Collecting: Secret Wars # 1-12
Original Release Date: 1984-1985
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Character(s): The Avengers, X-Men, Spider-Man, Galactus, Dr. Doom
Writer: Jim Shooter (The Avengers, Harbinger, Secret Wars II)
Art: Mike Zeck (The Punisher, Master of Kung-Fu) and Bob Layton (Iron Man, The Amazing Spider-Man)
SCORECARD (each category ranked on a 10-point scale):Storyline – 6 Art – 6 Captivity and Length – 6 Identity – 8 Use of Medium – 8 Depth – 7 Fluidity – 7 Intrigue/Originality – 9 The Little Things – 6 Overall awesomeness – 7
Going into both the classic and current Secret Wars series, I had no idea what to expect other than the normal rather cheesy and campy Marvel crossover we see so often these days; special events in comics have become when a comic from the big two can go five issues without a tie-in to a major event going on at the time. Crossovers although mean well, usually never come out the way anyone wanted them too, and even though Secret Wars has been remembered as one of the top Marvel Events in history, it did happen all because Marvel wanted to sell a new action figure line from Mattel featuring all their heroes. This was so obvious that there are variant covers to current Secret Wars titles, featuring what the original action figure boxes looked like with characters not included within the original story line i.e. Deadpool and Star-Lord.
The actual graphic novel is a collection of issues 1-12 – the original run of Secret Wars. And let me tell you, it is quite the beast of a book to get through. With the age of these books, we can assume the style and writing is very different to current books and, man, can I attest to that.
The writing from Jim Shooter here is great, and we are given a very original and well thought out idea. But it also suffers from being very wordy at times and often sounds a little like a kid wrote a two-page paper and found out it needed to be three pages, so he quickly threw in filler comments and words to make it longer but not any better. I think most of the writing problem came up because this sort of thing had not been done at all. Mixing two teams together, The Avengers and The X-Men, seems like an incredibly easy task when you figure this current Secret Wars encompasses all of Marvel as well as a second universe with the same heroes.
I feel for the time this book was released, Jim Shooter was likely doing really well by Marvel and Mattel, and the writing had not been nearly as wordy back then, so as far as writing goes, time was not too kind on it, but the overall idea and plot definitely shine through to make this a special event.
As far as the actual story, it jumps around a lot at what is exactly going on; basically, you have the Avengers and the X-Men, who are allies but very separate teams all against a main foe. During the 12 issues, it jumps from an actual group of villains to Doctor Doom to the Beyonder, back to Doctor Doom, with random sampling of Magneto and Galactus thrown in there. They never last long and then usually the fight ends up being stupid and they stop. All and all, though, it is about everyone fighting each other while also trying to figure out how in the name of Uatu they will get off this planet. The story melds well, and overall flows much better than the current run of Secret Wars, but this original reminds me a little too much of the stupid stories I would make while playing with all my toys on my desk as a child, just with much larger words. That’s not to say the story isn’t enjoyable; it did bring us some pretty iconic images and changes to the Marvel universe including a new Spider-Woman, the debut of Spider-Man’s black suit and a major change in the Fantastic Four.
Secret Wars didn’t just bring us a 12 issue epic and toys that inspired the whole thing, but it gave us the black suit Spider-Man, which brought us a major change and one of the if not the most popular arc in Spider-Man with him dealing with the symbiote and it eventually becoming Venom. Initially, it seemed like a cheap ploy, especially when we are introduced to the black-suited Spider-Woman not that far ahead of this costume change – Spider-Man even jokes about it on the novel. But with the new additions to spidey alone, we knew somethings would have to change and with that within the last few pages, we learn that Ben Grimm is going to stay in Battleworld, as it has given him the power to change back and forth from The Thing by choice. Consequentially, Ben recruits She-Hulk to replace him in the Fantastic Four for awhile and this was a change a bit hard for me to take as a massive Thing fan. It is fortunate I also happen to be a huge She-Hulk fan, so it works out.
The art of this series is really what sold it for me, and if you read the updated digital versions for the TPB and hardcover collections of this, they look fantastic. Mike Zeck and Bob Layton did a fantastic job of making sure the series stay fluid as far as art went and although overlapping in which they work with Mike taking issues #1-3 & #6-12 and Bob only doing issues #4 & #5. But the switch is seamless which, although it takes drawing a character in their style away from them, for major events like this, it was nice to have the art not drastically change each issue. With this series, we get a one of the last good looks at how Marvel was before the major shift in the 90’s which brought about a ton of new costumes, teams, characters and changes to the ones we love. Much like Secret Wars seems a good place as any to travel to for a major relaunch involving everything popular from Marvel since the original Secret Wars, So far, I would say the original was planned out better and more fluid despite also never really finding it’s place. Ultimately, Secret Wars Vol. 1 is an enjoyable read and can give you small hints of what is happening or why in the current Secret Wars, but, like so many other Marvel events, it falls flat and lacks any real substance; any danger is easily brushed off and forgotten which made for way to many conflicts with not much results. Secret Wars is a great piece of historical literature, but Marvel has offered many more and much better stories through the years that should get as much recognition as this.
All media credited to Marvel Comics