Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars: 30th Anniversary Edition


By Jim Shooter, Mike Zeck, Bob Layton, John Beatty & various (Marvel/Panini UK)
ISBN: 978-1-84653-589-5

Has it been thirty years? Cripes!: stir the Horlicks and break out the Zimmer frames…

The “maxi-series” which started the seemingly insatiable modern passion for vast, braided mega-crossover publishing events originally came about because of an impending action figures licensing deal with toy manufacturing monolith Mattel.

Marvel Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter, a great advocate of tales accessible to new, younger readers as well as the dedicated fan-base, apparently concocted the rather simplistic but amazingly engaging saga starring the House of Ideas’ top characters as a result of urgings from a potential major licensor. He then built his tale around a torrent of unsolicited, inspirational mail from readers, all begging for one huge dust-up between all the heroes and villains…

The 12-issue Limited Series launched with a May 1984 cover-date and closed (April 1985) with a double-sized blockbusting battle that left many characters changed forever – or as least as “Forever” as comics get…

The premise of the secret saga was that an all-powerful force calling itself The Beyonder abducted an army of Earth heroes and villains – and the most dreaded destroyer in the universe – in its quest to understand the emotion of desire…

The enigmatic, almighty entity dumped them all on a colossal purpose-built Battleworld created from and populated with fragments of other planets as a vast arena in which to prove which was better – self-gratification or sacrifice…

In his introductory reminiscence ‘The War to End All Wars’, Shooter recounts the concatenation of circumstances which led to the creation of the series, after which an tantalising page clipped from the Daily Bugle outlines the mounting mystery of a seemingly unconnected legion of missing heroes before the furious Fights ‘n’ Tights epic opens…

As crafted by Shooter, Mike Zeck & John Beatty, ‘The War Begins’ found the Avengers, X-Men and Fantastic Four, Magneto, the Hulk and utterly out-of-his-depth Spider-Man all teleported into the deep unknown to see a galaxy destroyed and a world constructed before their astounded eyes. This was achieved purely so that a cosmic force could determine which of two philosophies was correct.

Arrayed against them were Doctor Doom, Molecule Man, Ultron, Dr. Octopus, the Lizard, the Enchantress, Absorbing Man, Kang the Conqueror, the Wrecking Crew and Galactus, all of whom had no problem with a disembodied voice telling them “slay your enemies and all you desire shall be yours”…

Whilst the villains instantly turn on each other, the Devourer of Worlds doesn’t care for the offer and attacks the disembodied force, only to be smashed casually and unceremoniously onto the brand new world below. The heroes too touch ground but dissent starts to split them into suspicious factions. The mere presence of mutant supremacist Magneto on their “team” divides the champions along human and mutant lines…

Elsewhere Doctor Doom tries to explain the underlying threat to his fellow villains in the huge super-scientific citadel they have commandeered, but the rogues refuse to listen.

Exasperated, the Monarch of Latveria decides to swallow his pride and consult with despised rival Mr. Fantastic but is blasted out of the skies by his greedy, treacherous companions before he finds the heroes’ camp. The bushwhackers then rashly go on to attack the gathered Good Guys… and The War begins…

‘Prisoners of War!’ sees the first of many pitched battles, but as the cataclysmic conflict proceeds, elsewhere Doom, having survived the sneak attack, is on site to see Galactus revive and ominously repair to a mountain top to begin his own unique response…

Leaving the cosmic glutton to his own devices, the Iron Tyrant returns to the fortress of evil; dubbing it Doombase as he reprograms the dormant AI Ultron to be his slave.

He is waiting when the thoroughly trounced malefactors limp home, having lost the Lizard, Enchantress, Kang and Thunderball, Bulldozer and Piledriver of the Wrecking Crew to the heroes.

The triumphant yet troubled victors have occupied their own city-sized futuristic castle-complex where, after imprisoning their captives, they soon return to bickering with each other. The suspicions of some human heroes quickly drives Magneto away – taking the Wasp as a hostage – but even as the remaining mutants begin to feel the weight of prejudice, bigger problems manifest.

As the rocky Thing unexpectedly reverts to merely mortal Ben Grimm, on his distant mountain top Galactus is preparing to consume Battleworld…

The suspense builds in ‘Tempest Without, Crisis Within!’

As the master of magnetism discusses a truce with the Wasp, in the hero citadel Spider-Man misconstrues an overheard conversation and accidentally sparks a schism between human and mutants.

