10.28.2008

‘Secret Wars II’ Collected – This is So Wrong

The first comic I bought as a collector was Secret Wars issue #2 back in sixth grade.  Some of you may recall I wrote a post about this experience back in June.  Before I begin my rant, I want to be sure you understand that Secret Wars issue #2 should in no way to be confused with a completely separate nine-issue comic book limited series entitled Secret Wars II.  That’s important.  Don’t forget that.

Secret Wars II OmnibusThe original Secret Wars 12-issue limited series was a solid story and a huge success.  So of course, it spawned a sequel.  Secret Wars II was about the entity that instigated the first Secret Wars, the Beyonder.  The Beyonder visits Earth in search of enlightenment and inevitably comes into conflict with Earth’s superheroes and the cosmic entities that exist in the Marvel Universe.  It’s pretty much universally accepted by fans that Secret Wars II was a poorly executed and poorly written series.

Marvel Comics has announced that in February they will release a new hardcover — Secret Wars II Omnibus.  This omnibus will collect all nine issues of the Secret Wars II mini-series, as well as several of the related crossovers.  All told it will reprint 46 comics, be 1168 pages, and retail for $99.99.

Okay, hopefully you’ve taken a second for all that to sink in.  So I can now say…

WTF, mate?!?!?

Are you serious?  Secret Wars II for $100?  Are they out of their friggin’ minds?  Seriously, dude!  This is an abysmal comic.  In fact, you can pick up almost every issue of Secret Wars II in your local comic book shop for less than $1 an issue (some of the crossovers can be more expensive).

The comics collected in the omnibus include: Secret Wars II issues #1-9; New Mutants #30 and #36-37; Captain America #308; Uncanny X-Men #196 and #202-203; Iron Man #197; Fantastic Four #282, #285, #288 and #316-319; Web of Spider-Man #6; Amazing Spider-Man #268 and #273-274; Daredevil #223; Incredible Hulk #312; Avengers #260-261 and #265-266; Dazzler #40; Alpha Flight #28; Thing #30; Doctor Strange #74; Cloak and Dagger #4; Power Pack #18; Thor #363; Power Man and Iron Fist #121; Peter Parker, Spectacular Spider-Man #111; Defenders #152; Deadpool Team-Up #1 and Quasar #8.

It’s fair to say that while the primary book Secret Wars II was awful, some of the crossover issues were pretty good.  There were really two categories of crossovers.  Crossover issues that REALLY connected to the Secret Wars II plot, and crossover issues that barely paid lip service to Secret Wars II.  For example, while New Mutants #30 was a good comic, the Secret Wars II plot point was resolved in three and a half pages.  Obviously Secret Wars II was not integral to the plot of this comic.

Amazing Spider-Man #268Web of Spider-Man #6Some comics that tied-in to Secret Wars II really benefited from the connection.  My personal favorites were Web of Spider-Man #6 and Amazing Spider-Man #268.  These comics form a two-part story in which Spider-Man has to deal with the collapse of the skyscraper that the Beyonder turned into gold.  While the Beyonder makes no appearance in these issues, the story does spin directly out of Secret Wars II issue #2.  There are some great moments dealing with moral issues in this one.  The government secures the building made of gold because it’s worried about what the influx of this quantity of gold could do to the world economy.  Spider-Man witnesses the Kingpin receiving pay-offs from government agents, while he himself is shot at for trying to help people.  So in a moment of frustration, Spider-Man takes a golden notebook from the skyscraper.  The moral issue becomes whether Spider-Man has the right to take the gold as compensation (especially since the Kingpin is making a profit from the government).  It’s a well written story by Danny Fingeroth and Tom DeFalco, and is a great example of what classic Spider-Man stories should be like.

A few others worth mentioning are:

  • Daredevil #223 written by Denny O’Neil and Jim Shooter in which the Beyonder gives Matt Murdock back his sight.
  • Thor #363 and Power Pack #18 in which they battle Kurse, an extra-dimensional Dark Elf whose powers have been amped by the Beyonder.  This is an unlikely, but nice team-up written by the husband and wife team of Walter & Louise Simonson.
  • Incredible Hulk #312 written by Bill Mantlo may not have tied closely into Secret Wars II, but was one of the most influential single issues in Hulk’s history.  This story explores in-depth Bruce Banner’s back-story and the horrible relationship he had with his father.  This issue influenced both Peter David’s run on the book and the Ang Lee film.  And it featured art by Mike Mignola prior to his Hellboy work!

There are some other good Secret Wars II crossovers (like the Uncanny X-Men books), but the ones above happen to be favorites.  All of which you can pick up online for a handful of dollars right now.

