Waiting for the Trade – Secret Wars

Waiting for the Trade

Spider-man & the
Secret Wars

by Paul Tobin &
illustrated by Patrick Scherberger & Clayton Henry

collects Spider-man
& the Secret Wars #1-4 (& Secret Wars #1)

 

Why I Bought This: This
miniseries was released to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the
legendary Secret Wars event. I love
that story and am all for a little nostalgia.
 

The Plot: We
revisit key events from Secret Wars
from the perspective of Marvel’s flagship character.

(spoilers below)

 
Chapter 1 – We open on the scene of Hulk holding up a
mountain that the heroes are trapped under. We then cut to earlier that day
where Spidey, Cap and Hulk are scouting and see Enchantress. Spidey notes the
odds seem awfully unfair what with the villains having Enchantress, Molecule
Man and Galactus on their team. He also questions why Magneto and by
implication Hulk where assigned to the heroes. Enchantress spots them and we
get a fight that Hulk wins. Captain Marvel v2.0 shows up to warn them Wrecking
Crew is coming and for some reason Cap and Spidey think they need to retreat.
Later that night Spidey brings his doubts about Hulk to Cap. And now we’re back
under the mountain where Spidey annoys Hulk to make him madder so he can keep
holding up the mountain while Reed devises an escape plan. After they escape
Spidey apologizes to Hulk but Hulk overhead the earlier conversation between
Spidey and Cap and tells Spidey off.

Chapter 2 – We open on Spidey, Ben Grimm and Dr. Doom giving
an inspirational speech to the citizens of Denver in preparation of repelling an alien
attack. Rewind to a day earlier where Spidey and Ben (sans Thing powers) have
installed holographic projectors so that Reed can tell the citizens what has
happened and calm their fears. A local family offers the heroes dinner and in
the process alerts them to a nearby rampaging alien barbarian horde they call
the Spindles. The horde was previously driven off by Lockheed the dragon whose
has been guarding the town ever since. They also learn Doom has been visiting Denver the last few days
primarily to meet with two local women. Spidey follows Doom for afternoon and
he does not seem to be doing anything nefarious. Doom discovers him and Grimm
and tells them flat out what he is up to: Doombase has machines that can grant
superpowers and he is looking for recruits among the populace. While they are
talking Reed radios in that the Spindles are coming and Doom volunteers to help
the heroes protect the city since he has yet to finish his own mission here.
Back where we started with Lockheed fighting alongside Spidey and the others. It
seems the aliens may overrun them but in the end the heroes and Doom turn them
back with Doom even saving a helpless kid in the process. Doom also recruits
two women who fought hard despite being ineffectual. The heroes let Doom and
the women depart (who will become Titania and Volcanna) and celebrate with the
citizens. 

Chapter 3 – We flashback to the battle of all the heroes
fighting Galactus. Reed warns everyone that fighting Galactus causes you to
experience time and reality differently (which has never happened before but
whatever). As a result we get various flashbacks from Spidey’s life (Gwen,
Uncle Ben, MJ, Felicia, etc) intercut with him running up a hill and talking to
Enchantress, who serves as his alternate reality tour guide. Then Spidey gets a
glimpse of the future which leads to a few pages foreshadowing Venom (as
Spidey acquires the Black Costume right before the Galactus battle). The issue
ends with the heroes chasing Galactus off and Spidey wondering what it all
means.

Chapter 4 – We’re joining in to when Doom acquired the
Beyonder’s power. We then get a glimpse of an alternate reality where Peter has
the Beyonder’s power. He uses them to stop crime and improve the city but Uncle
Ben keeps dying on him though with the Beyonder power he keeps resurrecting
him. Doom reveals to Klaw that he subconsciously sent a fraction of the power
to Spidey and Wolverine to keep him grounded in reality. This leads to Spidey
and Wolverine fighting monsters on another planet until they realize they are
in the Beyonder-verse. We do get some neat narration from Doom on how he
was able to defeat the Beyonder due to the nature of the Beyonder’s power.
Pete’s alternate reality from the start of the chapter then fades as Doom
claims all of the power. He also mind-wipes the events from Spidey and
Wolverine’s memories.  