Whilst the webslinger and Hulk remain with Reed Richards, The Thing, Human Torch, Captain America, Thor, Iron Man (unknown to all Jim Rhodes not Tony Stark), Hawkeye, Captain Marvel and She-Hulk, the much-aggrieved X-Men Storm, Cyclops, Rogue, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Wolverine and diminutive space-dragon Lockheed follow increasingly doctrinaire Charles Xavier’s demands to separate from the assemblage and join Magneto…

Doom meanwhile has used his fortress’ alien technology to turn two mysteriously-arrived earth girls into super-powered allies. When his remaining forces attack the heroes at dawn, the power of Volcana and Titania tips the balance against the defenders, deprived as they are of the might of the now-missing mutants…

Thor too is gone. Having journeyed with the captive Enchantress to a pocket dimension – hoping to persuade her to switch sides – he returns too late to stop the felons freeing their comrades and crippling the Torch and Captain Marvel…

Bob Layton stepped in to pencil the next two chapters, beginning with ‘Situation: Hopeless!’ wherein the resurgent rogues move to end the war by having Molecule Man drop an entire mountain range on the already-reeling heroes. Trapped under 50 billion tons of rock – only barely held up by the Atlas-like Hulk – the heroes are rallied to hold on by Captain America whilst Reed and Iron Man devise a technological solution to their dilemma.

Outside, Thor’s unexpected return almost overwhelms the exultant evildoers, but he too is eventually destroyed…

As the dust settles, Doom kills the newly liberated Kang (for shooting him down as he flew to confer with Richards), blithely unaware that Thor has survived and escaped to rescue his buried comrades…

In another quadrant, as the X-Men arrive at Magneto’s bastion – giving the Wasp a chance to escape – the recently disinterred heroes find an alien village in the shadow of Galactus’ peak where a comely healer named Zsaji uses her empathic abilities to heal the battered, wounded warriors from Earth…

However even as Ben unpredictably becomes the Thing again, Galactus makes his next move…

Above the skies of Battleworld, the Devourer’s solar system sized starship materialises, signalling ‘The Battle of Four Armies!’ At Doombase meek, socially inept Molecule Man Owen Reece is starting to blossom under the romantic attentions of Marsha Rosenberg AKA Volcana and, after being teased and bullied by the Wrecking Crew, smashes them all and flies off to be alone with her.

Whilst Magneto and Xavier attempt to communicate with the disdainfully oblivious Galactus, the X-Men speed to assist the human heroes against an outlaw assault on Zsaji’s village. In the melee Colossus is gravely injured and only saved by the healer’s intervention.

For him it is true love at first sight…

Oblivious to the conflict Doom, meanwhile, has again accomplished the impossible and invaded Galactus’ ship…

Zeck returned for ‘A Little Death…’ in which the Wasp, frantically making her way back to her friends, encounters and befriends the savage, confused Lizard.

Thousand of miles above her, Doom’s explorations have led him to find and restore sonic scourge Klaw. The malign, sentient sound wave had been trapped in the system-ship for months but although reconstituted in a solid-vibrational body construct, the Master of Sound is completely crazy….

Xavier’s confrontational leadership style is causing contention amongst his students and Colossus is having his heart broken every time he sees Zsaji fawn and simper over the shallow, lustful – human – Torch…

As Captain America and the big brains strategise ways to stop Galactus, Cyclops, Wolverine and Rogue unexpectedly rout a pack of bad guys on a mission for Doom which leaves the nigh-omnipotent Molecule bleeding out. Elsewhere, however, the fates are less kind when the Wasp, still cosying up to the Lizard, is ambushed and murdered by the Wrecking Crew.

The primordial predator is unable to save her, but his vengeance is terrible to behold…

And back at the Healer’s village a new player is about to enter the fray…

‘Berserker!’ introduces a new Spider-Woman and reveals where Titania and Volcana came from. Whilst assembling his war world The Beyonder appropriated segments of many other planets, including an entire suburb of Denver, Colorado from Earth…

Before the enigmatic arachnid can explain further the Wreckers blaze in to dump the Wasp’s corpse and gloat, but the Star Spangled Avenger refuses to let his enraged comrades pursue the killers. He needs everyone to stay ready for the moment when Galactus starts to eat the planet and the billions of kidnapped innocents unhappily inhabiting it…

