Secret Wars II #5
Issue(s): Secret Wars II #5
...and he picks up a stray. Her name is Tabitha, but everyone calls her Boom-Boom because she's a thirteen year old mutant that can create little time bombs.
She's running away from home due to an abusive father.
The Beyonder helps her get to her destination, which is Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. As soon as they arrive, a contingent of X-Men and New Mutants attack, "perhaps subconsciously" under the control of Rachel Summers. It's really badly written.
After the Beyonder drives off, Wolverine says he's concerned about Rachel's powers and prioritizes having a talk with her over looking for Boom Boom.
Later, the Beyonder takes Boom Boom into outer space, to the "Worldcomplex Headquarters of the Celestials".
The Beyonder explains:
They're one of the oldest races in the universe, and they've taken it upon themselves to look after the universe and sort of shepherd its development along.
Walking along the... *ugh*... boardwalk, the Beyonder tells Boom Boom that "all of the more sophisticated races in the universe are fully aware of my presence here! I'm the most powerful being in existence. I guess that makes people nervous...".
He then goes and picks a fight with the Celestials.
Alright, that's enough. Check, please! Where's that Bendis Illuminati issue? Let's just wipe this whole stupid series out of continuity.
Ok, ok. Deep breath. Remember, we think this might be satire or something. I don't get it, but it's a joke of some sort. Like an Impossible Man story. I never got those, and i'm not getting this, but clearly there's some sort of satirical point being made here. Right? RIGHT?!?
Later, back on Earth, Boom Boom makes a call to the Avengers...
...and they summon the West Coast team, plus the Fantastic Four and Doctor Strange.
And this is despite the fact that the Avengers' last interaction with the Beyonder was in Avengers #261. Now Boom Boom did tell the Wasp that the Beyonder threatened to destroy the whole universe, but the heroes know by now that they can't defeat the Beyonder with brute force.
Regardless of all that, the Beyonder doesn't even try to fight back.
He's despondent about Boom Boom betraying him. The heroes just let him wander off.
At one point the Beyonder decides to return to his own universe, but he finds that impossible knowing what he now knows, and still harboring feelings for Dazzler.
So i guess there's three ways of looking at this. One is the straightforward super-hero story, wherein the Beyonder is an unknowable unstoppable foe, so powerful that he can destroy the Celestials without thinking about it, that the heroes are trying to figure out what to do with. This is basically the story that Roger Stern is telling very well in his Avengers tie-ins, and despite myself it's what i come to these issues ready to read about (as, i imagine, was just about anyone reading this series in real-time). On that level, this issue is just horrible. The heroes are all acting incredibly stupidly, with no plans beyond "let's hit him a lot!", and are completely at odds with their portrayals in their own books.
Then there's the story Shooter wants to tell, about desire and loss and the condition of the human spirit. After falling in love with Dazzler, the theme has moved on from "would having everything you've ever wanted make you happy?" to "even omnipotence can't make someone love you of their own free will" and the fall-out when they don't. It's not a bad theme. I bet Neil Gaiman could write that story pretty well. But Shooter can't; having the Beyonder mope and gripe for an entire issue doesn't count as character development and it doesn't feel like Shooter has anywhere to go from here. The major turning point for the Beyonder will happen in a Doctor Strange tie-in before next issue; it might have made more sense for the Beyonder to have the revelation that he should devote himself to helping others during the course of this story.
Finally, there's the interpretation that i stumbled into when i saw a stray editorial blurb in a lettercol comparing this series to Howard the Duck. Ok, so it's satire. I guess the points could be "Everybody loves Celestials because they look awesome but let's face it, guys, they never actually do anything." and "super-hero comics act like you can solve every problem by having heroes hit things". The first point is valid enough. I wondered why the Celestials would have been brought up at this point; we haven't seen one since Roy Thomas brought them back in the early 80s, but i bet Shooter and Marvel were getting a lot of questions along the lines of "Is the Beyonder more powerful than the Celestials/Eternity/etc.?". Still, it seems a poor target for satire in 1985. The second point is a longstanding point of criticism for super-hero comics, but just look at the surrounding issues - heck, just look at the majority of the tie-ins - to see that the comic industry had long ago grown in response to that criticism. The Avengers, X-Men, and Fantastic Four in this book are unrecognizable in comparison to Stern's, Claremont's, and Byrne's.
I'm putting all the blame on Shooter here, but even if he were writing something better, he'd be undermined by the art. I hoped that Milgrom getting a more traditional inker like Josef Rubinstein to help with the inks might clean things up, but the problem is with Milgrom's layouts. Stiff and awkward. It must be hard drawing panel after panel of people trying to fight someone too bored or depressed to fight back, but there's no dynamism in those panels. The characters look like cardboard cutouts. Milgrom's faces are pretty bad too (look at the Invisible Woman in that final panel) but that's not the main problem.
