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Secret Wars

Secret Wars back

Jim Shooter & Mike Zeck, Bob Layton


Page 45 Review by Jonathan

"We won the first skirmish, but not the war! Not by a long shot!"
"So let's go out and win it! Why are we sitting here?"
"First, Wolverine, because we don't know where all our foes are! It's a big planet! Galactus, Doctor Doom, The Molecule Man, The Wrecker, The Absorbing Man... and Magneto... are still out there. Any one of the them is too dangerous to take lightly! We have an advantage now! Let's not blow it!"
"You're nuts, flag-man!"

Ostensibly little more than a 1984 twelve-issue mini-series vehicle to help launch a Mattel line of toy figures by contriving a situation whereby pretty much all the major Marvel superheroes and villains could have one massive sequence of fights. And yet, and yet, somehow it became something so much more splendidly, ridiculously epic than that, as Jim Shooter just let his imagination run riot. The paper-thin plot device to start the ball rolling involves the cosmic entity known as the Beyonder clicking his fingers and spiriting all and sundry - and a good chunk of New York to boot - off to a planet called Battleworld, created just for the occasion, where after said fights to the death the winners would receive all they could possibly desire.

There's pretty much the then Who's Who of the Marvel Universe duking it out including, for some strange reason, Galactus who you might think would have a bit of an unfair advantage. What makes this fun, though, are all the crazy side plots going on. The winsome Wasp having a strange beauty-and-the-beast interlude with the Lizard, Spider-Man donning his black costume for the first time (little knowing that in fact it's the alien symbiote Venom), Owen Rees the Molecule Man figuring out that in fact he's near-omnipotent himself, and good old Doctor Doom, who despite the top prize on offer decides he'd rather take on the Beyonder himself. Does he not realise it's going to take the mother of all team-ups to take down that bad boy? Still, everyone's got to do the let's-all-fight-each-other bit first, I suppose, those are the rules after all!

It's absolute hokum, there's no doubt about that whatsoever, but it is such good fun, you can't help but shake your head and go with it. Every character gets a chance for a quick star turn and there are some lovely moments I can still remember reading with awe as a twelve-year-old from first time around, such as Captain America, in the aftermath of the final battle, with the Beyonder's residual cosmic energies still crackling all around, reassembling his shattered shield using only his indomitable will power and wholesome all-American apple-pie goodness. And then, before you can reach for the ultimate (plot device) nullifier, everyone is back safe and sound in Central Park. Well not quite everyone, Ben Grimm stayed behind for a year or so, sulking, in a truly forgettable mini-series of his own, but that's a different story which is definitely not worth reading... ever.

Bagatelle art from Mike Zeck and Bob Layton complement Shooter's frenetic storytelling and over-the-top dialogue perfectly. (I'm surprised the letterer didn't get sick of finishing every single sentence with an exclamation mark, actually.) If you're only going to buy one big slice of stinky, vintage cheese for Christmas this year, then make it this one.