Sep 3, 2015

Kamala's First Origin Story

Kamala's First Origin Story
by Antonio Nelson Ruiz

I’m late to the party; I’m completely and utterly aware of this embarrassing fact. It’s not like I hadn’t heard of the Ms. Marvel relaunch by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona, writer and artist respectively, with Ian Herring doing the colors and Sana Amanat editing, ‘cause I certainly had. It’s just that I’d planned to buy the trade paperbacks until I saw they were taking pre-orders for the hardcover collecting the first eleven issues (and material from All-New Marvel Now! Point One #1). So I pre-ordered and I waited. While others were already talking about Kamala Khan’s ongoing adventures as Jersey City’s first – and only – defender of the innocent, I patiently waited month after month for Amazon to ship my order. And recently it did. The book then spent a few days sitting on my nightstand despite my previous excitement. I was totally gonna get to it soon.

Well, my grandmother finally went into hospice earlier today after a long struggle with hypokinetic rigid syndrome, or Parkinson’s Disease as it’s more popularly known. I needed a distraction. That part of my family lives in New York, I’m in Texas. There’s nothing I could do but dwell on the news. So I ripped the plastic off and cracked the book open, hearing its spine bend for the first time.

“Delicious, delicious infidel meat…”

It’s pretty easy to immediately fall in love with Kamala. The sixteen-year-old Muslim girl grew up in Jersey City with her Pakistani family, so some things about her may seem a little weird, like mainly why they stayed in New Jersey this long. Gluttons for punishment, perhaps? Whatever the case, Kamala is a hometown nerd. She hangs at the local Circle Q with her friends, Bruno and Nakia, while lusting after one of the store’s famous – but tragically unclean -- BLTs. She spends her Friday nights writing Avengers fan-fiction for upvotes on And she wants to go to cool parties thrown by cool kids but her parents are worried more for her safety than her social status. We’ve all been there. It’s not that she’s just like us; it’s that she is one of us.

For all the youthful awkwardness and teenage angst Kamala exudes, there remains a certain positivity about her that extends to the supporting cast. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Jusuf and Disha Khan are Kamala’s humble parents, plain-faced immigrants just trying to live the American Dream for the sake of their two children while never forgetting where they came from. They’re not perfect, nor do they profess to be. They’re just trying to do right by their kids. Yet it’s clear they each have their favorite when we’re first introduced to them at the dinner table. Jusuf clearly favors Kamala, while Disha has a soft spot for Aamir, Kamala’s older brother who wishes to find his own identity through his family’s cultural heritage. It all reads so familiar because it is, the same kind of family politics and identity issues we all wade through on the way (and sometimes beyond) to adulthood, no matter our background.

And what’s youth without that first rebellious act? When Kamala defies her parents and sneaks out to the cool party being thrown by the cool kids down by the waterfront, it smells like that first whiff of freedom…and Jersey water. It’s strange and exciting and Kamala totally shouldn’t be there, but she is and that’s what makes it so exhilarating. Until it stops being all of those things. The cool kids aren’t cool and the cool party is just an excuse to get drunk and be jerks. Kamala had to find that out for herself, with her own two eyes. It’s not until she ditches the party that the real excitement begins. A larger recent development in the Marvel Universe is the detonation of a Terrigen Bomb by the Inhumans, releasing a cloud that’s slowly creeping its way across the globe and activating powers in anyone who happens to have a little Inhuman somewhere in their bloodline. They’re kinda-sorta like Mutants, but descended from a warrior-race called the Kree instead. Kamala is now one of them.

After a very odd dream sequence involving Captain America, Iron Man and Kamala’s favorite super-hero, Captain Marvel, she bursts out of a smoky cocoon and immediately realizes she’s not herself. Almost literally so! She’s tall and leggy and white and has long blonde hair that gets in her face, nearly the spitting image of Captain Marvel down to her old less politically correct costume. Yeah, sure, perhaps it’s a little heavy-handed a metaphor for our teenage struggles, but it works. Kamala has always wanted to be someone else, someone who fit in better, and now she is and it kinda sucks.


