Mightygodking dot com -- Things I Love About Comics: Secret Wars
But for another thing, it had some interesting themes. First, the Beyonder worked perfectly for this crossover. It made sense, on a metatextual level, that a series that was a tie-in to a toy line would involve an impossibly powerful alien playing with Marvel’s heroes and villains as if they were his action figures. But more than that, Shooter decided to ask questions about why kids enact such complicated play activities with their toys, especially ones that are emblematic of struggles over good and evil. He suggested that maybe the play activity helped sort out moral questions on a level accessible to children, and structured the series around an alien that was trying to figure out what good and evil actually were, and around an omnipotent alien whose every desire was instantly fulfilled trying to figure out what it was like to want things.
The answers he came up with were pretty interesting. For starters, although it was never made explicit, the heroes and villains weren’t grouped according to our complex moral frameworks, but according to the very simple question, “Are their desires selfish?” The people who were predominantly selfless, who used their powers to help others, were grouped as ‘heroes’, while the people who were predominantly selfish were grouped as villains. This had two immediate and fascinating results, which played out over the rest of the series. By this logic, Doctor Doom was a villain, while Magneto was a hero.
This was a major thematic component to the series, and showed a really deep understanding of the two characters. Shooter realized that for all that Magneto is ruthless and even murderous, he’s not selfish. He does what he does for mutantkind, not for his own personal benefit. Magneto would be perfectly happy with a little house in the country somewhere in a world where mutants were free of persecution; he doesn’t need to rule. While Doom…Victor might delude himself into thinking that he wants to rule the world for all the right reasons. He might pretend that he would simply be the best choice as leader, and that everything he does is for the benefit of humankind. But the Beyonder saw into his heart and knew better. That pretty much formed the underpinning of the entire story.
But of course, we needed fights and betrayals and epic feats of strength and power and big cool battle sequences and heroes distrusting each other and villains distrusting each other and Galactus being apocalyptically bad-ass and all sorts of Cool Shit, too. And ‘Secret Wars’ paid off. You got to see Spider-Man beating the entire X-Men simply by virtue of being too flippy-shit to punch. You got to see Hawkeye putting an arrow into Piledriver’s shoulder. You got to see the Hulk ripping the Absorbing Man’s arm off…and, oh yeah, holding up a freaking mountain with his bare hands. Oh, and you got to see the Molecule Man dropping a freaking mountain on the Hulk. Mark Millar wishes he could come up with an ending as cool as the ending to issue #3 of ‘Secret Wars’. There were so many great, epic Big Moments in this, and yet it never felt like Shooter was trying to shove Big Moments into his story. He didn’t draw attention to them; he just kept going with one after another exciting scene.
. . .