In 1985 Mattel wanted to get in on superhero toys so they worked out a deal with Marvel where they produce a toyline around a big publishing event. That event became Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars. While the toyline came and went the 12 issue maxi series has gone on to be one of Marvels most fondly remembered crossovers. Really, the first big crossover for the company. Marvel in fact is currently doing a summer event entitled Secret Wars which is why I pulled this sucker out to read.
Never underestimate simplicity. Secret Wars is simplistic in nature. Writer (and Editor in Chief at the time) Jim Shooter along with artist Mike Zeck and Bob Layton’s story is simple. An incredibly powerful being known as the Beyonder has created a battleworld for two factions to do battle. The heroes (FF, Avengers, X-Men, Hulk, and Spider-Man) and the villains (Dr. Doom, Kang, Enchantress, Galactus, Wrecking Crew and more). The winners will get their hearts desire. Easy enough right?
Within the simplicity the characters complicate everything. Magneto has been placed with the heroes which bothers most on the team so he flies away to consider other options. Ultron goes crazy not knowing whats happening, Dr. Doom does not want to fight and Galactus is more curious about forcing the Beyonder to just grant his wish now. Then the villains attack. That’s pretty much chapter one. The series runs on high for the first few issues with big battles, allegiances, paybacks and more. You got the X-Men cutting out because they don’t feel like they belong with the other heroes (can’t blame them, a few of the other heroes hold prejudice against the mutants. You can see it in how they act toward them.). There some odd bits early on with a couple of new villains in Titania and Volcana which makes little sense until later on when you find out Beyonder took part of Denver and put it into Battleworld which gave them room for the Julia Carpenter Spider-Woman.
There is a lot of room in Secret Wars for the team to tell what is a War. There are skirmishes, inner team turmoil, and various twists and turns. A lot of the best stuff is focused on Dr. Doom and his schemes. Doom is pretty much the glue that keeps the story together for the first ten issues but kind of overstays his welcome in the last two, but to be honest the last two issues are boring in comparison to what comes first. Doom uses Galactus and Klaw, the master of sound, for his giant plan in stealing the Beyonders powers. Its like he orders the other villains onto jobs more to distract the heroes from his real intent. Its clever but after Doom wins we’re just waiting around for Doom to lose. Which of course he does because they didn’t let him keep all that power.
Other than Doom the story around Molecule Man is interesting, especially really embracing his incredible powers and his relationship with Volcana. Hell, the heroes for the most part are boring. They try giving them more to do whether its Thing being able to shift back and forth or the various relationship situations with an alien named Zsaji. There is the small stuff with the X-Men aligning with Magneto after leaving the heroes before going back to work with them. A little bit here and there but they are not really the best thing in this book. Except when they’re hitting people or planning to hit people. The villains are the true stars.
The story is simple and straight forward and while it does not break any ground in superhero comics it still is better than most major event comics. It’s not overwritten like Crisis on Infinite Earths (Marv Wolfman knows how to bog down a beautiful page with caption boxes, word balloons, and thought balloons) and it is not out to make a grand statement on comics or reinvent the company. Its a superhero vs supervillain story. Its fun, action packed though the dialogue is pretty stilted or old fashion but the plotting and pacing for the most part still holds up.
Mike Zeck handles most the art with Bob Layton handling a few and a handful of inkers joining them. Its mixed results. Some of the pages look big and grand, others do not. Comparing the art to COIE it does not hold up because George Perez knows how to populate multiple panels with dozens of characters. These artists are really good at that only in splash pages or big panels. Most the time it looks good when focus on a small number of heroes. Does not have the best detail. All that said, the action is clear and the characters move with urgency. Its a fun looking 80s comic book.
I dig this book and my trade is beat up enough for you to know I’ve read this baby several times. While I got some issues, and still find the climax fizzles out, the start and middle hit hard. Just straight up fun.If you like big event superhero crossovers, check this baby out as its one of the first. If you don’t like big superhero events-maybe not unless you’re curious about superhero history. This one and COIE changed the game in comics.