Quality Rating: D
But this issue is a nightmare for continuity purposes. We seem to have come a long way from issue #1 of this series, where the tie-ins were pretty specific about where they fit into the crossover. What's meant to happen is that the Beyonder, depressed from the events of this issue, winds up drinking himself into oblivion in Thing #30, and that's where Doctor Strange finds him at the beginning of Strange #74. But in that issue of Doctor Strange, Strange meets the Beyonder for the first time, directly after his return from the Dark Dimension. And that clearly doesn't make sense if Strange has already fought the Beyonder here. So the Doctor Strange issue has to take place prior to this, and i suppose it's therefore not important if it's part of the same drinking binge as seen in Thing #30. Thematically, the Beyonder is at an absolutely low point in this issue and it's in Strange #74 that the Beyonder recovers from his depression, thanks to Strange's guidance, and decides to become a champion of life, which is the theme for Secret Wars II #6. So having that occur before the Beyonder gets depressed in this issue is a mess. But there's no getting around the fact that Strange meets the Beyonder for the first time in issue #74.
Beyond that we have a scar-free Thor on Earth the same time as Starfox. Starfox left the Avengers for deep space in Avengers #261, which takes place concurrently with Secret Wars II #3. So i don't know how he got included in this issue.
Then there's the Fantastic Four. FF annual #19 takes place in space and prior to Avengers #261, which, again, is a direct SWII #3 crossover. That annual references Fantastic Four #285, a tie-in for this issue. But the FF return from space in FF #286.
I was this close to writing off the heroes' appearances here as another illusion of the Beyonder's; same as he did in issue #4. The characters are written so poorly, and there's no sane way to make them all fit here together, even within the context of just the Secret Wars II story itself, that i could have legitimately convinced myself it was ok to do so, even though this time it wasn't Shooter's intent. But i am persevering.
We're going to have to say that Starfox must have forgotten his VHS copy of Casablanca or something (that's a Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy reference, people) and came back to Earth again briefly after Avengers #261. And i'll have to go with the tenuous notion that the spaceflight the FF are returning from in FF #286 is not the one shown in the annual. As for Doctor Strange, see the comments. We're going with the idea that the Doctor Strange story take place while Boom Boom is calling the Avengers and the Avengers are gathering their forces and by the time the Beyonder is done training with Strange, things are set in motion and it's too late to stop the confrontation. Dr. Strange's participation in the battle complicates that interpretation, but i fixed it:
Actually we can just assume that Strange heard from the Avengers that the Beyonder was threatening to blow up the world and thought it meant his training didn't stick. The fact that the Beyonder walks away looking miserable in this issue doesn't mean that Strange's teachings don't eventually get through to him before the beginning of next issue.
It's weak, but it's all we can do.
So the Avengers appear here between #261-262 of their series. The West Coast team between issues #4 and #5 of their series (issues #1-4 basically all run into each other). The FF are here after the annual but before FF #285. And the X-Men should appear before X-Men #199, when Rachel becomes the Phoenix, and before their Asgardian adventure (this also means some of the New Mutants travel from Egypt back to Westchester before going on vacation in Greece). Doctor Strange #74 takes place during this issue, while the heroes are gathering their forces. Thing #30 has a flashback panel showing a scene from the end fight in this issue, so it has to take place after this and we'll assume that the Beyonder went back to drinking again for a while after the fight here.
I also want to recognize that this was Marvel's first crossover at this scale, and i don't fault them too much for not realizing how much thought needed to be put into the tie-ins and character scheduling. The real crime here is the quality of the writing. The coordination problems are real, but secondary.
Crossover: Secret Wars II
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (4): showBeyonder, Black Knight (Dane Whitman), Boom Boom, Cannonball, Captain America, Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau), Colossus, Dr. Strange, Gammenon, Hawkeye, Hercules, Human Torch, Invisible Woman, Iron Man, Kurse, Mockingbird, Mr. Fantastic, Nightcrawler, Rachel Summers, Rogue, Shadowcat (Kitty Pryde), She-Hulk, Starfox, Sunspot, Thor, Tigra, Warlock, Wasp, Wolfsbane, Wolverine, Wonder Man
Over at the MCP, we decided that it was possible that Thing 30 and Dr. Strange 74 took place DURING Secret Wars II 5 based on the suggestion from a website about Secret Wars II that is sadly no longer in existence:
Posted by: Michael | July 6, 2012 11:52 PM
I like this theory. It's not perfect but it's better; the idea that the heroes aren't aware of the Beyonder's enlightenment and attack him anyway works better than having that enlightenment happen before this issue starts.
I see the MCP still has a different sequence for the Beyonder vs. Dr. Strange for these issues. At first i was wondering if you guys were going for a time travel explanation, but maybe the chronologies just aren't caught up yet?
Speaking of time travel, that's where i'm thinking about going for Emperor Doom. It's that or a Doombot and i'd rather not completely ruin the intent of the story.
Posted by: fnord12 | July 8, 2012 2:25 AM
It won't work for the Thing story, though. There's a flashback panel showing the end of the battle on page 2 of that issue.
