May 6, 2015

Secret Wars vs. Crisis on Infinite Earths, Part 3!

We are in the middle of DC Comics' Convergence and at the start of Marvel's Secret Wars, two series that involve multiverses colliding! Every day this week, the Cube staff will be looking at the two series that started it all: the originalMarvel Super Heroes Secret Wars, by Jim Shooter, Mike Zeck, Bob Layton, and John Beatty, and Crisis on Infinite Earths, by Marv Wolfman and George Perez. We'll talk about our likes, our dislikes, and other stuff in the middle. Let's get started!

Secret Wars vs. Crisis on Infinite Earths
Part 3
Cube Roundtable
(All summaries written by Ben)

Writer: Jim Shooter; Penciler: Mike Zeck; Inker: John Beatty; Editor: Tom DeFalco

The heroes continue to monitor Galactus, while the X-Men attack the villains again. Galactus violently expels Dr. Doom from his flying fortress, and She-Hulk seeks revenge against the villains for killing the Wasp, and is nearly beaten to death for it.

Ben Liked: Wolverine cutting off the Absorbing Man’s arm

and the Absorbing Man putting it back on

 has always been one of the main things that stuck with me from this series. The lesson, as always, is that I was a morbid child.
Ben Disliked: Klaw referring to Volcana as his “plump pretty” is funny but mean. Body shaming isn’t cool, even if the Enchantress says it takes a lot of magic for her “to transport a body as…bloated as yours!” Not cool. But funny. But it’s mean. Bullying is wrong.
Ben Didn’t Understand: Captain America and the heroes sit around watching Galactus build his machine, waiting to strike until he’s ready to use it. Unless this is part of their battle strategy, they already know he’s preparing to eat the planet, so I don’t understand what they’re waiting for, and why they feel they need to monitor him until he’s ready. Attack him now. You don’t wait for Unicron to transform into a giant robot and start smashing your planet, you attack him while he’s floating around eating moons. I guess. They were pretty screwed either way as far as Unicron is concerned.
Worst Legacy Hero Ever: Rodimus Prime

Duy Liked: She-Hulk being a badass and losing is great. It's weird how both seventh issues have badass women taking it to the enemy, cleaning house, and losing.
Duy Disliked: I sound like a broken record here, but I just don't feel these events. They just happen; they're just there. Wasp dies and there's no weight to it. Wolverine cuts off the Absorbing Man's arm and Crusher has this comical look on his face in the next panel.
Duy Don't Understand: How, aside from one line when She-Hulk's in danger, there's little to no mention or moments of She-Hulk and Hulk talking, or at least anything to show they're cousins.
Thor is a badass because: He's got a disproportionate number of enemies in this thing, with at least three. Captain America and Iron Man don't have any villains in this series. Everyone's either a Spider-Man villain, a Thor villain, an Avengers villain, or a Fantastic Four villain.

Matt Liked: At least Spider-Man is light-hearted with a random Spider Woman showing up. I do appreciate Wolverine’s straightforward approach. Rogue talking back to Magneto’s dismissal of Storm’s powers. She-Hulk trashing the Wrecking Crew is nice. At least someone is doing something! This can’t end badly!
Matt Disliked: Klaw is just bad, almost as bad as Titania’s dialogue. Volcana/Molecule Man is almost as bad as anything involving the Human Torch, almost.
Secret Snores: What is going on? The Avengers are basically staying put, the Wrecking Crew is just dropping bodies randomly and I am bored to tears by the X-Men’s fights.
War, what is it good for?: Throwing Wasps out of tanks for really just sheer randomness.