Bonus Chapter (The first issue of the original Secret Wars) – We open on a satellite in
deep space containing the best of Earth’s heroes: Spidey, Hulk, the FF, the
Avengers, the X-men and Magneto. Next we second satellite filled with the worst
villains: Enchantress, Ultron, Absorbing Man, the Wrecking Crew, Kang, Lizard,
Galactus, Dr. Octopus, Molecule Man and Dr, Doom. The heroes question why
Magneto is on their ship when the Beyonder reveals himself for the first time.
He destroys a galaxy, builds a planet and lays down the rules of his game “slay
your enemies and you desire shall be yours.” Ultron uses the cue to attack
anything living in his satellite until Galactus snuffs him out with a flick of
his finger. Galactus attacks the Beyonder as Doom follows him but they are
easily repelled. The satellites land. The heroes refuse to work with Magneto
then elect Cap as their leader. The villains ask Doom to fill the same role but
Doom has no interest in playing the Beyonder’s game. Doom attempts to seek out
the heroes but is shot down by Kang. We end on the villain army attacking the
hero army.

 
Critical Thoughts:
This is hard one to evaluate. It would almost be like ranking the DVD deleted
scenes and extras of a collector’s edition separate from the movie. I think it
accomplished what it sets out to do: namely give us a sort expanded (yet
unessential) look at Secret Wars for
the 25th anniversary. If you like the original story you’ll probably
enjoy this too but it is by no means anywhere near the quality of the original
(and that becomes really obvious when you read the bonus chapter from the original
series). 

Generally I liked the first two chapters better than the
last two. I thought the first chapter focusing on Cap-Hulk-Spidey had a nice
classic feel to it. Those three heroes were clearly Marvel’s biggest mainstream
crossover stars at the time the original series was winning. I think Spidey
feeling out of his depth at thought of facing Enchantress, Molecule Man or
Galactus especially since back then he didn’t do cosmic stories or team up with
the Avengers all that often. I don’t understand why Spidey and Cap think they
need to retreat from the Wrecking Crew. Spidey had faced the individual members
of the Wrecking Crew in his solo title in the past and done just fine with Cap,
Hulk and Captain Marvel there they should mop the floor with those guys but I’m
quibbling again.

Chapter 2 is probably my favorite chapter because it is new
material (a deleted scene as it were as opposed to an extended version of an
existing scene.) It’s a really good Doctor Doom chapter showing his nobility
and honor, while also showing Spidey and Grimm’s heroism. I also like that we
see how and why Titania and Volcanna were recruited since in the original story
they do just show up out of nowhere.

Chapter 3 is the weakest chapter by far. I get why you want
to make a big deal out of the Black Costume since that was the big Spidey
development in the original story and then Venom went on to become super
popular but the dialogue of foreshadowing is clunky and the time-shifting plot
device is just something they pulled out of the butt. I’ve read plenty of
Galactus stories and none of this reality shift nonsense has ever been part of
them. That chapter four doubles down on the alternate reality silliness does
the book no favors but at least that chapter has an interesting explanation
from Doom on how the Beyonder’s power works and why he was able to win.

 

Grade C.

Waiting for the Trade Dr Doom vs the Avengers

Waiting for the Trade

Emperor Doom

by David Michelinie
and Bob Hall

Why I Bought This: So
this is an original graphic novel from the 80s that I had never seen or even
heard of until about a year ago when something on the Internet referenced it
and I was like that sounds interesting. I eventually tracked it down on Amazon
in fair condition for $15.

 

The Plot: Dr.
Doom successfully conquers the world by releasing a mind control contaminant
into the atmosphere. Wonder Man, who is made of living energy and doesn’t
breathe, proves to be immune. He has to find a way to get through his Avengers
teammates and save the day.

Spoilers below:

 

Since this is an original graphic novel there are no chapters/issue breaks but here are the
main beats:

 

Purple Man—a street level villain with a pheromone based
mind control power–is doing his thing when he is abducted by an unseen hand.

Namor, at this time apparently still an outlaw, meets with
Dr. Doom in a NY restaurant. Doom proposes renewing their partnership (from the
70s comic Super Villain Team Up). He
explains he has channeled Purple Man’s power into an amulet and proposes to
power up a larger version to conquer the world. He offers to let Namor rule the
oceans in return for his help (Namor apparently has been exiled from Atlantis
again). Specifically wants Namor to attach control discs on artificial life
forms that are immune to Purple Man’s power. Namor agrees.

At the West Coast Avengers compound Tony Stark puts Wonder
Man into stasis for 30 days so they can better understand his ionic energy
makeup.