If you are considering ordering the Secret Wars II omnibus, ask yourself… why on Earth would I pay $100 to read a few good comics and a whole bunch of crappy ones?!?!?!   I recommend you just pick a comic shop (brick-and-mortar or online) and purchase a few of the good crossovers from their back issue selection.  Save your wallet and your brain the pain of the omnibus.  Remember, friends don’t let friends buy bad comics.

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12 Responses to “‘Secret Wars II’ Collected – This is So Wrong”

  1. Steven Marsh Says:

    I dug up my copies to reassess my thoughts on the series.

    Although not a masterpiece for the ages (for one thing, it was much too reliant on the crossover issues), it has a number of good points. It’s basically a “Q” story (ala Star Trek), almost entirely from the POV of Q. Many people criticized some aspects (like “Beyonder learning to use the bathroom”), but I didn’t mind those. The scene in question is with Peter Parker, who always had a surreal streak about him: Spider-Man is interacting with one of the most powerful forces in the cosmos, and he’s potty-training him.

    The series’ big weaknesses are (in my mind):

    * Reliance on crossover issues. Really, if you didn’t follow the other issues, you didn’t know what was going on. (However, on the other hand, this is also one of the few crossover miniseries where the crossover issues were actually useful.)

    * Wordiness. Jim Shooter probably crams about 10-20 times as many words per page as a modern comic. (On the other hand, at least this Omnibus will result in a solid day or two of reading, unlike a similarly sized Ultimate collection.)

    * Packed-ness. Despite cramming 500 words to a page, Shooter still tried to cover too much with the series. This is especially noticeable in transitions, where you end up with situations like, “Bah! Parker told me nothing! I’ll leave his house to learn about humanity elsewhere!” [next panel] “Oh, no! The New Mutants are attacking me!”
    * Reliance on 1980s Marvel. Really, if you aren’t heavily steeped in the goings-on of the Marvel universe, you’ll probably be pretty lost. (Hint: One issue focuses heavily on Dazzler.)

    Interesting aspects include:

    * A melding of the cosmic and the mundane in a way I don’t think has ever been attempted by comics outside of (say) the Sandman series. (No, I’m not saying this is anywhere as good as Sandman, but there simply aren’t many stories that can devote as many panels to the needs of trying to buy a hot dog as it does to the destruction of a galaxy.) I’ve never liked the cosmic stories (Silver Surfer et. al. usually leave me cold), but most of those aspects are still pretty interesting to me in this story… even when they don’t work.

    * Good use of Beyonder as a “deus ex machina,” especially in some of the crossover issues. (I remember an issue of the Fantastic Four with the Human Torch that, in particular, utilized him well.)

    * A strong subplot involving the Molecule Man, one of the better non-hero/non-villain characters from that era.

    * A fairly good ending. It’s rare to be able to distill a still-divisive political issue down to something over which superheroes can have a fistfight, but I thought this was good.

    In all, I think it’s one of the better company-wide crossover attempts out there, although that’s not saying much. (Bloodlines for teh FAIL!) However, as one of Secret Wars II’s bigger defenders, it’s definitely not something I’ve been clamoring for, and I agree that these are much better read as bargain-issue fodder than being regarded as a classic for the ages.

  2. Shag Says:

    Wow Steven, that is a really impressive analysis. Thanks so much! While your argument may get me to reexamine some aspects of the story, it will be pretty difficult to get me to change my general sense of yuck with this series. I remember reading it as it came out and being unwhelmed by the core series itself (again with some good crossovers).

    Thanks again for the feedback!

  3. Choco Taco Says:

    The Kurse stuff in Thor/Power Pack was good, as you mentioned. The X-Men stuff was also really good. This is actually one of the more interesting periods of X-Men history where Magneto was working with them.

    I liked the Power Man/Iron Fist/Spider-Man gold building plot. I even liked that Spider-Man taught the Beyonder how to use the bathroom, even though that makes no sense. An omnipotent being that had been observing humanity for several years should have been able to figure out the mysteries of human excretion.

    Like Steven says, the Molecule Man/Volcana stuff in Secret Wars II is also good. I really enjoyed their interactions. Unfortunately, all of these side stories are better than the main plot.

    The main plot is mostly an acid-trip involving an omnipotent being getting jeri-curls, playing with machines, fighting everybody and their brother, and then trying to become his own son. The heroes win by killing a baby, which is really messed-up.

    Also, like you said, you can probably buy the whole set for less than $50, if you’re up for some dollar-bin hunting. All in all, it’s not a good deal.