Travis Liked: Spidey worrying the new Spider-Woman is better than him or infringing his trademark. The Wrecking Crew’s bigass tank. About three pages in, is my favorite rendering of Professor Charles Xavier anywhere.
Travis Disliked: There’s some exceptionally awkward body language in some “subtle” scenes here. I know it’s for little kids, but it was awkward for me then, too.
Travis Don’t Understand: Why does no one (except maybe Tom DeFalco) love Volcano and Molecule Man like I do?
When Good Covers Go Bad: So ridiculously busy, and overworked. The pink and purple lift my eyes off the blue, but Cap is the largest, center image, and then I’m ignoring text at the very bottom, and…

Ben: I love Molecule Man like you do.
Travis: You're the voice of reason in the wilderness of Duy's constant Pariah-defending.
Ben: He envies his ability to feel, cry.

Writer/Editor: Marv Wolfman; Penciller: George Perez; Inker: Jerry Ordway

Harbinger gathers the greatest representatives of each Earth, and Blue Beetle, to explain to them the legend of Krona, and the birth of the Monitor and the Anti-Monitor. A collection of the most powerful heroes travel to the anti-matter universe, and Supergirl sacrifices her life to destroy the Anti-Monitor’s multiverse-destroying machines.

Ben Liked: That the heroes finally take the fight straight to the Anti-Monitor. For the first time in this series, something of significance is actually happening. Wildfire is part of the invasion force, but Batman isn’t. That’s perfect. Superman bleeding. Supergirl dying. There’s nothing like a good heroic sacrifice, and this is one of the best.
Ben Disliked: I don’t appreciate the new Wildcat trying to subtly teach me Spanish. Half this double-sized issue was spent on origins for the Monitor and Pariah, two of the worst characters in the history of comics.
Ben Didn’t Understand: Why it took seven issues for the heroes to finally confront the Anti-Monitor and face him in battle. As good as this issue was, it reads like a climax compared to the series so far, but it isn’t. This series continues to have too many climaxes, ultimate goals to thwart, and endgames that aren’t endgames.
Best Comic Book Climax in History: Moonstar

Duy Liked: Supergirl. Supergirl is awesome. This is one of the best "the underdog wins, but then actually loses" stories in superhero comics. Superman screaming "Kara!" at the top of his lungs as she gets shot is so powerful to me, it still gets me.

Duy Disliked: How wrong-headed killing Supergirl was. In fact, how wrong-headed the whole idea of Crisis was. Also, I don't like that Perez gets too much credit for this cover, when Byrne did pretty much the exact same cover for the Dark Phoenix Saga. Yes, I know they're both based on the Pieta, but the tilts of the heads, the crying of the carrier, the arms of the girl being carried — it's just too similar, and part of that is because they're very similar artists. But it's not fair that Byrne isn't given enough credit for it.
Duy Don't Understand: Why the hell did Earth-4 send Blue Beetle to stand beside two Supermen, Captain Marvel, and Uncle Sam?
Best Crisis Parody: Mighty Mouse, "Mices on Infinite Earths," where the Monitor is the Minotaur, one of the first ever anthropomorphized characters, and Pariah is the Piranha, who takes a fishbowl with him wherever he goes.

Matt Liked: Sivana and Captain Marvel’s banter right off the bat is top notch, but I fear the next Marvel family member might be Fetus Marvel. The Krona introduction is actually well done, but will be overplayed in 30 years time. The Anti-Monitor’s melty castle is another nice visual touch. Earth-2 Superman bleeding shows the real threat. I also like that Supergirl disses superbreath too. Her death is very well done and the general focus on Earth-1’s Super family shows the shift toward Batman in the past 30 years.
Matt Disliked: New Wildcat’s random Spanish is not well done. I also hate Phantom Lady and her costume. The bad melodrama at the Anti-Monitor portal really makes Supergirl’s death narration unnecessary and distracting
Origins?: Pfft, people really just care about the iconic cover, it’s what people know. Not that this is how we learn the Guardians ruin everything.
Anti-Monitoring Station: It’s 7-8 universes meeting up if you count Luthor and Pariah, making the evil watching even more creepy

Travis Liked: Huntress and Powergirl look great in their brief appearance. The portal looks amazing. Stone fortress of the Anti-Monitor!
Travis Disliked: Pariah! Go away! And, Starfire’s classic blank stare always bugs me. Supergirl dies in a flurry of panties, hips, weak punches, and the worst hair possible.
Travis Don’t Understand: Why has Perez’s usual incredible sense of balance failed and given us a page two Captain Marvel who looks like he’s the size of Dollman?
Technique I Love But is Weird: The overhead swoop, as seen here with the second Wildcat, is always weird and disconcerting, but it looks so cool.

