Sep 7, 2015

Secret Wars II: Not as Bad As You Remember, Part 2

Secret Wars II: Not as Bad As You Remember
Part 2: Fashion and Bowel Movements
Ben Smith

After the massive success of the original Secret Wars, a sequel was all but inevitable. Unfortunately, instead of another toy comic involving random violence, Jim Shooter decided to explore what it means to be a human being, using brightly clad superheroes and a cosmic being with a perm. While that approach certainly disappointed a lot of fans and readers, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad story if you look at it without the weight of those expectations.

Therein lies my goal. To look at Secret Wars II not as a massive crossover event comic, but as a story exploring the human experience. It may still fail in that respect, but there’s only one way to find out, and that’s to read it ourselves. Don't let naysayers make your decisions for you! Decide on your own what sucks.

Grab your technicolor ‘80s jacket and hair grease, and let’s get funky.

Secret Wars II #2
Scripter: Jim Shooter; Penciler: Al Milgrom; Inker: Leialoha and Rubinstein; Editor: Bob Budiansky

The Beyonder, having decided that the best way to understand human life is to experience it first hand, has taken a physical form, replete with all the sensations that it entails (including the face of Steve Rogers).

After a brief adventure with gravity, he reacquaints himself with the sensation of pain, something he had just learned from the tips of Wolverine's adamantium claws. (Claremont insists that they never just be claws, but adamantium claws. We must all do what Claremont says. Even if the straps chafe.) His puzzlement with the concept of clothing is interrupted by an emptiness which turns out to be hunger. He experiments with the concept of eating with a local street meat vendor, but does poorly.

Elsewhere, the city is embroiled in a wave of hate, the streets filled with protesting people. Reed Richards and the Fantastic Four are busy trying to figure out what is causing it. Unfortunately, Reed doesn’t figure it out before Psycho Man and the Hate Monger corrupt Susan into becoming Malice, The Mistress of Hate. (Fortunately, we all know he eventually snaps her out of it with a good backhand to the face. Nothing solves emotional corruption by supernatural beings like slapping your wife. Apparently. No one has ever lived to tell this tale.)

Some might have been annoyed by this interruption of a story happening in another comic, but I like how it shows the other things that are happening in the city. The Beyonder is the focus of the series, and it should follow him on his journey, despite what else might be going on. It’s the beauty of comics.

The Beyonder asks a flustered employee of a clothing store about the purpose of those clothes. The employee does the most reasonable thing, and gets rid of him by suggesting he go ask a friend. (An ongoing theme of this series is pawning the cosmic being off on someone else. If that doesn't encapsulate humanity, nothing else does.)

The Beyonder doesn't have any friends, but looks for anyone he recognizes. That nearest person happens to be Peter Parker, who he recognizes from the previous Secret Wars.

Peter, trying to avoid this weird stranger asking him the purpose of clothes and eating, changes into Spider-Man to confront the danger, but before he can confront him, the Beyonder turns himself invisible.

Spider-Man swings home, not realizing he’s being followed by the being from beyond, who surprises Peter with his sudden reappearance. It doesn't take him long to figure out the identity of the intruder, and his tone quickly changes.

Feeling that maybe teaching an omnipotent being might be above his ability, he suggests that the Beyonder consult with Reed Richards. (Again, when in doubt, push the god off on someone else.)

And that’s when it happens. The scene that most detractors point to as the one that singlehandedly invalidates anything else that happens in the rest of the series. A scene so patently ridiculous, that it is impossible to take anything else that happens seriously. Spider-Man teaches the Beyonder how to poop.

Let’s go ahead and put aside the question of if this is a subject that needs to be covered in comics. It’s already been established that this chapter of the story is the Beyonder learning and understanding what it is to be a physical human being. Eating, wearing clothing to protect yourself from the elements, and pooping are basic attributes of being a living person, and it makes perfect sense they would be covered here. All that being said. Hee hee, poop.

The Beyonder finishes dropping the kids off at the pool, and takes Spider-Man’s advice, disappearing to go off and find Reed Richards. Spider-Man, feeling guilty, swings off to warn Reed. Proof positive that Peter is the best of us all.

Reed, however, is in the midst of a battle against the Hate Monger, which is an inopportune time to answer basic human need questions.

