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Top 10 Worst Crossover Events

A column article, Top Ten by: Jason Sacks

The comic industry sometimes seems in love with the Big Crossover Event. Whether the crossover brings a black night, reveals a secret war or brings an onslaught, they're controversial, complicated, and - oh yeah - bring tremendously increased sales. Come read our take on the worst crossovers ever - then be sure to join us in the CB forums with your feedback on our list!

10. Siege
by Michael Deeley

I honestly don't know why Siege was voted one of the worst crossovers of all time. I've read worse stories that didn't make the top 10. (Still surprised Blackest Night didn't get more votes.) As far as crossovers go, "Siege" isn't that bad. It's a truly epic battle between the combined forces of Norman Osborn's corrupt Initiative and H.A.M.M.E.R., the Norse Gods, and the outlaw heroes led by Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor. It's had a major impact on the Marvel Universe, unlike most crossovers where the status quo is immediately restored. The art by Oliver Coipel was top-notch. Bendis's writing was better than usual. And best of all, it killed of the Sentry, one of the worst and most confusing characters of the last decade.

So why did so many of this site's contributors vote it as the 10th Worst Crossover of All Time? I have two theories. The first is, they weren't really voting for Siege. They were voting for the "Dark Reign" that preceded it. "Dark Reign" wasn't a crossover so much as a collective theme; a temporary status quo for the entire Marvel line. The problem with "Dark Reign" was that it was based on Norman Osborn being given a job with federal authority over all superhumans. That's Norman "Green Goblin" Osborn. A man who had been publicly revealed to be a supervillain and a murder. Whose company could never compete financially nor technologically with, say, Tony Stark, Hammer Industries, or Haliburton. And who was last seen in "Civil War" trying to assassinate an Atlantean diplomat while under the influence of tiny machines in his head. His last job was leading a team of villains to hunt unregistered heroes. Who would promote this psycho? Who looks at his resume and thinks, "That's who we want. The maniac with underworld connections and a history of violence. Why, the last team he led rebelled and tried to kill him. He's perfect to manage the training and registration of every superhuman in the country! And our premier counter-intelligence/counter-terrorism organization too. Let's put this guy in charge of everything! And give all our defense contracts to his company too. Sure, they're not as good as Stark's or even Goldstar, but at least they won't be corrupted by aliens!

Writers tossed off some vague lines about Osborn using political connections to secure his position. But that's a stretch beyond the breaking point. Within the Marvel Universe, Osborn is just a small fish in a very, very big pond. He's always been a threat to Spider-Man. But on a national level, he's overshadowed by Dr. Doom, Namor, and Loki. (And they were following his lead? ) What really happened was Marvel editorial wanted to do stories about what happens when a bad guy dictates the law and they forgot about the Kingpin. Siege ended the "Dark Reign" that readers never bought into in the first place. So maybe that's why my fellow reviewers voted for it.

That's one theory. The other is we forgot to nominate Ultimatum. Now THAT was true excrement. 

9. Avengers Disassembled
by Jason Sacks

At the risk of sounding just like my friend Christopher Power in his write-up about another wretched Brian Michael Bendis-created crossover slightly lower down on this page, here are just a few reasons why this storyline was so completely pathetic and awful:

No plot flow: We get lots of action the first issue, then people standing around, then more action, now again more standing around. Didn't Bendis ever hear of flow in a plotline?

Pointless plot twists: What was the point of all the deaths? The Vision and Hawkeye are killed in completely pointless ways in this story. Aside from their shock value, they made no sense in context, and only seemed to make the Avengers seem weak; they'd survived crises worse than this many times before. Also, what was the point of all the Avengers showing up at the end of issue 501? What good did any of them do?

Deus ex machina twist: Instead of having one of the hundred or so former Avengers figure out the evil-doer behind the deaths, Bendis brings in Doctor Strange of all characters, a man with almost no connection to the Avengers, to tell every one of the Avengers what's the cause of the attacks. Strange appears out of nowhere to provide the twist, leaving the rest of the Avengers look like slackjawed amateurs.

Stupid characters: Why didn't any characters think things through? Why would nobody think to investigate the concept of chaos magic to see if it was a real thing? Why did nobody send Wanda to counseling if she seemed so messed up? Any why the hell did Jan suddenly mention the kids in the beginning of issue 503?

Woman in the refrigerator syndrome: Yet another powerful female character goes insane in this book. It happens over and over and over again in comics, and now it's happened to a character who's been an Avenger for over 40 years. There's broad consensus now that turning the Scarlet Witch evil was one of the worst examples of pointless '00s shock valuie.

