Marvel is releasing one of their biggest events in May of 2015, All-New Secret Wars. In an attempt to get ready for this cataclysmic event, I read Secret Wars One and Two. Although my review of Secret Wars One (that can be read here) was not a glowing review, and I had my doubts about the quality of the follow-up series, I had to read it because it was billed as explaining who is the mysterious character known as the Beyonder (who was introduced in Secret Wars One).
I will give the series this; it explained who is the Beyonder, something that was never addressed in Secret Wars One, which in my opinion should have been. So who is the Beyonder? He is an entity that hails from a realm where it was just him and nothing else. He was able to come into our universe after an unexplained event opened up a gateway that allowed him to pass from his realm into ours. As he watched Earth, he became curious about why humans have desires. In an attempt to understand our desires, he orchestrated the events associated with Secret Wars One. Not satisfied with what he learned from said event (and neither was I), he decided to come to Earth, in the form of man, to experience our desires firsthand. It is his coming to Earth that leads to Secret Wars Two. Whew, that was a type-full. All that you really need to know is that the Beyonder is a god-like being that has limitless powers.
Let’s see, what are some qualities that a villain should have other than the obvious sinister laugh. Be a God-like being? Check, the Beyonder has that. Limitless power? Check, the Beyonder has that too. The IQ of Honey Boo Boo? Um, no. Unfortunately, the Beyonder, the God-like being that can turn buildings into gold (yes, that happens), is not very bright. For some unknown reason, when the Beyonder comes to Earth he has an extremely difficult time adapting because everything is new to him.
Sure, the Beyonder has studied humanity for who-knows-how-long trying to understand us, but oddly enough, never took note of how we drink from a glass. At one point during the series, the Beyonder eats the glass with his drink in it. Ha, ha the Beyonder doesn’t know how to drink from a glass. Don’t think the jokes stop there, Jim Shooter, who scribed Secret War One and somehow got the job to write Secret Wars Two, keeps the laughs coming as we see the Beyonder getting potty trained by Spider-Man. Ha, ha the Beyonder almost peed his pants. Gags like those are peppered throughout the series making it almost unbearable to read.
What’s disappointing is that the Beyonder’s appeal is lost as we read about him discovering things like drinking from a glass or going to the bathroom. I mean this is the entity that wiped out an entire galaxy in Secret Wars One. He was a total bad ass. Now, in Secret Wars Two, he’s the punch line. Unfortunately, the majority of series is dedicated to the Beyonder discovering the ways of humanity in comical fashion.
In issue six of the nine issue series, the storyline begins to take a drastic turn. The Beyonder, believing that his purpose is to protect life, helps to destroy the entity known as Death. After some convincing by the Molecule Man, the Beyonder restores Death because without death there is no purpose to life. Concerned that the Beyonder may change his mind and once again destroy Death, Mephisto finds a way to defeat the Beyonder by creating a machine that uses the Beyonder’s power against him. In typical comic fashion, Mephisto’s plan is thwarted and at the end of issue seven the Beyonder believes that his true purpose is not to protect life, but to assist beings in understanding what their role is in life. Ok, I guess, but…
This newfound purpose is quickly abandoned by the Beyonder by issue eight and he decides that the universe (and everything in it including himself) should be destroyed. Why? The Beyonder believes that those that have desires are incomplete and will never be able to find lasting fulfillment. By destroying the universe and becoming nothing, the Beyonder can correct the incompleteness brought about by desires. Now, here is where things go completely bat-poop-crazy, as if they haven’t already.
In issue nine, the Beyonder creates a machine that can turn himself into a true human and back to his god-like state. The Beyonder does this because he believes that humans have “something” that he will never truly understand until he becomes one. On two separate occasions, the Beyonder changes from being a god-like being to a human, and then back to being a god-like being again. Got that? Ok, good. On his third attempt to do the same, the heroes find the Beyonder in his machine in the form of a human baby. By this point in the series, the reader knows that the Beyonder does not want to destroy the universe anymore; however, the heroes are still under the impression that he wants to. In heroic fashion (I am being sarcastic here), Molecule Man destroys the machine with baby-Beyonder inside. Shortly thereafter, we see the Silver Surfer holding baby-Beyonder and informing the heroes that baby-Beyonder is dead. At this point, my jaw hit the floor.
I read nine agonizing issues where the payoff for doing so is watching the Molecule Man, a reformed villain that is a big part of the series, kill a baby. I couldn’t believe it. I really couldn’t. I’ve never read Jim Shooter’s work before this and most likely never will again. The guy is a complete and total hack.
What’s worse is that the heroes were all cool with it and are like there was no other way to stop the Beyonder. Yes there was. The Beyonder took on human form. You mean to tell me the combined efforts of the Avengers and the X-Men could not subdue a human? Come on!
Due to poor storytelling, mediocre art, a slew of tie-in issues required to follow the whole story, and numerous other reasons, Secret Wars Two gets one dead baby-Beyonder out of ten.