At Avengers Mansion Namor attaches a control disc to Vision
after he uses the small amulet to threaten Wanda’s life so that Vision
surrenders. However Vision is able to get an SOS off to the West Coast team
beforehand.

Namor subsequently tracks down Machine Man and Ultron and
attaches discs to them as well.

The West Coast team storm Doom’s island where he holding
Purple Man but are unable to defeat him before he powers up the larger crystal
and takes control of their minds as well as the planet. Doom also betrays Namor
by using the smaller amulet he’s been wearing to fight the robots to take
control of him too.

We see what the Earth is like under Doom’s rule. Generally
he improves things including solving the famines of Africa,
brining an end to war and crime, ending apartheid and increasing prosperity for
many.

Thirty days later Wonder Man wakes up. He is kind of shocked
to see Tony and Cap talk about the honor of serving the “emperor.” When he sees
Doom leading a parade in New York
he attempts to alert his teammates and they attack him. He narrowly escapes
only to become a fugitive across the entire world with mobs of citizens hunting
where he goes.

Doom meanwhile has grown bored of ruling a world of people
who never question him and hopes Wonder Man will provide with a diversion.

More time passes as Wonder Man has been wondering the land
disguised as a drifter. He seriously considers letting Doom rule considering
that people seem happy and things seem to be improved. But a chance encounter
with a blind woman in the woods reminds him of the value of freedom and he
decides he has to bring Doom down.

He subsequently investigates and discovers how Doom did it
and that Daredevil and Kingpin proved in the past that those with exceptional
willpower can shake off Purple Man’s power. With that knowledge Wonder Man
decides Cap is his best bet and indeed armed with video footage of Doom’s past
misdeeds Cap frees himself. Cap suggests Hawkeye, Wasp and Iron Man are the
only other teammates that are likely to shake off Doom’s spell because all of
their powers on heightened concentration. His faith is rewarded thought Tony
proves a little harder to convince than the others. Hawkeye disobeys Cap and
tries to free his wife but she sends out an alert to Doom.

The five heroes quickly storm Doom’s island and fight his
way through various robots. Wasp sneaks into where Purple Man is held but Namor
catches her. However she is able to blast a nearby aquarium and being doused
with water frees Namor as well. Doom has a chance to flood the room with
knockout gas but decides not to because he is bored running this world. Namor
smashes the crystal killing Purple Man in the process. Doom flees before the
Avengers can stop him. As the world reverts to normal (i.e. war, crime, discrimination
and poverty) the Avengers debate whether they did the right thing.
 

Critical Thoughts: This
is a decent but not great, and I feel like it had the potential to be better. 

I was always a big fan of the West Coast Avengers book so it is nice to see them featured with
the East Coast team in the supporting role. This is also a nice reminder of how
Wonder Man was presented as an A-list player back in the 80s. He’s an
interesting character choose for the man alone against the world plot because
he is not the inspirational leader or scientific genius or even the maverick
many of the other Avengers are. He is really is something of an everyman in
terms of personality. His power-set is strong enough to fight these odds but
he’s not the guy you would typically call on and that shows in his doubts in
the middle on whether the world is better under Doom.

The 30 days in stasis and waking up to complete changed
world is also a good plot device. In fact the Avengers Assemble cartoon lifted it for an episode only with Vision
in Wonder Man’s place, and it worked there too.

I think plot with Doom being bored with victory, while
somewhat in character is sort of the easy way to go. It’s not a completely
original idea either as I’ve see it played out in other genres. I’m just not
sure I fully buy it for Doom because he has ruled Latveria for years so he
should be used to a certain amount of day to day administrative decision making
already. I also did not like Doom betraying Namor as there is a longstanding
portrayal of Doom as a man who keeps his word. It also makes the fact that
later writers have kept the Doom-Namor alliance intact kind of absurd.

I’m not familiar with Namor from this era but his brutality
is a bit surprising as he seems willing to kill a hostage in the scene with
Vision. I also feel like there has to be more than just three robots to
override on the planet—if it’s the 80s I would think off the top of my head
Warlock and Nimrod are wandering around the X-books but I understand this is an
Avengers story hence why even the FF don’t appear despite their obvious
connection to Doom, so that’s just a quibble.

