AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
3 out of 5
Marvel Super Heroes: Secret Wars
An omnipotent being called the Beyonder selects a number of super heroes and villains, depositing them all on the construct Battleworld and promising whatever they desire if they can destroy their enemies. Whilst the heroes and villains clash, two of those brought to Battleworld work to their own agenda; the mighty Galactus and Victor Von Doom.
When DC Comics made a lucrative deal to make action figures out of their comic book characters, Marvel rapidly jumped on the bandwagon. However, it was decided that a special comic series would be commissioned to provide a story for the new action figures and the industry's first large-scale crossover event was envisioned. Somewhat ironically DC would try to cash in on the success of 'Secret Wars' by releasing their own crossover event, Marv Wolfman's 'Crisis On Infinite Earths', the following year. Both companies have been tied to cycles of regular crossovers, for better or worse, ever since.
But do the story's origins as a shameless marketing exercise impact its enjoyability? Well, yes. You never lose the sense that this whole sequence of events is totally contrived and is a jarring departure from the storylines that normally feature these characters. There are a couple of nice meta nods to this in Shooter's writing, however, that helped counterbalance the cynical origins of the series for me. ("The whole thing is absurd! Why would a being so far removed from us and so powerful as the Beyonder bring us across the universe for a stupid, simplistic 'good-versus-evil' gladiatorial contest? Is he a mad god? A cosmic idiot?")
For all that the premise is contrived and cynical, that's not to say that there isn't a lot to enjoy here. For starters we get the introduction of some new characters, like Titania, Volcana and the Julia Carpenter version of Spider Woman, who would remain important players in the Marvel Universe forever after. We also get the debut of Spider-Man's iconic black costume, which not only still looks incredibly cool but also sets the stage for one of the best Spidey villains ever.
However, for me what really made this book better than just a shameless cash-grab (although it is that too) is Doctor Doom and Galactus. Shooter could easily have had these characters just mixing it up in the melee like everyone else and it would've served the purposes of selling toys perfectly well. Instead he allows them to be true to their characters, with Galactus treating the assembled heroes and villains as beneath his notice and Doom immediately setting out to figure out how to seize the Beyonder's power. Doom in particular is done great justice here, with his cunning, arrogance and humanity (somewhat despite himself) all in evidence. There's also another nice bit of meta humour where Klaw challenges the fact that Doom is constantly narrating his own life (to which Doom explains that he's recording himself for posterity).
3 out of 5
Collaborations & Anthologies:
Wonder Man: The Coming Of Wonder Man/When Avengers Clash/Avengers Two - Wonder Man & Beast (here)