No closure: If this was intended to be the final plotline for the Avengers as we knew them, this was an awfully inconclusive way to end it. It doesn't feel fitting or appropriate for the whole thing to end this way.

This is the ultimate case of the Emperor's New Clothes. Poor writer Bendis keeps going back to the same set of tricks over and over again. Whether it's in "Avengers Disassembled" or SiegeSecret Invasion or the slightly more interesting Civil War, Brian Michael Bendis shows himself again and again as being one of the worst writers in comics.

8. Maximum Carnage
by David Wallace

As a Spider-Man fan, I've had to endure quite a few low points for the character. Storylines such as the Clone Saga and "One More Day" are rightly derided as examples of editorial mandate taking precedence over the quality of storytelling -- but there's another well-known Spidey story that's arguably worse than both of those put together.

"Maximum Carnage" was a 'crossover' story that ran throughout four different Spider-Man books in 1993 (Spider-Man UnlimitedWeb of Spider-ManAmazing Spider-Man and the adjectiveless Spider-Man, for those of you keeping count). Epitomising many of the "extreme" superhero trends of that decade, it featured the return of a new villain who had spawned from a pre-existing ultra-popular character (Venom), who sported a shifting, exaggerated (read: anatomically incorrect) costume, who was a psychopathic murderous serial killer, and who was made out of the very blood of his human host (no, I'm not joking).

It was also one of the most shameless examples of a company stretching out an idea to breaking point for the sole purpose of selling as many comics and toys as possible.

My first experience with the storyline actually came some time after it was published: I bought Spider-Man Unlimited #1 and #2, which happened to contain the first and last chapters of the epic fourteen-part (fourteen!) storyline. In the first chapter, Cletus Kasaday/Carnage broke loose of the asylum in which he had been held following his capture in the earlier "Carnage" arc (which wasn't actually that bad). And in the final chapter, Venom and Spider-Man put their differences aside (what a shock!) and teamed up to capture the evil symbiote offspring.

Frankly, I really should have quit while I was ahead, and left the story complete at that -- but being the completist that I was, I had to go and seek out the intervening twelve chapters to see what happened inbetween.

As it turned out, this was a really bad idea.

These dozen issues see a host of writers and artists try their best to stretch out an already thin storyline as far as possible. One tactic they employ is to throw as many third-rate characters into the mix as possible to pad things out: along with Spider-Man, Venom and Carnage, we see such 'luminaries' as Morbius, Cloak and Dagger, Firestar, Demogoblin, Doppelganger, Shriek, Carrion, and even poor old Deathlok hauled in to help prop up the ailing storyline.

Of course, it doesn't help that several different creative teams are trying to provide a consistent take on all of these characters, and wrangle plotlines that often don't add up from one issue to the next (witness the sudden disappearance of a crowd of riotous citizens surrounding Spidey & co. between the cliffhanger of one issue and the start of the next).

The writers pad things out even further with incongruously low-key soap-opera subplots -- such as Mary Jane trying to give up smoking -- which are rendered even more erratic due to the fact that these plot points only show up once every three issues (due to being confined to a single title that only played host to every third chapter of the storyline).

The pinnacle of the whole thing is one of the most atrocious scenes I've ever seen in superhero comics: a frankly ridiculous sequence in which Spider-Man and his cronies manage to quell city-wide riots by using a giant love-feedback machine to calm the angry masses.

It all sounds ridiculous, and it was. But hey, it was the '90s -- and I bet they sold truckloads of toys.

7. Inferno
by Zack Davisson

Inferno managed to do what no other comic story had managed to do before. It stopped me reading the X-Men.

And I was an X-Men fiend. That was my favorite comic bar none. I started collecting comics with X-Men, and I read and re-read every issue feverishly. In school I was the X-Men guy who wrote the X-Men logo all over his Pee Chee and could recite chapter and verse on every character's first appearance and significant events, who the writers and artists were and all sorts of other triva that comic geeks love.

Then came Inferno.

Inferno swept in and pretty much destroyed the X-Men, crapping all over carefully developed characters and plot lines, sweeping away years of history and story telling. And it was all due to editorial interference over author's intentions. I didn't know this at the time, all I knew was that the X-Men suddenly took a wild left-turn and went from awesome to sucky overnight.