Posted by: fnord12 | July 8, 2012 2:37 AM
Its a point of sociological interest that child abuse becomes a pretty common trop in Marvel comics at this time. Boom-Boom's eventual teammate Skids will get a similar back story, and this is also the era of the Banner revelations. Child abuse (and domestic violence generally) was a topic that wasn't much publicly discussed before the '80s.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | July 8, 2012 2:51 AM
Yes, and just to connect that back to this issue, in this issue Boom-Boom's mom was clearly shown to be alive. However, in X-Force, Nicieza had Boom-Boom say that her mother died in her arms- Nicieza was apparently confusing Boom-Boom with Skids because they had such similar backstories involving child abuse.
Posted by: Michael | July 8, 2012 10:04 AM
The Beyonder was a Bill Withers fan? Who knew?
The Celestials scene may be an intentional jab at Jack Kirby by Shooter. Upper management at Marvel in general and Shooter in particular were starting to get massive heat from darned near everybody else in comics over their insistence that Kirby jump through absurd legalistic hoops to get his original art back.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | July 14, 2012 8:29 PM
You wrote: "first Boom Boom, aka Time Bomb, aka Boomer, aka Meltdown. She'll be a mainstay in X-Factor for a while, then a New Mutant and founding member of X-Force."
And a member of the Fallen Angels of course! :D
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | February 11, 2014 5:22 PM
This is actually the best issue of "Secret Wars II" because (despite being horrible, there was a theme, a plot, and conflict. The Beyonder was in his alienated teen phase, so he meets Boom-Boom. She's an alienated teenage girl trying to reach this school in Westchester that might help mutants. She and the Beyonder get on each other's nerves, and he ditches her, but they later feel bad about this, and he returns to take her to the school.
What happens when, trembling, she knocks on the door to Xavier's school? The X-Men and New Mutants see her escort and scream "GET HIM!!!" traumatizing her in a way that works perfectly for the story, and is rather funny if you don't like the story.
Then the Beyonder takes Boom-Boom to a pointlessly huge mall built around yet-another type of celestial beings, and starts a fight just so he can show off for her how powerful he is. Boom-Boom isn't impressed by his machismo, and demands he send her home, where she calls the Avengers and sets up a trap for him. The heroes wind up beating the crap out of the Beyonder until he's too pathetic to bother with, and the Beyonder walks off saying, "Five points, I win," actually learning something for a change about rejection and alienation, based on the game Boom-Boom taught him.
I'm not defending the merits of the script, art, characterization or anything we would recognize as quality, but if every issue of SWII had been this good, it would have been an entirely-different series.
Posted by: ChrisW | April 9, 2014 9:18 PM
So I've been truckin' along for a while and, yeah, it's pretty much as bad you say, but I recently realized something: Read every bit of Beyonder's dialogue in the voice of Tommy Wiseau from The Room. His not-quite-sure-how-this-human-thing-works shtick makes every Secret Wars II issue and tie-in immensely enjoyable.
Posted by: gfsdf gfbd | September 4, 2014 5:29 PM
If anyone is a fan or "fan" of The Room then you all got to read The Disaster Artist. It is about how the Room was made from the man who played Mark. It is all hilarious, disturbing, insightful and disturbing too.
"I never want to leave you.."
Posted by: david banes | September 4, 2014 6:22 PM
Oh, no! Now I'm going to have it stuck in my head that Tommy Wiseau is the Beyonder! They even look alike! Is there a long-lost issue of Secret Wars II, maybe an issue #5.5, where the Beyonder runs off the San Francisco to experience writing, directing & acting in a movie, and the end result is the celluloid disaster that is The Room? That would explain sooooo damn much!
Posted by: Ben Herman | August 26, 2015 10:52 PM
I felt bad when Boom Boom set him up, and loved when he showed that he's more powerful than The Celestials.
A Thor Annual retconned that way before Bendis- Thor mused that it was a powerful illusions and/or that the Celestials were toying him The Beyonder.
Posted by: Damian | October 9, 2015 8:47 AM
What a brilliant observation! Tommy Wiseau as the Beyonder!
Posted by: Haywerth | January 17, 2016 11:04 PM
A good explanation for Starfox's continued involvement in Secret Wars II after leaving the Avengers might be he was interested in learning where Beyonder sent Nebula to.
It does neuter the scene with him leaving the team in Avengers #261, but it explains.
Also there's a notable typo in this one. Boom-Boom shows the Beyonder her powers and states "I call myself Time Bomb". She's meant to be saying (something along the lines of) "I call it a time bomb". This is further cemented by on the page earlier, Boom-Boom saying how everyone calls her Boom-Boom but she prefers to be called Tabitha. As a result of this typo, the handbooks have consistently listed Time Bomb as an alias. Her announcing herself as being called Time Bomb makes no sense in context and even less sense after the page before.
Posted by: AF | July 1, 2016 9:35 AM
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