Welcome back to Comic Book Classics Revisited! Today, we’re looking at the second issue of the event that basically started all others, Secret Wars. Let’s jump right in, shall we?
When we last left the series, the heroes and villains have arrived in separate vessels doubling as their own fortresses on a strange, patchwork planet named Battleworld. Doctor Doom wanted to learn more about the powers possessed by the strange, godlike entity known only as the Beyonder. The heroes were perplexed by Magneto’s inclusion in their ranks. The Hulk seems smarter than he should be. The X-Men and the other heroes aren’t exactly getting along. All anyone knows for certain is that the Beyonder has promised the victors’ greatest desires be granted as long as they slay their enemies. In the closing pages of issue #1, Magneto grew tired of defending his placement with the heroes and took off, Doom tried to talk sense into the villains only to be blasted out of the sky near the heroes’ fortress, and after he set out on his own, the villains were attacking the heroes at full force.
That’s exactly where this second issue picks up. None of that tie-in crap that shows more to the action than what the main book can give us (or will give us in order for us to buy tie-ins). We’re at war! The villains attack brutally, but early on, you can see they are not terribly organized. Dr. Octopus tries to suggest an attack plan, but is immediately hushed by Wrecker who just tells him to shaddup and rip into these jerks (not exactly but you get my drift). The heroes find their weapons being used, as provided by the Beyonder, are quite powerful as some of the heavy hitters are laid low by the initial chance. Spotting their disjointed attack, Cap quickly calls the heroes into action. However, the weapons continue to put the heroes on their heels.
Meanwhile, Doctor Doom, believed dead by the villains, reflects on the events up to this point. Here we get a little bit of a flashback to the Beyonder’s power preventing him and Galactus to approach him, but also his attempts to find others to help him try to understand that power instead of going to war with the belief the victor would reap amazing spoils. Doom tries to speak to Galactus, who has regained consciousness after being knocked out by the Beyonder. After Galactus ignores Doom, Doom’s left to try to figure out his next move – join the war, or set out on his own path. While inside the villains’ fortress, Doom finds the body of Ultron (sucked of his energy by Galactus in the last issue) and devises a plan.
Back at the battle, the heroes, working in a much more coordinated way than the villains, start to turn the tide. Particularly with Hulk, Thor, and She-Hulk able to take out most of the heaviest of villains, they eventually win and take what knocked out enemies prisoner. (I can’t go any further without bringing up a particularly crappy line from She-Hulk after knocking out the Enchantress. After a little bit of banter, the finishing line from She-Hulk is “Oh, wow! That was, like tubular, you know — to the max!” That was a real line, and it sucked. Okay, moving on.)
Once the battle is done, the heroes look for shelter which leads them to a fortress of their own of massive size. The fortress includes a prison that uses a device that modulates brainwaves to remove aggression, a sick bay that has a cell regenerator to heal wounds, a large dome (on the 451st floor – no joke), and a lot of other bells and whistles similar to what the villains’ fortress provides. Cap dishes out chores and orders, but some question why they aren’t pushing their advantage over the weakened villain army.
In another fortress, Magneto observes the planet alone. He’s reflecting on the possibility that his thoughts, needs, and feelings aren’t too much different from the regular human. Back at the villains’ fortress, Doom greets the returning, defeated villains and tells them he’s taking the lead. When they attempt to oppose him, he wins them over thanks to his new pet – a revived Ultron powered by alien energies and completely loyal to Doom. Doom shows particular kindness to Molecule Man. Others come to the conclusion that while Molecule Man is particularly cowardly, he’s more powerful than the other villains combined, so it might be a good idea to be nice to him. Dr. Octopus, who intended on being in charge, wants to know what Doom’s plans are and where Galactus is. For the latter, Doom shows Galactus on a view screen and he’s just standing on top of a mountain some 4,000 miles away. For the former, Doom tells Ock that he simply plans to win through force of will leaving Ock suspicious if Doom’s goals are best for the others.
That night, Magneto enters the heroes’ fortress in search of the power core for the entire fortress. Within one area of the fortress, She-Hulk and Wasp discuss their worries about the entire situation. In another area, Reed Richards and Cyclops are talking about arriving on the planet (which includes some continuity fixes for when the characters arrived vs. when they left at the end of the issues they were last seen – including discussion of how the Beyonder “fixed” little things that seemed to be wrong or missing… Clever, Mr. Shooter.).
Magneto creates a diversion in the power core dome and brings the heroes to him. Whatever his plan was, it “wasn’t working out”, but he presses on leaving the heroes to clean up the mess he created by damaging some of the equipment around the power core. As the Wasp chases after Magneto, he captures her and makes off with her back to his fortress. As the Thing chases on foot, he’s suddenly reverted back to his plain ol’ Ben Grimm human mode from before the Fantastic Four’s accident that gave them their powers. Some of the heroes notice that the X-Men were nowhere to be found when Magneto attacked. That’s quickly sidelined as Cap and Richards show that Galactus is going to be a growing headache in the very near future!
While the first issue gave us a frantic pace to get the story launched, this second issue settles into the real narrative. There are inner conflicts and problems on both sides. The villains are not able to work together and are thus defeated and find half their numbers captured. Doom will lead them from this point out, but there are concerns about whether he has their best interests in mind or if he’s only using them as pawns to his own end. On the other side, the heroes are not quite as happy as you would think. The X-Men and the other heroes are still not getting along fully. Some, even Johnny Storm, are questioning if Captain America is handling things right or not. This will start to play out a little more starting with the next issue.
However, this sets up a thematic situation we’ve seen time and time again and seems almost obligatory in team up books. If the X-Men and the Avengers get together, they don’t like taking orders from the opposite team’s guy or they start off just rumbling before realizing they are there for the same goal. It’s like team pride or something. Like a “be true to your school” kind of idea. If you’re an Avenger, those X-Men jerks are dumb, and the Fantastic Four are just a buncha nerds. It’s a familiar theme that, at Marvel at least, comes across almost as a pissing contest between teams. It creates some funny moments, and in this book, it adds to the overall story, but it’s a trend that I’m kind of glad has gone away outside of actually driven purposes (Civil War, Avengers Vs. X-Men, etc).
But we’ll need to close here because we’ve not yet even gotten to the main issue centering on inner conflict, and the causes for why there is such turmoil on the heroes’ team yet. So, for now, come back on Monday for another Comic Book Classics Revisited as we tackle Secret Wars #3!