See, Chris Claremont had created the character of Madelyne Pryor with the intent of giving Cyclops a "happy ending" exit from the X-Men. Cyclops had been through a lot, and Claremont felt it was time to retire the character and bring in some new blood and ideas. Cyclops was married to Madelyne, and then went off to Alaska to live happily every after. Then, Marvel editorial staff decided they wanted to resurrect Jean Grey and reassemble the original X-Men into a new comic called X-Factor (The same editorial decision lead to the cancellation of the beloved Defenders series, so bad news all around..)

That presented problems. Cyclops was happily married in one storyline, but all of the sudden he was supposed to dump his wife and return to his first love freshly back from the grave. Not exactly hero-behavior. The writers were in bit of a stink as to what to do about that, and their solution to the story was to propose some preposterous retcon that Madelyne Pryor was in fact a clone of Jean Grey and also happened to be the Goblin Queen leading an invasion of Earth from the demon-realm of Limbo. In the end, the ill-conceived Inferno swept to the other Marvel books, who were editorially forced to wedge in the crossover into what ever story they were currently working on, until finally the whole thing was dismissed as a mass hallucination. 

And all of this was just to deal with what to do with Madelyne Pryor. As Chris Claremont says:

"…unfortunately, Jean was resurrected, Scott dumps his wife and kid and goes back to the old girlfriend. So it not only destroys Scott's character as a hero and as a decent human being it creates an untenable structural situation: what do we do with Madelyne and the kid? ... So ultimately the resolution was: turn her into the Goblin Queen and kill her off"

6. Secret Invasion
by Christopher Power

Aliens have infiltrated the highest levels of the superhero community. They have taken on the guises of some of the most well-known and trusted faces in the world with the goal to prepare the Earth for an invading armada that will settle the Earth as a new homeworld for the Skrull Empire. This invasion, approved by the Skrull emperor, led by the Skrull Queen and ordained by the Skrull monotheistic god, would spell the end of the rule of homo sapiens/homo superior on Earth. If they resist, then it is all out war.

With this description, the overall plot for Secret Invasion sounds pretty captivating. It is a common theme, be it from the classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers to the more recent (and unfortunately timed) Battlestar Galactica, but the idea of being surrounded by threats and yet not being able to identify them taps into something primal. If you can't trust your senses, then, to paraphrase the catchphrase of the event, what can you trust? 

For myself, I actually enjoyed most of Secret Invasion, but I can certainly see the flaws that have pushed it into our Top 10 Worst Crossovers. The large set piece battle scenes, the reveal of a multitude of Super Skrulls and the initial issue, all had the markings of a great series. However, the overall verdict seems to be that the Skrull is in the details, specifically the execution on an issue-by-issue basis. While the overall plot line held together, gaps in story, unclear story hooks and the general reveal of the Skrulls failed to capture the readers without a great deal of secondary work trying to connect it all up in their heads. Here are the major points that seem to jump out when discussing Secrete Invasion with readers:

Skrull failure to follow through with their plans

There are several examples where the Skrulls just seem to fail like bad Bond villains in the last step in the plan. Caught monologuing, or neglecting to check if the heroes are eaten by dinosaurs, you are left wondering why any god would commit their efforts to saving a bunch of nitwits. Some examples include:

  • The Avengers were lured (all 14 teams at the time I think, I may have miscounted) to the Savage Land to investigate a crashed space ship. If the Skrulls were capable of destroying things in orbit, then likely they could destroy things from orbit. Why not just destroy everything in Antarctica and move to victory?
  • When the Skrulls destroyed the S.W.O.R.D. satellite, why didn't they pick off the survivors just to make sure they wouldn't cause problems in the future?
  • Why, when the Skrull Queen was alone with Tony Stark, in a weakened state, would she bother to try to convince Tony he is a Skrull instead of just putting a laser pistol to his brain stem?

Plot points that went no where useful

Secret Invasion seemed to suffer from the writers (particularly Bendis) having too many ideas to fit into this small story arc. I think this is a major problem with all current events – there is a lack of cohesion of the story that the main writers want to tell. In Secret Invasion we have:

  • Implications that the Scarlet Witch was a key player that needed to be off the board for the Skrulls to succeed. To my knowledge, this is never satisfactorily explained or addressed
  • An entire ship of heroes, dressed in former costumes, crashes in the Savage Land. As reders, we were expecting a major guessing game of who is a Skrull. Instead, most of them were killed about 5 panels later by a T-Rex.
  • Story arcs involving the Runaways and more importantly the Young Avengers (who have a Skrull in their midst). Nothing really happens with these particular heroes.
  • The Secret Warriors show up, kick some Skrulls, and then seem to stand around.
  • The story of the attack on Thunderbolt mountain in issue 1 is never satisfactorily explained

I am sure there are many many more.

