Comic Book Classics Revisited: Secret Wars #3

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Welcome back to Comic Book Classics Revisited!  As week #2 begins, we’re still in the early stages of Marvel’s mega-event, Secret Wars.  So let’s crack open issue #3 and start the annotations of this classic…

As issue #2 ended, the heroes were showing some inner frustrations with working as one cohesive unit with the X-Men not garnering much trust with the other heroes, and some wondering if Captain America is leading the team in the best way possible.  The villains made their first attack, but half their numbers were captured and they had to turn tail in defeat.  When they returned to their base of operations on Battleworld, they find Doctor Doom waiting for them and ready to take the reins and lead the villains – along with his newly revived “pet”, Ultron acting as Doom’s muscle.  Perhaps the two biggest moments was Magneto breaking into the heroes’ base and despite his attempt to create some issues for them failing, he did leave with a captured Wasp and, while in pursuit, the Thing reverted back to human form with no warning!

As issue #3 starts, Magneto is back safely in his remote fortress and admiring a raging storm outside in the patchwork Battleworld planet.  He releases Wasp from his magnetically created ball of metal imprisoning her.  She finds her way to him and they bicker for a bit, but Magneto simply wants to talk.  He’s not looking for her to be a prisoner or something he can bargain with the heroes over.  In fact, he actually starts to hit on Wasp by complimenting her understanding, intelligence, and beauty.  Ol’ Mags sure does know how to pick up the ladies (even if they think of him as a monster).

In the heroes’ base, they are repairing the damages to the power core were done by Magneto.  Some heroes are outside dealing with the storm to make sure it doesn’t cause any issues with the exterior of the base.  Many of the heroes are suffering from doom and gloom of the situation at hand as most are missing their homes and loved ones (in particular, Reed Richards who is missing his pregnant wife, Sue, and their child, Franklin).  Spider-Man decides that he’s going to try to make the best of the situation and stumbles across a room where the X-Men are gathered.  Professor X is calling for the X-Men to leave as they don’t feel like they belong with the others, but despite some tough words from Wolverine, Professor X wants to make sure there is no incident before leaving.  Colossus and Storm can’t help but notice they are treated by the heroes similarly to how they are treated by the masses on Earth.  Professor X decides they need to leave as soon as possible to join with Magneto.  Spidey is discovered and he lets the X-Men know that he not only disapproves but will also rat them out to the others.  Despite the X-Men’s best efforts, Spidey escapes and goes to tell Richards what’s going on, but Professor X recovers in time to make Spidey forget what he saw allowing the X-Men to leave at once without incident.

At Magneto’s lair, Doom proposes an alliance, but Mags declines forcing Doom to consider him an enemy.  As Magneto rejoins Wasp, he continues his suave ways.  After giving the spiel about how they are starting to come to an understanding and how there is electricity between them whenever their eyes meet, he kisses her.  She puts up a minimal fight before giving in.  (Sorry, ladies, this isn’t a particularly great representation of a female here as Wasp gives in easier than soaked toilet paper to start a romance with someone who she pretty much hated not 3 or 4 pages earlier.)

At the villains’ base, now being called Doombase, Doom is looking to increase his numbers to help in the fight against the heroes.  In a lab, there are two women in stasis tubes.  Where they came from, I’ve no idea, but they are there and Doom has plans for them.  (It is later explained they came from a section of Denver that got used as part of Battleworld, but it’s kind of funny that they are just there all of a sudden and not even the other villains have anymore clue to their presence than the reader.)  Doom gives the girls a massive amount of power turning them into the new super villains Titania and Volcana.  Doom introduces them to the rest of the bad guys and soon we see the starts of the relationships ultimately forged between Titania and Absorbing Man and Volcana and Molecule Man that would last well beyond this series.

Back at the heroes’ base, Thor frees the captured and healing Enchantress and they steal away to talk of things that only gods can.  The Hulk is starting to get frustrated over a lack of concentration.  He even quietly gets angry with Captain America ordering him to gather the other heroes now that dawn has broken and the storm has lifted.  Outside, the villains are approaching for an attack just as Cap thought they’d do.  Again, the ferociousness of the villains’ attack put the heroes on their heels.  Titania takes on the Fantastic Four, who escapes thanks to the quick on his feet Human Torch.  In another area of the base, Volcana surprises She-Hulk and knocks her out.  As heroes are taken out one by one, Cap and Hulk begin a retreat to a better defensible place.  With the villains back to full strength and the heroes unable to hold their base, Doom now plans to level the base to nothing!

So with this conclusion, we have a reversal of what we saw in the previous issue.  The villains, under the command of Doctor Doom, have come together not only with better direction but also with new allies with considerable powers in Volcana and Titania.  The heroes are in shambles with the X-Men now gone to join with Magneto, the intelligence (and patience) of the Hulk fading, and general inability to adequately defend their base.

What’s interesting in this issue, besides that reversal of momentum, is how two particular moments would have been handled these days in an event.  First, Thor and Enchantress go off to have some god talk.  How often would a tie-in be sold to tell that little story on the side of the event?  These days, every chance a publisher could get.  They do come back an issue later, but what they do during their off-panel (and by that I mean WAY off-panel) excursion is never really explained during the events of Secret Wars.  Now, there was single tie-in published much later (Thor #383) that did show what happened when Thor and Enchantress disappeared.  I have to ask whether or not that was actually planned to take place around this 1984-1985 publication of this series and Walt Simonson just simply didn’t want to do it in the middle of his historic run (and believe me, we will be covering some of those issues)?  I can’t help to point out that the tie-in issue was the VERY next issue of Thor published after Simonson left the title, so there may have been discussion to explore this conversation and it was rebuffed.  In reality, I think the main reason was one that was a little more likely: Have a way to remove some of the heavy hitter characters from the board.  One thing you’ll see time and time again is how quickly some characters are knocked out or how they are sucker punched and thus, removed from the melee just before a battle gets going.  This series had a huge cast of characters and little for the characters to do but punch and fight.  Unlike another classic that we will be covering from Marvel’s competitor, DC Comics, there’s little directive given to characters, so if everyone had something specific to do in the battle, well, each issue would be like 82 pages long.

So, resolved, Thor and Enchantress left simply to clear two extremely powerful players off the board.

The other moment that would be handled differently these days is the introductions of Titania and Volcana.  Without explaining, at all (and I mean AT ALL), that a big chunk of Denver has been transported to Battleworld, Doom creates new characters to help even the odds against the heroes.  Was it likely that Jim Shooter wrote a way to include them and later explain that Denver was here all along or was he flying by the seat of his pants?  Did the artist (Mike Zeck) get the idea that these characters would be created in the event, and did the art the old Marvel way forcing Shooter to write around it?  My guess is the former.  However, no way in holy hell would this fly these days.  Again, looking at it as close as possible to the way I did as a kid, it didn’t matter to me.  I just find it kind of funny that, out of the blue, these two broads show up and Doom says something about them wanting power and giving it to them and, boom, you have two new villains.

Here’s another kind of funny tidbit to think about.  How was it that the second attack by the villains worked so well?  Captain America fell asleep and Hulk forgot to tell him the storm from the night before had ended.  Oh, well, I can see…  Wait…  WHAT?!?  Captain friggin’ America fell asleep and was unable to properly mobilize the heroes?!?  Holy shit.  Well, you can’t say Marvel doesn’t stick to that whole thing about having characters you can relate to.  I can relate to oversleeping for important crap all the time.

So, there you have it.  Issue #3 has come to its close and the heroes are in some serious trouble.  Come back Friday for our detailed look at Secret Wars #4!

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