  4. istace benedicte Says:

    i want to buy secret wars 2 :who is the beyonder?
    How can i do to haove this book ?
    Thank you for your response

  5. Danny Potter Says:

    I disagree with what you said here. I believe it was an amazing story that did more for the medium than secret wars one. Secret wars II took the spandex wearing characters from the marvel universe and turned them into real people instead of just finding a ridiculous way for them all to fight each other. Secret wars II was my first comic to read as it came out, It made me go back and purchase the first secret war and be disappointed with how simple it was. In a medium that is fighting to get a hold of ADULT readers secret wars II I thought was a very good step in the right direction, it was as if Robert A. Heinlein classic “Stranger in a Strange Land” was set in the marvel universe. all Beyonder wanted to do was understand humanity, that was beautiful.

  6. Shag Says:

    Danny – Thanks for the insightful feedback. While I don’t necessarily agree with your points, I can completely see where you are coming from.

    Thanks for stopping by!

    Shag

  7. Abe Says:

    I’ve actually ordered this book (with a big discount) as it’s a classic example of everything that was right & wrong with Marvel in the 1980’s.

    It’s just a shame they haven’t got the rights to include the Rom issue as that was pure cheese

  8. Voice of the Red Skull Says:

    In Star Trek: Nemesis, there is a stupid scene where Data is answering B-4’s (?) questions, and B-4 responds to each answer by saying “Why?” A child could write better dialogue.

    In Secret Wars II, it’s the Beyonder who asks “Why?”, and the question is legitimate. Instead of being treated as comic relief (um, okay, it is treated as such), the question is given the philosophical gravity that a fundamental question of the ages deserves.

    When the Beyonder says “Bah! Parker told me nothing!”, he is speaking for generations of philosophy students. The eternal Why is a question without answer.

    The pivotal point of Why is not what we do with the answer (which we can’t have), but what do we do with our lack of an answer?

    It’s not why we live, but how. And How is explored more fully than Why in SW2. Good for them!

    I reread the series between the start of my comments and now. Maybe I’m giving the series a grandeur it doesn’t possess.

    There’s much social commentary in there. A lot of looking at what people think is important, and asking if such things really are important.

    There’s moments to make you cringe, but hey, that’s what real life does. Real life can also suck, which you don’t want your comic book to do, so it’s true to say that mirroring life is not enough to make good literature.

    The series is kinda like an issue of Marvel Index, but more entertaining. It got you to the heart of many Marvel storylines of the time, at a great era for Marvel. I never collected Fantastic Four, but I well remember the pain they suffered at the hands of the Hatemonger and Malice. I remember my first look at a black Iron Man. And I totally forgot that SW2 marked the first appearance of Boom Boom/Boomer/Tabitha of New Mutants/X-Force in a comic. Or that Circuit Breaker from Transformers made an appearance.

    The comic pushes you into the mythology of the time, without apology. Where would the comic be without the world’s mightiest supporting characters and their peripheral storylines?

    I agree with Steven that Bloodlines was terrible (is that what he was saying?) – that’s the X-Men/Avengers one, right? Pointless. Maybe it was supposed to hint at the identity of the X-foe named Exodus. Well, that’s worth something, but after a year or more of ‘here’s the mysterious Exodus’, I was more concerned with quitting X-titles than solving the mystery.

    I am reminded that I used to own a run of Dazzler comics. Did I sell them all long ago? Who would want them? Good thing I sold them while they were still worth something!

    Seeing that old man and his dog/wolf in the pick-up with Dazzler in SW2 makes me wish I could reread them.

  9. Adam Chapman Says:

    I’m super late to this party, but just wanted to chime in. I was actually really excited about this when it was announced, and then pre-ordered the damn thing for $65 CDN on the Cdn affiliate of Amazon.

    There are definitely some good, bad, and awful elements to this storyline, but I thought there was something really charming about being able to have the entire damn thing in one collected edition. I mean, that’s a helluva lot of comics, and yet there they all are, ready to be read. I wish we’d get Omnibi of Operation Zero Tolerance, Inferno, Age of Apocalypse, Clone Saga, Onslaught, etc.

    We’re getting Acts of Vengeance in Omnibus format within the next couple months, and Inferno is in hardcover with the main story right now, and the tie-ins are being released in a separate hardcover in August. I just wish they’d consolidated them into one big omnibus in the first place, would have been cheaper.

  10. joshua Says:

    I’m coming in to this late as well. But, I wanted to say that I loved Secret wars 2. I thought it was an excellent story.

  11. greg tomlinson Says:

    Why not just ask your library to get it in?

  12. Nathan Aaron Says:

    Surprisingly, the last issue (#9) is usually difficult to find, and goes for around $5-9 dollars. (Because by that point I bet no one was buying the series, so the print run was probably slashed.) I finally broke down and bought this series (in single issues) recently in the buck bins (except for the last issue) but I have yet to read it. I need to experience the train wreck just once. :)

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