Deus Ex Machina

Probably the silliest parts of Secret Invasion might have worked on a less cynical audience. However, even those of us who are the most forgiving of 'insta-win' story points had trouble with some areas of this story:

  • Tony Stark claims that the Skrull virus has weakened him substantially. However, in the final scenes he has the ability to blast Skrulls to kingdom come somehow. Apparently the armour was fixed – although when that happened is more than a little unclear.
  • Thor is standing around in a park, seemingly doing nothing, until he decides that he has had enough. He summons all heroes and, oddly, villains to his side with his hammer. I think that likely this is a case of writers not knowing what to do with an Asgardian god, however, this looked pretty sloppy.
  • Nick Fury's understanding of everything that is going on, and his training of the Secret Warriors, is all very convenient and sloppily explained.
  • Reed Richards' Gun of Skrully Skin Remover (or whatever it was called).

Spin-out series

Normally big events have side series that tell important aspects of the stories. However, it is absolutely essential that readers are properly sign posted to major events so that they can find out what happens in the broader context. In Secret Invasion there was serious problems of readers not knowing what to read and when. For example:

  • The Incredible Hercules tells the story of the Skrull god. Given that the Skrull god is the major driving force, readers should have known this was a major plot point. However, at no point was there even an indirect reference about what was happening to the Skrull god in the main series.
  • The Initiative was a key book involving the Skrullojacket Hank Pym. The readers of the main series didn't know that until he all of a sudden showed up riding on the back of a plane.
  • The Thunderbolts was a pretty important storyline, especially given the final outcome. I would be a very small proportion of the readership knew how important that book was to the storyline.

The Finale
Probably this is the part that bothered people the most. The idea that Norman Osborn, convicted criminal, known to be criminally insane, would be put in charge of all of the security of the free world, all because of one lucky shot seems really stupid. Maybe he could have had a medal. Or a civic holiday worldwide named after him. Or rename the park the final showdown was in "Norman Osborn Park" with a nice plaque.

Anyways, I keep hoping that Marvel will write a What If storyline where Wolverine has the kill of the Skrull Queen and is put in charge of the free world. That seems like a funny storyline to me.

As you can see, I can point out lots of flaws in Secret Invasion. However, despite all of this, I still had fun reading it. I had lots of smiles on my face during the run in the various series, and some great shocking moments, even if some of them didn't make any sense.

5. Marvel Vs. DC
by Zack Davisson

Wolverine beats Lobo. That is all that really needs to be said about the ridiculousness of the poorly written and poorly executed popularity contest that was the Marvel Vs. DC cross-company cross-over. Wolverine beats Lobo.

It isn't that I like Lobo. He is a pretty lame one-joke guy, whereas Wolverine can be a nuanced and sophisticated character. If asked who was the better character it is Wolverine all the way. But in sheer power levels, Lobo is a cosmic-level threat: Invulnerable, super strong, has no problem being unprotected in space, and is able to go toe-to-toe with Superman. Wolverine is…Wolverine. The outcome was so impossible that the writers had the whole thing take place off-panel, knowing that there was no conceivable way they could actually show Wolverine beating Lobo that would make logical sense.

But of course, logic or continuity didn't determine the outcomes of the various line-ups in Marvel Vs. DC. Instead, fans got to vote for the winners in each bout. This meant that the more popular character won, not the logical winner. This meant that writers were forced to script the fights based on fan-votes, not on good or compelling storytelling. This meant that the whole series was clearly a bad idea.

What was supposed to be a geeks dream come true was destroyed by the decision to open it up to the popular vote. What makes these kinds of speculations fun is that they are based on the power of the characters, not the popularity. But in any vote, when faced with two choices, people pick the one they know over the one they don't, which is why so many "Best of All Time" lists are topped by fairly recent releases. With these types of comic cross-overs, it is up to the writers to make a good story out of the match-ups. This is hard to do when they are forced into a certain conclusion.

Actually, putting the whole thing into "vs" mode was a bad idea from the start, as DC characters are innately more powerful than Marvel. DC has always been the SUPERman company, while Marvel has been the superMAN company. Flash vs Quicksilver? Come on. The Flash can vibrate through walls and even out-race time and death. Quicksilver runs really fast. Captain Marvel wields the power of a pantheon of Gods. Thor just has one. Lobo is un-killable and can generate clones from himself from every single drop of his blood. Wolverine has knife hands.