It takes a little bit of not freaking the heck out on her part, but soon Kamala gets some semblance of control and reverts back to how she normally looks. She’s not in the clear yet, though. Two of the jerky cool kids get themselves in a fix and Kamala steps up to save one of them from drowning with her newfound shape-shifting powers. She didn’t have to; she wanted to. That kind of sanctity for life isn’t always abundant, not on a reflex anyway, so it’s good to see it as Kamala’s first instinct.

For all her apparent bravery, though, Kamala still has to sneak back into her family’s home because it’s after her curfew. You’re reminded she’s just a kid who has to answer to someone, namely her parents, at the end of the day after Bruno rats her out – at least, that’s what he did as far as she’s concerned. It’s also a reminder that she’s a weird geek when she tries to explain her powers to her brother and he doesn’t understand, instead assuming someone hurt her and vowing to kick their butt. Classic older brother. It’s what they do, what they look forward to doing. Her parents don’t understand, either. If she can’t fully grasp what she’s become, how could they? Which is probably giving them less credit than they deserve, but humans are well-known for feeling alone in a sea of their own kind.

Kamala’s had a busy night and there’s a lot to mull over. That’s fine, she’s grounded for the foreseeable future anyway.

“What does it mean to have powers? To be able to look like someone I’m not?
What if I don’t fit into my old life anymore? Like it’s a pair of pants I’ve just outgrown?
Would I still be Kamala?”

Everyone’s talking about the strange mist and how Captain Marvel saved a girl from drowning the night before. It’s on the news and in the papers. Kamala’s aware of this, but she’s too preoccupied with trawling the internet for an explanation as to her new abilities while simultaneously running late for Sheikh Abdullah’s Saturday youth lecture down at their local mosque. The latter is an interesting peek into the more traditional, non-geek part of Kamala’s life, not the kind of situation you’d expect to find her in but of course you still had to attend church just the same as a kid because you were expected to by your parents and maybe you’d learn something in the process. Not that it’s a quiet process. Kamala and Sheikh Abdullah don’t always see eye-to-eye, clearly their conflicting opinions born of a generational gap, but they seem to do their best to regard one another with more mutual respect rather than mutual frustration.

Nakia’s there, also. While the other girls are slouching or napping or perusing their smartphone, Nakia sits up straight, proudly listening to Sheikh Abdullah’s every word. Kamala made it seem like this is a new development in Nakia who until recently went by ‘Kiki’. Identity and our search for it continues to be a big running theme threaded throughout the overall story.

Soon, though, Kamala and Nakia are back out there in the big, diverse world again. The Sheikh’s lecturing on propriety in this era of scandal and temptation is replaced by the far less scandalous affairs of strained teenage friendships and bonehead schemes. Kamala’s supporting cast is also further explored. Bruno has a brother, Vick the architect of said bonehead scheme that’s distracting Bruno from repairing the rift between him and Kamala. Bruno, Circle Q clerk and loyal friend, turns out to be something of a scientific genius who’s created a goo capable of making something stretchy even stretchier. I bet that’ll come in handy at some point.

Now, there’s many good reasons to run out of a classroom in a panic. A few biological, a few emotional, but few are rarely ever superhuman. In Kamala’s case it is. She ends up hiding out in the girls’ locker room, desperate to get her powers under control and indeed doing just that. She also ends up getting sent to detention, so I suppose you could say it was a wash. At least until her parents find out she got into trouble at school. And when a text from Bruno promises to fix their friendship later in the day, Kamala gets caught up in the middle of a bonehead scheme that results in a gun going off and one’s limits being discovered. Growing pains, I suppose you can call it.

I’ll stop here, for now. Before I go, I just want to say how much of a delight it’s been to finally read this title. By the time I reached the third issue in the collection, I knew I’d be writing about the experience. The creative forces behind Ms. Marvel, and more importantly Kamala Khan, have cemented what I already knew: I’m a fan.

Sep 2, 2015

Bullet Points: George Perez's Wonder Woman

Welcome back to the Comics Cube, and to Bullet Points, where I take a series and call out one thing per issue. Today's series is Wonder Woman by George Perez, who happens to be my favorite artist of all time. This series rebooted the Amazon princess from the ground up and gave her a fresh start in 1987.

So let's get started.

Issue 1: Three covers from this series stand out in my memory, and this is one of them.

