Oct 26, 2015

Secret Wars II: Not as Bad As You Remember, Part 9

Secret Wars II: Not as Bad As You Remember
Part 9: Alien Baby Death Rattle
Ben Smith

I’ve been covering this for eight weeks, you should know what’s going on by now.

Secret Wars II #9
Scripter: Jim Shooter; Penciler: Al Milgrom; Inkers: Steve Leialoha; Editor: Bob Budiansky

The Beyonder floats out in space, contemplating all existence, and how he plans to erase it.
Most importantly, he will need to erase his memory of it all too.

Meanwhile, in a diner in Colorado, Volcana attempts to contact the Avengers through their hotline. A mention of the Beyonder gets her through the middlemen (are they paid, or are they volunteers?) and Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four picks up the line. (I’ve always been far too interested in the financial situations of fictional characters. How are they able to afford these great New York apartments when it doesn’t seem like they ever go to work? The Marvel Universe is like an episode of Friends.)

She relays to him the information she has about the Beyonder’s recent unstable behavior, and Reed contacts every hero he can to assemble at Volcana’s location.

The Avengers, West Coast Avengers, Spider-Man, Alpha Flight, Hulk, Vision, Scarlet Witch, Silver Surfer, Cloak and Dagger, Power Man and Iron Fist all show up for the climatic confrontation.

The X-Men make a big show of arriving, and not being invited in the first place. (No wonder everyone hates mutants. They’re always showing up, accusing people of hating and fearing them.)

Volcana wants to help, but Reed doesn’t think this is a battle for an inexperienced person, and Rachel Grey has already telepathically taken all of the information they need from her mind. (I can imagine Rachel at parties, telling people she’s already gleaned all the information she needs from them and further small talk is unnecessary. Wait, that’s totally something I would do.) She is teleported right back outside her former apartment building with the Molecule Man. After the events of last issue, she tentatively re-enters their apartment, and finds it in shambles. Even Owen’s precious teddy bear fell victim to his unbridled rage.

Needing some time alone to do some thinking, the Beyonder tunnels miles below the surface of the Earth. He whips up a camera, to record his thoughts for posterity. (It’s almost certain that I had telepathic powers that I would be a villain. I already know too much about humanity as it is, without getting into their dark places.)

That’s when he says something pretty profound. Humans are content in the pursuit of their desires, but for an omnipotent being like himself, anything he desires is already within his power to achieve. (Human beings motivated by personal desires is an interesting concept. Even if your desire is to feel good through the selfless helping of others, that is still a desire being fulfilled. Or if your desire is to do nothing all day but eat Cheetos and watch Shark Week. Again, mission accomplished.)

After a quick rehash of the events of the previous issues, the Beyonder finally decides to risk mortality. (Bad decision. If I could live forever I would. Even better if I get to regularly combat other Highlanders for immortality.)

Wanting to be as thorough as possible, he wants to be born into a human body, but instead of forcing a human woman to gestate him, he recreates the process in a large machine. (It is a sobering moment, when you truly intellectualize that one day you are going to die. No matter what you accomplish in life, or trials you endure, one day you will die. And a few generations later, no one will remember you at all.)

As a test, he decides to have his machine recreate the bodies of the New Mutants, who he had eradicated from existence in a previous tie-in. (Why undo such a glorious deed?) The machine works (and you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a giant machine give birth to teenaged mutant heroes) but the New Mutants remain in a zombie-like state.

The Beyonder makes a slight adjustment to the machine to keep his mind and memories intact, and then creates a large receptacle to contain his omnipotent power.

The Beyonder enters the machine, and the process begins. (I can never get enough of strange alien babies floating in robotic amniotic fluid.)

His new body grows and matures at a rapid rate, until he is expunged from the machine’s vagina as a true mortal being. The shock of the change is too much for the Beyonder, and he hurriedly runs to the giant beaker containing his omnipotence, returning to his godlike state with one touch.

Back in that suburb of Denver, the Molecule Man explains to Volcana how her betrayal had made him a stronger person, and because of it, their love is probably even stronger now (because that’s how things work).

Now, he’s ready to stand up and fight for their world. (I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but the Molecule Man is the greatest villain in the history of superhero comics. Besides Dr. Doom. I realize that I immediately negated my strong statement, but the point is, the new Secret Wars has been amazing so far.)

The Beyonder tries to intellectualize his brief moments as a mortal. How each second was unique, each breath an event. It had seemed unbearable at the time, but now every moment in the sameness of his all-powerful body seems even more unbearable.

He gives it another try (and I get my second look at strange alien baby in fluid).

This time, he puts his mortal limits to the test. Trying and failing to lift a large object. Running to exhaustion.

Unfortunately for him, Mephisto arrives with an entourage of demons to ruin his party.

Mephisto contemplates how best to torture his former foe in his new mortal body (instead of just killing him while he has the chance, like he should) and decides upon vomited maggots all over him. (Every time in a television show or movie when one character stalls to gloat or speechify instead of just killing the other character, it drives me insane. Insane! Writers, please find better ways for characters to get out of danger besides the clichéd monologuing bit. The Incredibles already mocked it, it’s time to get better.)

The Beyonder is in agony over the pain, but intellectually knows that Mephisto has no true power over humans on the mortal plane, and that it is all just an illusion.

