcana
"Layton" shows up on a sign in one of these panels, but I don't know if Bob Layton had anything to do with this.
This is actually the start of the good Secret Wars material, far as I am concerned. The antics of the beyonder are surprising and funny, in sharp contrast to the previsibility and unconvincingness of most of the original Secret Wars.
It helps that Mike Zeck is nowhere to be found in SW II.
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