Writer: Jim Shooter; Penciler: Mike Zeck; Inkers: John Beatty/Jack Abel/Mike Esposito; Editor: Tom DeFalco

With the X-Men keeping an eye on Galactus, the Marvel heroes leave to save She-Hulk and get revenge on the villains in an all-out battle royale.

Ben Liked: Spider-Man’s complete physical and mental annihilation of Titania. I love it when Spider-Man is shown to be a force, and his trouncing of Titania was so thorough that she remained terrified of him for years to come. He also took down Bulldozer with one punch. Hawkeye shooting Piledriver in the shoulder with an arrow. Enchantress getting fall-down drunk until the heroes arrive, and then getting a shield in the face from Captain America. Hawkeye and Ben Grimm distracting the Lizard and Klaw with a game of patty-cake, in which Klaw says this:

Ben Disliked: There’s not much to dislike about an excellent fight issue, but I guess bringing back the Wasp was kind of a bummer.
Ben Didn’t Understand: Not so much didn’t understand, but it’s weirdly coincidental that the eighth issues of both this and Crisis ended up being the most relevant long term. Spider-Man gets his black suit that goes on to become Venom, plaguing my life ever since. And Crisis, well, keep reading, faithful readers.
Worst By-Product of Secret Wars: Symbiotes (Secret Wars II was a close second)

Duy Liked: "C'mon, Thor! Shout somethin' corny an' poke a hole innat overgrowed quonset hut!" Because the Thing is one to talk. I love how Amora knows whenever something she's staying in is hit by the hammer of Thor. Also, Peter just dancing circles around Titania is great.
Duy Disliked: There are at least three high-impact moments in this comic that don't get the proper space, body language, and reaction that they should have gotten, and that's why it's so hard for me to get into this comic.
Duy Don't Understand: How someone as great as Mike Zeck looked like he rushed everything for what is probably his most well-known work.
What Would Happen If: Absorbing Man touched the Thing?

Matt Liked: Thor tying up Doc Ock’s extra arms is a great throw away image. Hawkeye is using actual arrows and Piledriver just runs away after getting hit in the shoulder. Spider-Man being a serious threat is a consistent thread in the series and he’s not just comic relief, that is refreshing.
Matt Disliked: Enchantress basically just gets drunk because 1. She can’t have Thor and 2. She’s stuck with Doom. Really, the first should’ve stopped bothering her eons ago. She-Hulk is being beat up by balls and sticks...I wonder if there is a message in there. Stupid, vain Wasp.
Basic Black Wardrobe: There is a part of me that just sees them stealing this costume from Spider-Woman (which he acknowledges) and the Punisher. The fact that it works well and sleek just makes it even more impressive.
War, what is it good for?: The Lizard-Klaw team-up no one wanted nor asked for.

Writer/Editor: Marv Wolfman; Penciller: George Perez; Embellisher: Jerry Ordway

The Flash sacrifices his life to destroy the antimatter cannon pointed at the surviving Earths.