This first issue is pretty damn cramped since Perez was working off of what was already being written at the time by the guy who was supposed to be writing this series, Greg Potter. Nevertheless, this sticks pretty close to Diana's mythical roots and we see a quick history of the Amazons, from their creation by the female goddesses and Hermes, to the mass rape at the hands of Heracles and his army, to the birth of Princess Diana, and finally to her trials to become Wonder Woman. Since it's jumping around several millennia, it's a given that certain details are skipped, so it's a bit surprising when her Amazon sister Philippus pulls out the weapon of the flashing thunder.

Issue 2:  Diana's magic lasso of truth is made by Hephaestus the blacksmith. That provides a nice mythical touch.

Issue 3: Diana heads to Boston to take Steve Trevor, who fell on Themyscira, home, and she meets Julia and Vanessa Kapatelis. This is her first time seeing women who are not of the same physical age as she is (even though she's chronologically the youngest Amazon), and presumably also the first time she experiences the insecurities girls feel. Nessie is visibly unnerved by the sight of a beautiful woman living with them.

Issue 4: Diana doesn't know English at the start of the series, but quickly learns. At one point, she says "If one listens, one learns." That's cool.

Issue 5: This is more gruesome than I'd have expected from an 80s comic, then I remembered the 80s were pretty gruesome and I'm remembering it with rose-tinted glasses. I wonder if gods' lives are just not seen in the same light as humans', in the sense that Diana is more eager to resort to the kill.

Issue 6: Though my favorite artist, Perez is not what I would call a great costume designer. Ares is an exception to this rule. Here he is getting tied up by Diana's lasso, which then unleashes its full power, showing him what war truly leads to and making him give up his quest. I remember thinking that's a really cool use of the lasso, but I don't think I've seen it used that way since.

Issue 7: Diana running a publicity campaign is great. And it's pretty funny that she's on the cover of Ms. Magazine. In the real world, she was the first cover girl for Ms. Magazine, so I wonder how that particular publication evolved in the DC Universe.

Issue 8: Here we have Diana praying nude. I'm a little too immersed into the hobby to see this as anything other than Perez just wanting Diana to be nude at some point.

Issue 9: This is the only issue where the Cheetah shows up in Perez's run, which is strange to me since I'd have thought she's right in Perez's wheelhouse for drawing. This issue also showed how formidable the Cheetah is, something I always wondered about since obviously Diana has so many more powers. But the Cheetah is quicker, faster, and more relentless.

Issue 10: On the left is DC's Zeus being a dick. On the right is Marvel's Zeus being a dick. And that's all I'm going to say.

Issue 11: I'm not usually a fan of overexplanations, and the 80s was especially full of such things, like John Byrne explaining that Superman can carry stuff while he's flying because he has a telekinetic field around him. I prefer some things to go unexplained unless the explanation adds to the magic. Perez's retcon that the gun from issue 1 came from the first time someone not from Themyscira landed on the island, and that person just happened to be Diana Trevor, Steve Trevor's mother, explained three different things in one go (why she's named Diana, the connection Steve and Diana feel, and why Diana wears the American flag) and is one of those overexplanations I enjoy. That Steve/Diana connection is particularly important to not leave unexplained, since in this continuity, Steve and Diana are not lovers.

Issue 12: Reading these in one go is fun, but even back then, the need to tie in to events, in this case Millennium, just left some things up to your imagination and derailed the focal story of the title. As much as I complain that Loki: Agent of Asgard continually got derailed by the events it was tying into, making for a jarring trade-paperback-reading experience, it was happening even thirty years ago. (Although I guess Perez never made these with the thought that it'd be collected.)

Issue 13: The idea that Hippolyta (it's spelled Hippolyte throughout this run, but she was Hippolyta when I was introduced to the character, so that's how it's going to stay) feels enough sympathy to save the man who raped her when he's clearly suffering is a good way to show the Amazon value of compassion.

Issue 14: However, the whole idea of Hippolyta eventually developing feelings for the man who raped her makes me really uneasy, even if he is a changed man.

This, by the way, is the second of the three covers from this series that stick out in my mind. I love happy Diana.

Issue 15: This is the first issue of Wonder Woman I ever read, the first time I ever saw George Perez, and the first time I saw a George Perez Superman. I fell down a DC Comics rabbit hole that has been close to impossible to get out of.

Issue 16: Diana and Clark setting up a date is adorable.

