In anticipation of Marvel’s summer blockbuster event, Secret Wars, during which the Marvel 616 Universe and the Ultimate Universe are to be merged creating an All-New Marvel Universe; I read the two Secret Wars mini-series that came before, Secret Wars One and Two. I did this to have an understanding of what inspired the creation of the All-New Secret Wars event set to begin May of 2015 and to see how the Secret Wars One storyline stopped a pedophile. Yes, you read that right.
My knowledge of the Marvel Universe is moderate at best. In fact, I would consider myself somewhat of noob when it comes to understanding the history that Marvel has forged over 70 plus years. That is why I wanted to start from the beginning (what the comic book community considers a “good jumping on point”) by reading Secret Wars One and Two before reading All-New Secret Wars; just like you wouldn’t read the last book in the Lord of the Rings trilogy before reading The Hobbit.
Unlike DC Comics who rebooted their whole universe in 2013 with the New 52, Marvel’s claim-to-fame is that it has continued with the same universe since its inception (1939). Comic collectors that enjoy a rich history are pleased that Marvel has never done a complete reboot because the storylines from 1939 to the present have all happened and matter to the development of the Marvel Universe. This un-rebooted universe is considered the Marvel 616 Universe and it is within this universe that Secret Wars One took place.
Secret Wars One is a twelve-issue mini-series that was launched in May of 1984 and concluded in April of 1985. It was written by Jim Shooter and penciled by Mike Zeck and Bob Layton. The series was considered a crossover event because it affected other on-going titles being published by Marvel. For example, issue one of series begins with the Avengers finding themselves mysteriously transported to another world without explanation as to what caused it. I found this beginning to be a bit jarring, but had I read an Avengers tie-in issue, I would have known what caused the transportation. That being said, I found Secret Wars One to be easily understood without reading the tie-in issues.
Before you set out to read Secret War One, it should be understood as to whom it was written for. Jim Shooter explained that Secret Wars was for “young fans” and mainly designed to sell Mattel toys based on the event. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but be warned, the plot is pretty shallow and at times it feels like it was written by Bruce Banner after he transformed into the Hulk.
The plot of Secret Wars One is this: a being called the Beyonder transports a set of heroes and a set of villains to a place called Battleworld to (you guessed it) do battle. The Beyonder promises that the victor will be rewarded with “all you desire.” Like I said, the plot is not the strongest.
I really wanted to like this series because of the historical hype associated with it but it was a long, drawn-out, train wreck of poor dialogue, unfulfilling plot points, and uncharacteristic actions of well-known characters like Captain America. For instance, in issue eleven a section of Battleworld made up of a suburb of Denver begins to float away. During this climatic scene, our heroes do…nothing, absolutely nothing. You would think that Captain America would want to do something, I don’t know maybe heroic, during this moment but instead he suggests taking a nap. That’s right. The red, white, and blue super-solider that has kicked butt for decades is too tired when the balance of thousands of American lives are at stake. I wish I was making this stuff up, but I’m not.
The most intriguing part of the series was the Beyonder; a character that was not previously introduced into the Marvel 616 Universe. To my disappointment, the Beyonder and his motives are never revealed in this series and the mystery surrounding him turns into a hook to get you to read Secret Wars Two. Unfortunately, not something I look forward to doing after reading what I did. I’d much rather poor bleach into my eyes. No, really, this series was that bad.
Ok, so the series was bad but it had one redeeming quality; it put an end to the relationship between Piotr “Colossus” Rasputin (an 18 year-old) and Kitty “Shadowcat” Pryde (14 year old). More about that and other crazy facts associated with the series can be found here.
For the reasons I mentioned in this post, and others that are too depressing to share, I have to, no I must, do the American thing and rate Secret Wars One a 3 out of 10 Captain America shields.
Come back next week when I review Secret Wars Two: Who is the Beyonder?