In a two part series, we will review the Marvel Comics Secret Wars graphic novels from both 1984 and 2015 beginning with the original version. Taking place in a 12 issue series, the widespread popularity of the first major crossover event in the Marvel Universe would go on to inspire countless other crossovers. The ‘Secret Wars’ title, interestingly enough, came from Mattel toys, who partnered with Marvel to release the first line of Marvel action figures.
The Secret Wars is an exciting sci fi-fantasy adventure featuring some of our favorite superheroes and supervillains such as The Avengers, Dr. Doom, The X-men, Spiderman, Ultron, Iron Man, Galactus, The Wrecking Crew, The Lizard and many others. This medley of characters are set against each other by an omnipotent antagonist, known as the Beyonder, on a remote planet called Battleworld. The Beyonder promises to grant the victors of the Secret Wars anything they can imagine, studying them in order to understand the nature of desire.
The Secret Wars is an example of classic Marvel writing and artwork. Comic books were once written so that new readers, including those who had never read a comic before, could get some basic idea of the powers of the characters and what was going on in any given issue. Secret Wars is a fine example of this. The storyline is easy to follow and widely imaginative, showcasing the ensemble performance of the cast in an authentic light. Of particular interest are the interactions between characters like Captain America and The Wolverine, who until this series, had not appeared on the page together. Secret Wars also features some scandalous cross title romances between both heroes and villains.
The characters are rendered with emphasis on action, such that even if they are only standing there they seem engaged and engaging. Characters are also drawn so that they look the same throughout the story due to the use of model sheets (visual reference drawings that help likenesses stay consistent). The machines, structures and environments of Battleworld are rich in detail and variety.
The only criticism is regarding the cover of the graphic novel which is based on the #1 issue in the series. Alex Ross, who painted the new cover following the original 1984 layout, is a master artist without peer, perhaps the very best in the industry. That said, the style of rendition he used works against the medium of comic books as a gateway for fantasy. To a degree, the less realistic the characters look the easier it is for readers to fantasize that they themselves are their favorite hero. Ross’s artwork looks like portrait paintings of real people, so detailed and lifelike that no one would ever recognize themselves in the heroes faces.
Proving to be the most interesting of all The Beyonder’s test subjects is the archfiend Dr. Doom. We gain insight into Doom’s innermost desires and memories as The Beyonder examines him before Doom succeeds in taking The Beyonder’s unlimited power through cunning and sheer force of will. Doom undergoes the greatest change of all the characters as he struggles with the mind-boggling consequences of limitless power
For young comic book fans interested in the Marvel legacy as well as fans classic Marvel who missed the original series, the 1984 Secret Wars graphic novel receives the utmost recommendation from Sci Fi-Fantasy Blog.