Action Comics 600: The Wonder Woman/Superman romance storyline went to Action Comics #600, penciled by Byrne and inked by Perez, and it was pretty much the perfect mix, since Superman looked like Byrne's and Wonder Woman looked like Perez's. Their romance storyline also ended with this issue, with Superman deciding he was too small-town for Diana. I actually think this storyline could have gone on slightly longer. Close to thirty years later, the New 52 Superman and Wonder Woman would get into a romance, and post-Crisis fans would go berzerk over its existence, which is like post-Crisis fans getting mad at the New 52 for simply existing as a reboot.

And yes, I think Superman had that kind of dream. The 80s were weird, man.

Issue 17: Apparently being nude while doing stuff and wearing their slave bracelets is just an Amazon thing. Or, a Perez thing. Whatever.

Issue 18: "Our faiths share common themes: peace, love, understanding. With such similarities, can't we, for now, overlook the differences?" You tell 'em, Diana.

Issue 19: I never really understood the need to put Circe in battle armor or fighting costumes as future creators would do, since she doesn't really do any hand to hand combat. This particular costume, if it can even be called that, shows Circe as a beautiful young woman who revels in showing her body, which highlights the contrast to her old, ugly soul.

This is not the third cover that sticks out to me, by the way; it's just the best picture of Circe from the issue.

Issue 20: "Who Killed Myndi Mayer?" is one of the two comics written by Perez that deals with suicide, and the other one, not drawn by Perez, entitled "Chalk Drawings," is better for my money. Where "Chalk Drawings" deals with the vortex created by suicide, this one deals with the mystery of how Myndi died. It's narrated by Inspector Eddie Indelicato, who likes to pretend he's a writer, and the utter weight of the story is completely undermined by this panel. Look, I get it, Wonder Woman's hot. But there's a way to do this kind of description. When the series started, Perez wasn't comfortable actually putting words together and had Len Wein script. At this point, Perez was writing 100%.

Issue 21: This kicks off a subplot involving the gods leaving the Amazons, and Hermes isn't happy with it. Because we need a subplot about Hermes.

Issue 22: This issue is about the Amazons allowing outsiders onto Themyscira, and has the third and last of the covers that stick out to me.

Annual: This annual was a jam piece with different Amazons telling different stories. And one of the stories is drawn by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. The Garcia-Lopez/Perez comparison is one of my go-to comparisons to show that you can like one thing more than something you think is better. I think Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez is a better artist and storyteller than George Perez, marginally.. I like George Perez better. Also marginally.

The second story in the annual is Myndi Mayer's video will, which shows a much softer side of the publicity shark than we saw when she was alive. This last tribute to Diana is nicely written.

Issue 23: Here's Hermes coming to Earth deciding that he wants to be a worshipped god again, because Hermes is a great character and we clearly need more of him like we need more LeBron James championships. Anyway, a nice touch of all this is that Diana finds it really hard to say no to one of her gods.

Issue 24: And in this last Perez-drawn issue, we see hints that Hermes is falling in love with Diana, because, yes, we need that. This was a good time to stop.

George Perez kept writing Wonder Woman for a while after this, but aside from issue #46, "Chalk Drawings," which I only really got a copy of because it was in one of those three-comic bundles from back in the day, I didn't read any of those issues. The next time I saw Diana again was in Grant Morrison's JLA, which stated that she had moved to Gateway City and the supporting cast was almost completely new. Perez came back to draw the first story in the anniversary issue #600.

Issue 600: This starts off with the kind of art people buy a Perez book for, a good old-fashioned crowd shot.

And ends with tender moments, in this case, Vanessa's graduation.

A nice capper to Perez's contributions to the character.

Aug 31, 2015

Secret Wars II: Not as Bad As You Remember

Secret Wars II: Not as Bad As You Remember
Ben Smith

There are many significant milestones throughout the course of the average human life. For some, those may include the day they met their significant other, graduation from a particular level of schooling, marriage, divorce, or the birth of a child. The original Secret Wars was a milestone event on a far grander scale. The mere birth of a child cannot compare to this cataclysmic moment in the annals of human history. To lay your eyes upon it was to understand true beauty. Its stunning wonder humbled even the most confident of individuals, and made them want to be better citizens.