Of course I like that Cap is the first one to shake off
Doom’s effects. I think it’s interesting these same Avengers are ones Busiek
chose when he did the “Morgan Conquest” arc where she conquered the world by
magic and only a few heroes had the stuff to see through—although in that story
Iron Man is the one hero unable to shake it off.
 

Grade B-. It
didn’t fully live up to the potential of the concept but overall it is worth
reading.

 

Waiting for the Trade – Fantastic Four

Waiting for the Trade
By Bill Miller
Fantastic Four Visionaries vol. 2
by John Byrne.
Collects Fantastic Four 241 – 250.
Why I Bought This: This was actually the last of my recent library rentals. In this case I picked the cover promises a famous fight between the FF and Gladiator (a character clearly designed as a stand-in for Superman) that I’ve wanted to read since the Marvel Handbooks in the late 80s talked about it. In fact a couple years ago I purchased The Trial of Galactus trade knowing it involved the FF and the Shi’ar and was disappointed the Gladiator fight was not part of it.

The Plot: John Byrne wrote (and drew) many consider the second greatest FF run ever after Lee and Kirby. The Visionaries series is collecting his entire run sequentially in about 10 issue junks. There are at least four volumes so far and probably more to come. As such there is no overriding plot in this issue. It several stories that are either one or two issues in length. A brief overview then is as follows:
Chapter 1 – SHIELD sends the FF (along with Torch’s current love interest Nova—the daughter of the creator of the original 1940s Human Torch who has flame powers of her own and not the more well-known male cosmic hero whose had three or four short-lived solo titles) to Wakanda where they along with the Black Panther discover an ancient Roman soldier with omnipotent powers courtesy of an alien artifact that he’s apparently been hanging on to for a few centuries without making his presence known until now.
Chapter 2 – Evil herald Terrax comes to Earth seeking to escape Galactus’s service. He battles the FF, severely damaging the Baxter Building in the process and then levitates all of Manhattan into orbit, leaving guest stars Thor, Iron Man and Spider-man to contain the collateral damage.
Chapter 3 – Galactus arrives on Earth and with a wave of his hand depowers Terrax and restores Manhattan but then decides to feed on the Earth leading him to battle the FF and Avengers and ultimately Dr. Strange, who wins the day with his magic powers.
Chapter 4 – the FF and Avengers (despite Iron Man’s misgivings) save Galactus, who is now dying of starvation following his defeat last chapter. When he recovers he takes on Nova as his new herald in exchange for agreeing to not eat the Earth.
Chapter 5 – Franklin’s mutant powers age him to adulthood and near omnipotence. In a confused state Franklin battles the FF until Sue gets through to him. He then shuts down his powers and reverts to his normal age but not before telepathically sharing Thing’s deepest secret with Reed.
Chapter 6 – Dr. Doom uses Doombots to battle the FF in an elaborate plan to restore himself to health; apparently as a result of a prior story not in his volume his body was in a coma while his mind was trapped in one of the Puppet Master’s dolls.
Chapter 7 – The FF and Doom restore Doom to the throne of Latveria, which has suffered under the rule of Prince Zorba in Doom’s absence. This is also the first appearance of Kristoff, a character that would become very important later in Byrne’s run.
Chapter 8 –The FF are visiting the Inhumans on the moon when the moon is whisked away by planet-sized aliens. Reed watches everyone die but in the end realizes it is all a dream caused by some funky crystals Triton had discovered at the start of the story and everything is restored to normal.
Chapter 9 – Gladiator is chasing some Skrulls, who trick him into facing the FF. He defeats them with ease only for the X-men to arrive on the final page.
Chapter 10 – Spidey and Cap arrive to aid the FF in their fight with Gladiator while the X-men are revealed to be Skrulls. Once the ruse is uncovered Gladiator takes them off to space.
Critical Thoughts: It’s funny as despite my love of cosmic Marvel, I’ve never been that big a fan of the FF even though they are the fathers of this corner of the Marvel Universe. I don’t dislike them, and in certain stories I can be quite fond of Ben, Sue and Johnny but the team as whole is not my favorite. That said there are some very good stories here but there also some bad ones. I will say however if you were looking to introduce someone to the FF this volume is a near perfect primer on their corner of the Marvel Universe as not only are the core members all featured but you have big stories featuring the top three FF villains in Doom, Galactus and the Skrulls as well as stories featuring their three most common allies in the Inhumans, Black Panther and Spider-man, so this introduces the reader to most of the major players you’ll see in other FF stories.