Ben Liked: Everyone that has been reading my stuff for any significant portion of time may remember that this comic was, and still is, one of my favorite comics of all time. The Flash was the first DC character I considered a favorite, due to some Flash comics I picked out at random from the quarter bin at my childhood store. Intrigued, I looked for more, only to find out that Barry Allen had died, and not having access to the internet, it took me a while to find out where and how (I’m pretty sure I finally spotted it as a notation in a comic book price guide). Gwen Stacy may have been the most shocking and tragic of comic book deaths, but Barry Allen’s was the ultimate in heroic sacrifice. It was expertly written and drawn and I didn’t even need to understand what was going on in the rest of the series (because I sure didn’t as a lad) to enjoy his part of it. It was all the more great because as far as I knew he was never coming back. So it had weight, it had consequence, and the people he left behind were truly affected by it.

Ben Disliked: Wolfman and Perez had to work in a naked lady, because it’s been a while since they’ve done anything inappropriate. Not only does Firehawk lose her clothes, she’s really happy about showing off the new costume she creates, you know, right after they all almost died when their friend Red Tornado exploded. I understand and appreciate how this series served as an all-encompassing look at the DC universe, so that every character in the company’s history gets their chance to shine, but it just bores me. Unless you’re just a fan of the entire history of DC, which I’m not, it’s a bunch of people wasting my time while the completely inept Anti-Monitor gets foiled in his latest scheme. The Anti-Monitor makes Cobra Commander look effective, and he was never once a man!
Ben Didn’t Understand: The Flash might just be a hero I like in theory, more than execution. I have a soft spot for the end of the Barry Allen series, where he was on trial, but those comics were pretty bad in actuality. His best comic was the one where he died. I’ve recently read a significant portion of the Wally West series, and there were some good stories, but most of it was marred by pretty terrible art. It was really hard for me to focus on the stories and enjoy them. I would wonder why the Flash never seems to get any top level artists on his series, but then I remembered that the ‘90s were a pretty abysmal time for comic book art. Everything from that decade must be graded on a sliding scale, and the sliding scale is pointed toward the sewer. Even further below that sewer, is Starman, with his leather coat and goggles. Starman is basically Seth Green from Can’t Hardly Wait. Starman lost his virginity in the bathroom at a high school party. Starman should be making Robot Chicken instead of boring me in comic books.
Best Redesign of a Character Only Two Issues After His Debut: The Anti-Monitor losing his braces

Matt Liked: Anti-Monitor’s crazy costume and baleen works. Vixen hijacking T.O. Morrow is great as is Atom adventure time. I loved the Flash/Psycho Pirate beat down. The whole cycle of the Flash destroying the canon is great.
Matt Disliked: Psycho Pirate, so meh and pointless. General bad exposition and narration. John Stewart as mere wrangler. WTF is up with Blue Devil, this is such a distraction and leads to more bad exosition.
Flashtastic: Another classic cover. Question: How long will it take the Flash to run 32 zillion light years??
Anti-Monitoring Station: The Anti-Monitor gets the Darkseid stare. Sadly, Darkseid won’t do anything for a while.

Travis Liked:  Firehawk looks beautiful here. Flash has a great death.
Travis Disliked: Barry is such a mess here, it just reminds me what a mercy killing Crisis was for him. Petty, stodgy, and saddled with some of the most blunt dialogue in the whole comic.
Travis Don’t Understand: “Eat Jell-O!” is the best threat Barry could come up with?
Pet Theory: This is issue is the unawares birth of wide-mouth-with-spittle that hit its height about six or seven years later, when no one at DC, Marvel, or even Image or Malibu would yell without lines stretching inside their mouth.

Duy Liked: As great as Kara's death was, Barry's is better and more tragic, because no one knows. Also, the Spectre waking up and being given a splash page at the end is exactly what I mean by a high-impact moment getting the space it needs.

Duy Disliked: The Anti-Monitor's new costume is even worse than his old one.
Duy Don't Understand: So was the whole Apokolips connection just always unplanned? It seems they didn't know what to do with it here. Multiversity still places it outside of any individual universe.
Biggest Easter Egg Twenty Years Ahead of Its Time: The Red Tornado is an Airbender. He has Airbender tattoos, even the arrow on the top of his head, and he controls wind. That's weird.

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