Such a stunning artistic achievement was bound to inspire demands for a sequel. Marvel obliged, and yet, the resulting miniseries and endless stream of tie-ins were met with less than stellar reviews. It sucked, was the general consensus, and that’s mostly probably true. Nearly every single title that Marvel published was forced to acknowledge Secret Wars II with a story, which makes sense in terms of it being an important in-universe situation, but the execution fell well short in many cases.

However, it is my belief that the main series is not as awful as you might remember, or heard about from others. It is my goal, to exhaustively explore Secret Wars II, and to show you the quality story that lay beneath the surface. It’s one of the most maligned events in comic book history, and undeniably gave birth to the template of bloated excess and diminishing returns that would plague many of the events that would follow in its footsteps. But it’s not all bad, and we’re going to discover that together, like Romeo and Juliet on a suicide pact toward our mutual destruction.

Ready, set, grab your goblet of poison.

Secret Wars II #1
Scripter: Jim Shooter; Penciler: Al Milgrom; Inker: Steve Leialoha; Editor: Bob Budiansky

Longtime readers will remember my weird fascination with Shooter, and this would arguably be the most ambitious story of his career. A 9 part exploration of the human condition through the perspective of a child-like omnipotent being, using superheroes. I believe the original penciler for the series was supposed to be Sal Buscema—the pencils for his entire first issue were for sale on the internet a while back--but the final duties fell to Al Milgrom. Milgrom certainly has his detractors, but I think he does a capable job, as he always does. He doesn’t have the most dynamic style, but that’s okay, I love him all the same. You leave Milgrom alone! Bob Budiansky wrote Transformers. That’s all I should have to say about that.

Space, a being of incredible power travels through the cosmos. His final destination, the Earth.

In a suburb of Denver, Colorado, Owen Reece (Molecule Man) notices a flash of light hit nearby. However, he’s content to finish watching TV with his girlfriend Marsha (Volcana). Except, that nearby mountainside is now flying through the streets, coalescing into a ball of fire.

It was a good choice to open with Molecule Man, since he will be one of the key players in the storyline. I don’t know why I love Molecule Man so much. Most likely it’s just because he’s one of the earliest villains I encountered as a superhero fan, through the original Secret Wars. Maybe it’s his facial scars, they just look cool. Maybe it’s that he’s so damn powerful. He can basically do whatever he wants, but ever since Secret Wars, he just wants to be chill. He just wants to hang out with his girlfriend and watch Hogan’s Heroes. Who can’t relate to that? Also, it’s a solid narrative continuation from the original.

Owen and Marsha hit the streets to investigate, and he’s shocked to discover the identity of the being that stands before them, the Beyonder.

Half a world away, in Scotland, Professor Xavier telepathically senses the arrival of the Beyonder. Understandably shaken, he sends his New Mutants to rendezvous with the X-Men and Magneto in Westchester.

Meanwhile, Captain America is in the middle of his commercial flight from London to New York, when he receives Xavier’s telepathic warning. (It must be really difficult for him to concentrate on his periodical of choice with all those people openly talking about him. I wonder what Captain America reads. Entertainment Weekly? Rolling Stone? Cat Fancy? Anyway, I’d be annoyed if I was Captain America. Also, why is he on a commercial flight?)

He strolls right up to the cockpit and uses his Avengers priority clearance to divert the flight to Los Angeles. The rest of the passengers react with predictable irritation, because people are the worst. Which they should, there’s really no sense in diverting a flight from New York to L.A. He should just land and get another flight, or call for a Quinjet. Or any of the dozen of people that he knows that can teleport. Still, the point is that people are selfish assholes. Unless it was me, then my annoyance would be justified. Furthermore, 9/11 made flying a complete pain in the ass. When I flew to the Middle East, it took two days of flying with stopovers in between uncomfortable sleeping. Suicide begins to look like a reasonable option.

Back in Denver, Owen and Marsha host the mysterious Beyonder, taking a physical form that is an amalgamation of several of the characters he encountered during the original Secret Wars. It looks pretty ridiculous, and yet, this is not the worst look he will sport in this series, as you will eventually see.