The remaining members of the Four are able to capture the Hate Monger, but not the mysterious puppetmaster behind him (in this case Psycho Man, and not Puppet Master, who is a real FF villain).

Psycho Man returns long enough to shoot the Hate Monger with his ray-gun, and turn him into a pile of goo.

Reed is distracted by what is certainly a precarious situation with the Beyonder, but Sue is demanding they find the person responsible for manipulating her and make them pay.

Sue is absolutely justified in her anger, but this is one case where maybe Reed should be ignoring her. He has a being with godlike power asking him questions. Omnipotent beings with the experience level of a toddler are probably the priority here. But then again, he's going to have to deal with Sue when he's at home trying to relax on the couch. In between cosmic threats.

The Beyonder has decided that consulting friends hasn’t gotten him anywhere (it never does) and once again returns to the philosophy that experience is the best teacher.
He takes a suit from off of the mannequin in the display window of a store. An elderly female vagrant sees him, and begins berating him about stealing the suit, and how it doesn’t fit right anyway. The Beyonder adjusts the fit accordingly, and adds some shoes to round out the look.

The homeless woman decides to school the strange being, and takes the Beyonder with her to her box in the alley, when they are accosted by thugs seeking money from the well-dressed man.

The thugs beat the Beyonder’s body black and blue, while the homeless woman searches her bag for any money she might have, to appease them. Instead, all she finds is a Heroes for Hire card. The thugs find no money, and move on to other violent crimes to commit. The Beyonder is once again fascinated by the intense violent experience. The woman hands him the card, saying it’s a violent world and he should get protection.

Taking her advice, he teleports to the offices of Heroes for Hire, only to find it empty. Peering into the past, he sees Power Man and Iron Fist in their office, and pulls them forward into the present. A confused Power Man attacks, and the Beyonder responds with force, not understanding if this is just how people greet each other or not (it is in Marvel comic books).

The Beyonder dodges Iron Fist's attacks, but Power Man gets a grip on him, and tells him to take this outside to save their offices from any more damage. The Beyonder takes him literally, and heads directly outside, through the window. Power Man jumps down after him, but the Beyonder teleports safely to the ground, while Power Man takes the more direct route.

Iron Fist prevents Power Man from attacking further, and begins questioning the strange being. The Beyonder agai, explains his desire to understand. Iron Fist tries to hit him with some Zen thoughts about being one with the universe, but Luke interrupts to tell him about the only thing that matters: Money.

Luke explains to him the purpose of paper money, and the gold standard. Spider-Man finally spots the Beyonder, after swinging around looking for him the whole issue.

As they compare notes about what is going on, the Beyonder turns the Heroes for Hire building into gold, and it collapses under its own weight.

The Beyonder teleports away, returning Power Man and Iron Fist back to the point in time which he plucked them from, leaving a very confused Spider-Man behind with a building made of gold.

Thus ends chapter two. While this may not work as an action-packed summer blockbuster type of storyline (which is arguably what it should be) it fits in perfectly with the ongoing quest of the Beyonder trying to understand the human condition. After learning that experience is the best teacher in issue one, he expands upon that philosophy by creating a physical form in this chapter. That requires a whole new set of lessons to learn, as detailed above. (Hee hee, poop.)

It may or may not be the most exciting story, but it is interesting to see that this is the direction that Shooter decided to take it. Maybe he was reading Swamp Thing and decided he needed to get deep. To really explore the depths of the human mind and body, along with Spider-Man toilet training.

One of the main complaints I've heard about Secret Wars II is about how unwieldy the story is, with so many tie-ins of varying levels of quality. I personally have read the Spider-Man issue that follows up on the gold building created above, and it wasn’t a good one. But that’s not necessarily the fault of Secret Wars II, as much as it is Tom DeFalco telling a not-all-that-gripping tale of maintaining the global economy, with or without the presence of G.I. Joes. If you want to know more about the Fantastic Four's battle against Psycho Man, I’m sure you can pick up that comic. If not, it’s just a thing that’s happening while the Beyonder tries to figure out how to poop or wear clothes. It’s really not all that serious.

Next week, issue 3!

1 comment:

Thanos6 said...

Minor correction, it was the Scourge of the Underworld that killed the Hate Monger, not the Psycho Man.

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