He powers past Mephisto towards his beaker of power. Even though Mephisto’s illusions make it look and feel as if he’s bursting into flames, he carries forward, skin searing off his bones, until he touches the beaker and his power returns. Mephisto flees instantly.

Topside, the heroes are joined by the Molecule Man and Volcana. They’re reluctant to accept his help, but Reed convinces them they need his power. (Wolverine vouches for him on the basis of having a sordid past of his own. I’m pretty sure I would hate Wolverine if he were real and I knew him. Or if I wasn’t real and I knew him. Regardless, never let Chris Claremont put me in leather chaps.)

Below, the Beyonder sees everything that is happening on the surface. He needs more time to make some final adjustments to his machine for one more go as a mortal, so he sends the zombie New Mutants up to delay them with glorious battle. (There’s nothing that doesn’t sound cooler by putting “zombie” in front of it. The zombie Aunt May. See, now you’re intrigued aren’t you?)

The zombie New Mutants are ridiculously effective at fighting the most powerful heroes in the Marvel universe. (Wolverine seems weirdly eager to carve up his fellow mutant Wolfsbane, which is strange, since you’d assume he’d be a mentor for the New Mutants. He also calls her a dog-faced witch, which, that doesn’t just come out of nowhere for no reason. That comes from somewhere down deep. That has meaning.)

The assembled Avengers, X-Men, and miscellaneous finally remember they far outnumber the zombie New Mutants, and are far more powerful, and defeat them. Rachel promises to try and undo the damage to their minds later, but for now, the Beyonder must die.

The Molecule Man sends them all tunneling below to the Beyonder’s hidden sanctum. He tries to convince them all that he’s no longer interested in destroying everything, but they are only interested in attacking. (That’s what happens when you threaten to destroy all there is or has ever been.)

He shrugs them all off with a wave of his hand, leaving only Molecule Man to face him alone.

“The two mightiest beings in all existence clash,” and the entire universe feels the reverberations of their titanic combat.

As the Molecule Man struggles to hold on against the Beyonder’s overwhelming power, the rest of the heroes recover and renew their attack. For a brief moment, they have a chance, but the Molecule Man cannot maintain his attack.

The Beyonder’s death stroke scars the Earth, and everything in its path, to the edge of infinity. The Beyonder returns to his pregnancy machine (more alien water baby!).

On the surface, in the crater of rubble caused by the Beyonder’s attack, the heroes regroup. The Molecule Man is badly hurt from the confrontation.

Rachel takes them all back down below, where they discover the Beyonder baby still floating in his machine.

The Molecule Man yells out that they should kill him now, while he’s vulnerable (that’s the way!). There are many in attendance that agree with him. (Usually being on the same side as Wolverine is a good sign that you’re on the wrong side, but not this time. Babies must die.)

They move in for the kill, tripping a booby-trap and setting off a massive bomb. The Invisible Woman was able to shield them in time, but she’s out of commission for the effort.

The heroes prepare to renew their attack upon the small infant, but Reed holds them all back. If they kill the baby and destroy the machine containing the Beyonder’s power, the release of his untethered power could wipe out all of existence.

The Molecule Man doesn’t care, and fires a powerful killing blast at the baby.

Before Reed can chastise him properly, the machine comes apart at the seams, and the baby screams its death rattle as everything everywhere disappears in white.

Surprisingly, the white fades away back into reality. The heroes inspect the ruins of the machine, and find the Beyonder’s dead baby body. (I cannot believe that the final battle of a massive summer crossover event hinges on the heroes killing a baby. I can’t believe that this series exists, and I can’t believe more people don’t love its absurdity.) Captain America confronts the sullen Molecule Man, and thanks them for saving them all from being erased, however he might have accomplished it. It was a tough call to make killing the Beyonder, but he made it. The Molecule Man is deeply injured internally from the battle, and may never recover.

Elsewhere, in the former realm of the Beyonder, a portal opens. The Molecule Man had sent all the exploding unchecked power of the Beyonder surging back into his former realm, creating another Big Bang.

In the explosion of energy, stars and planets form. On some of those planets, life rises and evolves. The cycle begins anew. Finally, in his death, the Beyonder’s desires are finally fulfilled.

I know that Secret Wars II as a whole had many problems. Many of the tie-ins were unnecessary or downright awful. But there’s a lot of absurd fun to be had in those, and in the main series. The original Secret Wars was little more than Shooter and Zeck banging action figures together for 12 issues (and long-time readers know how much I loved it) but I can understand why readers would be disappointed for expecting more of the same from the sequel and not getting it. Yet, if you give it a chance, there were some interesting ideas being explored in the story of an omnipotent being coming to our world to learn about humanity. Some of those ideas are being used to great effect by Jonathan Hickman in his new Secret Wars event (currently in progress). It’s the type of story that probably would have been praised if it wasn’t the centerpiece of a massive linewide effort.

There you have it. My insane idea to do yet another multi-part exploration of a comic book series is finally completed. No matter how often I do one of these, promising myself by the end never to do it again, I never learn my lesson. Now all that’s left to do is sit back, relax, and bask in the non-existent glory that comes for all my efforts.

Next time, I don’t know, probably bunnies.

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