The Beyonder is here on Earth desiring to understand human life. Owen posits a theory based on his own past history, that mere knowledge isn’t understanding, but that experience is the best teacher. (He arrives at this based on when he first received his powers, he had the knowledge of what he could do, but not the experience to fully realize it. It’s all a bit contrived and involves transmuting an apple, but its fine. Don’t think so hard about things.) Marsha comments offhand that he should go to Los Angeles, because you can experience everything there. (Thus, they unload this potentially troublesome being off on anyone else, just as I would do. It’s someone else’s problem, or maybe Hogan’s Heroes was really good that week. Either way, who needs the hassle?)

In Westchester, Magneto argues with Nightcrawler and Colossus about whether or not he can be trusted, when Wolverine, Rogue, and Kitty Pryde come busting through the mansion window. This furthers a long and storied tradition of superheroes wantonly destroying their own facilities. (Magneto is sporting one of the more ridiculous looks from what is a long history of questionable changes from his iconic helmet and cape motif. Specifically, the all purple suit with a giant “M” on the front. He looks like a 1980s television magician, only with less dignity.) They scuffle for a bit before deciding to work together to face the threat of the Beyonder. They all pile into the Xavier’s sweet Rolls Royce which Magneto uses to magnetically fly them across the country. (How did the X-Men and Captain America know to go to L.A. before the Beyonder was even in L.A.? Again, it’s best not to think too hard about these things. “No prize” it, if you’re so worried about it. Except, this story is 30 years old, so you’ll literally receive nothing for it. Not even the envelope with nothing in it. Nothing! Not even the satisfaction of a life well lived, because that would be untrue.)

The Beyonder’s ball of non-corporeal energy arrives in L.A. early in the morning, and enters the home of the first person that he finds that is still awake, screenwriter Stewart Cadwall. Stewart has a very low opinion of the state of humanity and society (I feel like I should be ashamed to admit I agree with him about a lot of it).

Taking on the form of the Molecule Man, the Beyonder explains how he is here to understand, to experience. There is so much diversity and incompleteness on Earth, in his universe he was all there was. He demonstrates his power by turning Stewart’s desk into a big pile of apples, which his girlfriend immediately samples, because she’s fearless, that one. (Owen had just done this earlier, turning a small sculpture into an apple. This was a nice subtle nod to the Beyonder copying previously seen behavior. At this point, he wouldn’t necessarily understand enough to make his own choices yet. Of course, this is all ignoring anything he learned on Battleworld, but again, it’s best not to think of such things. The point is that he’s a giant baby, and he’s mimicking behavior.)

Nearby, Magneto liberates a few mutants forced to compete in a gladiatorial arena, for the amusement of some wealthy and powerful attendees. Among those that agree to leave are Cannonball, Magik, Dazzler, and Lila Cheney. (Where the hell did this come from? Is this covered in some tie-in issue somewhere? You can’t just have a one-panel glimpse of an underground mutant gladiator pit without any explanation.)

Stewart breaks the Beyonder’s situation down succinctly, he can do anything he wants, but he doesn’t understand what it is to want something. (It’s unfortunate for the Beyonder that the internet didn’t exist yet, because that might have saved him a lot of time. It would have also sped up his decision to destroy humanity, much like Ultron in Avengers: Age of Ultron. The lesson here, stop being dicks on the internet, humans.) Stewart offers to give him a firsthand look at wish fulfillment, by asking that he grant him some of his power. The Beyonder agrees, giving Stewart a portion of his power, which he uses to deck himself out in golden armor,calling himself Thunder-Sword. He flies off on his winged horse towards downtown, with the Beyonder following behind unseen.

The X-Men ride around in their car, looking for any sign of the Beyonder (like parents looking for their kid that stayed out past curfew, the X-Men are incompetent). Just when they’re ready to give up, Rachel’s telepathy detects a powerful presence nearby. The X-Men find Thunder-Sword destroying the NBC studios. The people flee from Thunder-Sword’s onslaught of destruction and insults, leading to my single favorite line of dialogue in the whole issue, “What is he … a critic?” (I don’t know why this amuses me so much. Who can explain the complexities of the human brain? Beyond Jim Shooter.)

The X-Men and the New Mutants attack Thunder-Sword, with little success (big surprise). Thunder-Sword hits Cannonball so hard he’s sent barreling out of control towards a nearby McDonald's. Colossus and Wolverine try to catch him, but the force of his momentum sends them all crashing into the fast food restaurant (rudely interrupting Michael Jackson’s lunch). Colossus once again proves why he’s absolutely the worst, by defending the virtue of the Big Mac in the midst of a battle for the fate of humanity.

