Thursday, March 12, 2009

Secret Wars

Secret Wars
By Jim Shooter

What a bunch of painfully written fanboy drivel.

And what a walloping good time.

Wait, what? How can it be both? Easy. It just is. I mean, gather a bunch of the coolest heroes and coolest villains, stick them on a planet and have they fight for twelve issues? Awesome! A hoot and a half! In theory, at least. But couple the sheer overkill of having so many characters vying for the spotlight with the terribly one-dimensional writing and you’ve got something as awful as it is awesome.

I liked the trip down memory lane (like most comic geeks my age, I first read this back when it came out). Seeing the Wrecking Crew smash stuff up and the Absorbing Man slinging his ball and chain around was a blast. Remembering how this series briefly changed things in regular Marvel titles was nifty; X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Spider-Man were all impacted by the events of this story. Lots of great moments; the Hulk under the mountain, the initial battle, anything Galactus. Following the twists and turns of the plot – which might not be much, but it did the job – was a lot of fun. Bad guys attack, good guys attack back, and on and on and on. You’ll get no arguments from me. An old school slugfest is what I wanted from Secret Wars and an old school slugfest is what I got.

Not quite an old school slugfest, though. Much as I like the modern style superhero comic, one thing I find many newer comics lack is coherency when it comes to action and fights. Read a title like New Avengers, for instance, and you find that battles are simply a series of formless pinups with banter here and there. Such is the case with many newer comics. The plot and dialogue shines; the action does not. For all the sometimes stuff characterization and awkward dialogue, old school comics did action right. There was an ebb and a flow you just don’t see now, a coherency to the way fights unfolded. Battles actually had a beginning, middle and end. They were tiny stories within the story.

Well, Secret Wars’ battles were modern before their time, because more often than not they are a series of chaotic panels with little rhyme or reason. Trying to juggle too many characters will result in that sort of thing, I s’pose. Sometimes they hit the right notes, but just as often they were a mess. A dozen heroes and a dozen villains in a panel, with some crap dialogue stringing it together, ending with some contrived plot device to stop the battle until next issue.

Oh, and that writing. The plotting was fine. It was really freakin' cool, in fact. I like the way everything here played out. But damn were Shooter’s characters a bunch of one-note, lifeless mannequins. Reading his Wasp was especially painful. His X-Men were less recognizable than Grant Morrison’s. Spider-Man served no purpose at all. And all Captain America ever said was, “Hit ‘em hard and hit ‘em fast!”

Ugh. Dreadful.

But those criticisms don’t mean I didn’t enjoy the ride, because I did. How can you not like Doctor Doom stealing a god’s power, Molecule Man dropping mountain ranges on people, Spider-Man beating up the X-Men (though when Wasp did the same I choked), and Ultron zapping Kang? It was all good fun! Total fanboy wank written kind of poorly, sure, but good fun nonetheless.

This series is more of a landmark than it's often given credit for -– maybe because people consider it a bad landmark that helped kickstart unwelcome trends -– and, if you can get past the dodgy writing and contrived plot, is a fun blast from the past.

An earlier version of this review was originally posted at

Read my regular, everything-and-anything (usually on writing and music) blog right over here.

No comments:

Post a Comment