January 1984: Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars 1 – Or the Beyonder wanted action figures


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Synopsis: Secret Wars 1 was written by Jim Shooter (at that time top banana at Marvel Comics) with art by Mick Zeck and inks by John Beatty and opens with some kind of structure flying through space containing a group of heroes. (Roll Call: Monica ‘Captain Marvel’ Rambeau, Ororo ‘Storm’ Monroe, Steve ‘Captain America’ Rogers, Reed ‘Mr Fantastic’ Richards, Janet ‘the Wasp’ Van Dyne, Scott ‘Cyclops’ Summers, Bruce ‘the Hulk’ Banner, Professor Charles Xavier, Thor, Wolverine, Ben ‘the Thing’ Grimm, James ‘Iron Man’ Rhodes, Peter ‘Spider-Man’ Parker, Rogue, Magneto, Johnny ‘Human Torch’ Storm,  Jennifer ‘She-Hulk’ Walters, Lockheed the Dragon, Clint ‘Hawkeye’ Barton, Piotr ‘Colossus’ Rasputin and Kurt ‘Nightcrawler’ Wagner. All of whom are surprised to be there. After a brief run down of who’s there, we see another structure, this one full of villains. We have Enchantress, Ultron, Galactus, Absorbing Man, the Wrecking Crew (consisting of Piledriver, Bulldozer, Wrecker and Thunderball), The Lizard, Doctor Octopus, Molecule Man, Kang the Conqueror and Doctor Doom. It’s obvious from here that someone’s gathering forces. What is less obvious is why the known supervillain Magneto is with the X-Men on the hero side of things. The space they are in seems to be in an unknown galaxy, which is promptly destroyed and from it’s ashes, a single world survives. Immediately after this, the villains start fighting amongst themselves, with Galactus simply extinguishing Ultron, then comes the voice. “I am from Beyond, slay your enemies and all you desire shall be your’s. Nothing you dream of is impossible for me to accomplish.”  Galactus sees this as an invitation and goes after this voice from Beyond. Doom follows, but they don’t get far and are cast to the planet below as are the two structures.

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Once there, both sides start sorting out who is in charge of each group, the good guys select Captain America (after some bickering with the X-Men and Magneto) and the bad guys choose Doom, who has had enough of this shit and wants more than the voice from Beyond offers, he wants everything that this Beyonder can do, so he walks away, takes a vehicle from the structure that the villains have taken over and flies to find someone who will understand the real power here, sadly for Doom, he realises that person is Mr Fantastic. On his way there, he is shot down by Kang and needs to be helped up by Captain America. This affront to Doom’s dignity causes him to storm off in a huff as the villains begin their attack.





Notes: This could be considered the first ever ‘Event’ comic, not the first toy tie in, not the first mini-series or crossover, but the first one that made a big impact. This was started by Mattell, who wanted to license Marvel’s heroic and villainous characters as action figures. Jim Shooter agreed to it and also agreed to the name of it Secret Wars, which comes from the most popular words that were focus grouped from the target market of 6-10 year olds. That sentence pretty much tells you everything that needs telling about this series.

There’s good here, the scope and scale of the story are in full effect, Zeck’s house style means everyone looks on model and are all in their more of less classic looks. The action scenes are interesting and  this whole book looks really good. Notice where I am going with this? The bad here is all the writing. It can’t be argued that Jim Shooter did some wonderful things at Marvel, his stewardship of the company led to amazing work and a creative surge. It also can’t be argued that he didn’t do this with everyone loving him. He was reported to be ruthless in his pursuit of his vision of Marvel and this sells that idea very clearly. This was Jim Shooter’s Secret Wars. Because of this the problem is that some characters (the X-Men spring to mind) act so out of character, it’s hard to believe they are who they say they are. Couple that with some clunky and overblown dialogue and we have a bit of a mess. There are good moments, Shooter’s Doom is a delight, who owns the page whenever he’s on it and Thor’s defence of Captain America is touching and feels earned. This is a flawed but entertaining read, it’s just not aged well. Except that is for the Beyonder’s opening line “I am from Beyond, slay your enemies and all you desire shall be yours.” That’s a great line 30 or so years later.


Next Time: The Golden Avenger hit’s rock bottom.

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