Thunder-Sword is predictably not a fan of the fast food industry either, calling it “all part of the same canker of mass-media manipulated mediocrity that gnaws at the heart of this country.” (Maybe if I mention McDonald's enough, they’ll sponsor us. McDonald's absolutely doesn’t taste like subpar discount meat cooked days ago, then reheated and served beside a clump of cold fries. McDonald's is the pinnacle of the meat-adjacent sandwich industry. McDonald's is preferable to starving.)

Captain America implores his taxi driver to drive faster, so that he can join the fight. But the driver wants to take it as slow as possible, so he can talk to the living legend as long as he can, and really savor the righteousness. (Is this the most mundane sequence of travel that any superhero character has ever employed in the space of a single issue? I can absolutely picture this played for laughs in a big budget superhero movie. The X-Men are fighting an unbeatable enemy, with periodic cutaways to Captain America aboard various forms of public transportation, checking his watch.)

At the West Coast Avengers compound, Tony Stark is alerted to the situation, and sends Jim Rhodes in the Iron Man armor to assist.

Captain America finally arrives, just in time to save a mother and her child from certain doom. (This was actually a pretty great little pair of panels. Captain America is the best. I want to buy him a milkshake and talk about our feelings on liberty.)

Captain America coordinates a more effective attack on Thunder-Sword, but it is still ultimately unsuccessful. During the din of battle, Rachel detects another powerful being in the area, uncovering the presence of the Beyonder, who, having made himself visible, is intrigued by the dark essence hiding inside of Magik, and pulls it to the surface, turning her into the Darkchilde. Frightened, Magik panics and summons her magic stepping disk, teleporting her and a few of the other mutants somewhere else.

Wolverine reacts to the team’s psi-link suddenly being cut-off (after Rachel was teleported away) and sniffs out the Beyonder close-by. He slashes at the Beyonder with his razor sharp adamantium claws (which is how Claremont has taught me to always refer to them, repeatedly), confusing the godlike being.

Before he can respond or retaliate in any manner, Lila panics and teleports herself and the remaining mutants away. (Those wacky mutants are always teleporting from danger. The X-Men are the worst.)

Thunder-Sword defeats Captain America, and stands over him triumphant. Reinforcements finally arrive in the form of Iron Man. Iron Man’s sensors indicate that the source of Thunder-Sword’s power originates in his sword.

The Beyonder, still processing the physical attack on his form, begins to wonder if merely observing others will provide him the sufficient experience he desires. The visceral feeling of claws slashing his body has inspired him.

Captain America and Iron Man are able to separate Thunder-Sword from this weapon, turning him back into Stewart. Cap then turns his attention towards attempting to address the Beyonder, who is in the midst of quantifying what he has learned.

“Experience is the best teacher! To watch is not to understand without experience! I desire to understand! I shall experience! I shall understand!” (Basically, he has come to the conclusion that he needs to experience life firsthand to understand it.)

The Beyonder disappears, leaving a distraught Stewart to plead with Cap and Iron Man that he was corrupted by the power and wasn’t in control of his actions. He then realizes he destroyed all his places of employment, causing him to become even more despondent.

Captain America leaves Iron Man with Stewart to wait for the authorities to arrive, while he goes off to search for the Beyonder. Little does he realize, that the Beyonder is following him.

The issue ends with the obligatory tease of the title of the next issue, as well as the first list of titles that continue the Secret Wars II storyline. As I said before, this crossover created the blueprint for the overload of unnecessary and subpar ancillary stories to a major comic event. I haven’t read them all—who has the time?—but the ones I have read are largely not of a quality for human consumption. Just like a McDonald's burger.

Thus begins Shooter’s epic tale exploring the human condition, as told using brightly clad heroes and villains punching each other. So far, the Beyonder has learned that the best way to learn about human life, is to live one. Knowledge is great, but experience can teach you in ways that a book simply cannot, which is an idea that Good Will Hunting would appropriate several years later. It’s pretty profound, if you think about it, just don’t think too hard about those details. I appreciate Shooter's ambition, let’s find out if he can pull it off.

Next week, issue 2!

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