As the villains retreat with the wounded Molecule Man they are ambushed by the rest of the X-Men and Magneto, resulting in another savage yet inconclusive battle, whilst high above them all Doom continues to plunder Galactus’ home. When the World Eater finally notices him, the Master of Latveria is casually expelled and sent crashing like a bug to the planet below …

Back at Doombase She-Hulk, filled with righteous rage and ignoring Cap’s orders, attacks the amassed murderers alone. After a ferocious fight she eventually succumbs to their greater force and ruthless brutality…

So when Xavier informs the heroes that his mutants will stand guard over Galactus, the Sentinel of Liberty at last lets his enraged comrades loose to take on the killers and live up to the name “Avengers”…

She-Hulk is near death when ‘Invasion!’ (inked by Beatty & Jack Abel) opens, as the champions of justice thrash their enemies with great enthusiasm, especially the enigmatic new Spider-Woman. In the course of the spectacular melee, Spider-Man single-handedly beats the impossibly strong Titania and his costume is destroyed.

As they imprison the crushed criminals, Captain America finds Doom, slumped in defeat and despair. Whilst the triumphant heroes use matter-shaping machines to repair their clothing and uniforms, the Wall-crawler accidentally uses a different device and receives a new all-black costume similar to Spider-Woman’s…

His, however, can change shape, colour and design, is thought-activated and somehow produces an inexhaustible supply of webbing. In the days to come on Earth he will learn to deeply regret his error…

Back in the village Zsaji has pulled out all the stops and resurrected the seemingly dead Wasp, but any joy the victors might feel is instantly erased as Professor X broadcasts a desperate telepathic alarm: Galactus is at last beginning to consume the planet…

As the X-Men begin their ‘Assault on Galactus!’ the human heroes rush back to assist them, but Reed Richards – the greatest intellect on Earth – suddenly has a flash of insight and vanishes as the Devourer teleports him to a private conference.

At that moment Doom rouses himself from his despondent funk, having conceived a grand plan of his own to conquer both Galactus and The Beyonder, erasing forever the humiliation of his ignominious defeat…

Due in part to his discussion with Reed, the Cosmic Carnivore abandons Battleworld and instead absorbs his own system-ship…

In the confusion Doom makes his move, using a hastily constructed device to absorb all the omnipotent instigator’s power and deal out ‘Death to the Beyonder!’

Despite being all but incinerated in the struggle, the Iron Tyrant uses the stolen energies to rebuild himself and declare the Secret War over with Doom the sole victor…

In ‘…And Dust to Dust!’, having successfully stolen the Beyonder’s power, he exults in the joys of becoming omnipotent. However the troubled new god finds it hard to hang on to lust for conquest, or even personal ambition after achieving all-consuming divinity, and his benign acts and vapid indolence betray a certain lack of drive and ambition…

With heroes and villains nervously awaiting the new supreme one’s next move, events take a subtly disturbing turn as a strange energy wisp begins to possess a succession of heroes as it makes its way ever closer to the Doom Deity…

The other do-gooders remain deep in conference, debating their response to the self-proclaimed saviour of the universe. At the moment they finally decide to oppose him they are all vaporised by a bolt of energy…

Of course it doesn’t end there as the resurgent Beyonder battles through heroic and villainous proxies to reclaim his purloined power and put everything to rights – sort of – in the blockbusting finale ‘…Nothing to Fear!’

Although perhaps a little dated and rather straightforward – although peppered with plenty of convoluted and clever plot twists – this bombastic box of delights still reads exceedingly well (especially for younger readers) and this commemorative edition also includes a couple of added extras.

‘The Toys’ features many of the action figures, packaging and ads for all us kids to salivate over and the whole show concludes with scholarly overview ‘The Birth and Legacy of Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars’ which rounds off the cosmic nostalgia-fest by discussing the secret origins of mega-crossovers from crucial prototype Marvel Super Hero Contest of Champions to a few of the more memorable descendants such as Civil War, Age of Ultron and Infinity

Fast-paced, pretty-looking and impressively action-packed, Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars was – and still is – sheer comicbook magic that no true aficionado of Fights ‘n’ Tights fiction can do without.

™ & © 1984, 1985, and 2014 Marvel & Subs. Licensed by Marvel Characters B.V. through Panini S.p.A. All rights reserved. A British Edition published by Panini Publishing, a division of Panini UK, Ltd.