I’m going to start with the bad for once. All three single issue stories in this volume are almost exactly the same, which is bad both for being awfully redundant in a short period of time and also because it’s not a good story really any of three times Byrne tells it. I’m talking about chapters 1, 5 and 8. In all of them the FF meet an omnipotent entity (Roman soldier, adult Franklin, planet-sized alien) only to win the day and have whatever reality changes said omnipotent entity caused disappear and everything return to how it was before the story started, which begs the question of why bothering telling it to begin with.
Warning spoiler in this paragraph. I also hate Ben’s secret in chapter 5, which is that none of Reed’s cures work because he’s afraid his blind girlfriend Alicia only loves him as the Thing and if he was cured he would lose her. If the point is to give Reed an out for his continued failure to cure Ben, it seems to ignore that a) a real cure should work whether Ben wants it to or not, and b) now Ben is the one who looks bad instead and how is that better? Also, future writers broke Ben and Alicia up (she even married Torch and later dated Silver Surfer; while Ben later dated the second Ms. Marvel) and yet Ben didn’t suddenly revert to human because really it’s a dumb idea to tie his mutagenic condition to his love life thus why would a future writer want to be hampered by such nonsense.
However, there is also a lot of good here in all of the stories that involve the major villains. The Galactus story is the sort of cosmic story I like. While I read it before in the Trial of Galactus trade, it is still good reading. That Terrax can do the impossible and lift Manhattan into orbit and then Galactus takes him down with just a wave of his hand is how you build-up a bad guy as a major threat. Then seeing all the heroes available join the FF in the fight is a nice touch because let’s face it if Galactus is going to eat the planet that should be an all-hands on deck situation. I would complain about Dr. Strange defeating Galactus with a single spell but lets face it Dr. Strange has a history of showing up at the end of impossible fights and being the deus ex machina that solves them (see also Hulk 300 and Avengers Disassembled as other prominent examples).
I do think as a historical note it’s interesting to see only one hero of the combined Avengers-FF roster arguing for letting Galactus die. Sadly if this story was written now I’d bet you’d only have one or two heroes arguing in favor of life—actually that’s pretty much every Bendis Avengers story with high stakes in that the entire cast except Spidey is like let’s kill this dude as that would solve the problem.
The Gladiator story is similar to the Galactus one in that it uses guest stars very well. While the initial fight in chapter 9 is more of a squash match for Gladiator over the FF (which in fairness is how a fight between Superman and them should go, especially as this is the pre-Crisis era). I thought the fight scene in the final chapter was very well drawn/plotted out. Plus [spoiler alert] the Captain America fan in me loves that he’s the one who can stand down Gladiator long enough to enable Reed to execute his defeat; because let’s face it if you could only have two earthbound Marvel heroes to take down any enemy those are the two you want so to me it felt right.
The big surprise is the Doom story. I’m not much of a Doom fan at all; although I have a friend who swears by Doom and argues his case as comics’ best villain quite elegantly. He often cites this story in his arguments and now having read it I can see why. If you want to see Doom as a nuanced villain this is the story to read. Instead of his usual motivations of trying to either kill Reed or take over the world, we see him reclaiming his country, caring for his people and showing that he has a sense of honor. Sure, other writers will say Doom has a sense of honor but they don’t actually back it up—in this story you see it clearly. It is the old adage of show, don’t tell. This may be the best Doom story in an FF book I’ve ever read, for that reason alone this trade is worth checking out.
Of the four core members of the team, I’d say Sue fares the best in this volume, which is hardly surprising as Byrne is the one who evolved her into the Invisible Woman (not Girl) and in many ways her defacto characterization to this day is based on Byrne’s work with the character. Byrne writes Reed’s intellect quite well also, which much like with Doom he does by showing us how smart Reed in his thought balloons and not just saying Reed is the smartest man alive as lesser writers do. I’m not as enamored of his takes on Ben and Johnny, I’ve discussed Ben already and Johnny, while featured less prominently than the others, comes off a melodramatic drama queen in the one story that does affect him on a personal level.
Grade B. That Doom story is an A+. The Galactus and Gladiator stories are both solid B’s. The various single issue omnipotent encounters however are all D-list at best. He’s also only two of four on the characterizations of the core team members, which is why I can’t go hire than a B.