Wolverine beats Lobo. 'Nuff said.

4. Infinite Crisis
by Thom Young

Infinite Crisis by itself was a mess. When coupled with its various tie-in series, it was a complete disaster. The event began with several series and one-shots that were part of the Prelude to Infinite Crisis, so I’ll first discuss what was wrong with them. 

DC Special: The Return of Donna Troy: Through the first three issues, I wondered why this series was even part of the Infinite Crisiscountdown. We finally discovered the connection in the final issue. All of the Donna Troys from all the multiple pre-Crisis universes were merged into one Donna Troy (except for the Donna Troy that was made into the Anti-Monitor's Dark Angel) because she is supposedly the “nexus of the multiverse” (whatever that meant). 

Ultimately, of course, the main series never used the concept of Donna as the nexus. In Infinite Crisis, she was relegated to the “Polaris Galaxy” at the “Center of the Universe” to watch giant hands emerge from a hole in space--and nothing was done with that plot thread.

Rann/Thanagar War: The entire six issues could have been distilled into a powerful two- or three-issue story. Its saving grace was the discovery that some sort of cosmic event apparently related to the pre-Crisis multiverse has ruptured the fabric of space in the Polaris star system (not “galaxy”) of which both Rann and Thanagar are now part.

The Omac Project: This series wasn't bad except for completely screwing up a great Jack Kirby concept by "re-imagining it." Still, I was left wondering what the army of OMACs (an "army" of One Man Army Corp"?) had to do with the infinite crisis. There really wasn’t a satisfying answer to that question.

Villains United: It was revealed in this series that there are two bald-headed Lex Luthors (not counting Alex Luthor, who would be the third). There was a young, slender Luthor, and there was an older, stockier one who looked like the Luthor from John Byrne's reboot from 1985 /1986. What, if anything, any of this had to do with the multiverse crisis was anybody's guess, as I don’t recall it ever being addressed in Infinite Crisis itself.

As for Infinite Crisis itself: Geoff Johns needs to take an astronomy class. Throughout Infinite Crisis Johns cites the cosmic event as occurring in "The Polaris Galaxy" (the “home galaxy” of the Thanagarians according to Johns). Unfortunately, Polaris is a star, not a galaxy. 

There were several instances of unbelievable dialog but the worst of the lot went to Superboy-Prime who, after Superman introduces him to Power Girl as “Superboy” says, "Actually, you can call me Superboy-Prime." In hindsight, I guess this strange dialog may have been the first indication that something is not quite right with Superboy-Prime’s head.

Finally (I need to wrap this up), the series was roundly criticized by many of my colleagues here at Comics Bulletin for being too violent in the depiction of the deaths of characters--particularly female characters (such as Phantom Lady, who was impaled on a sword by Deathstroke, and Pantha, who was decapitated when Superboy-Prime punched her in the head).

Initially, I defended these gruesome deaths because I saw the potential symbolism in them. However, I now doubt that Geoff Johns was considering the destructive aspect of the male phallus over vulnerably exposed femininity when Deathstroke impaled the nearly naked Phantom Lady on his sword. That symbolism is there to be interpreted regardless of Johns's intent, but he didn’t do anything with that symbolism in the rest of the series to indicate that it was a conscious artistic decision that was intended for literary value.

Similarly, I honestly believed at the time that the death of Pantha was going to be connected to the theme of "heroism"--not because Pantha's death was "heroic" but because she was killed in such a brutal fashion by a character who claimed to be "a better hero" than others. At the time, I defended the decapitation of Pantha:

When properly handled, a positive theme (such as "heroism") would not only involve positive examples of that theme but must include contrary examples that help underscore the positive by the end of the story. Superboy-Prime claims to be "a better hero," but his brutal act (even if unintentional) belies his claim and becomes a commentary on the notion of heroism in contemporary society while potentially providing contrast to the actions of a true hero at the end of the story.

However, by the time the series was over I had to admit that I was wrong as Johns failed to capitalize on the symbolism he was writing--apparently without knowing he had such strong symbolism in his story.

Johns didn't develop the dichotomy between Superboy-Prime's false image of himself as a "hero" in contrast to the Golden Age Superman's actual heroism--which Johns also ended up not highlighting in G.A. Superman's death scene. There was nothing heroic in the death of the Golden Age Superman as he was pummeled to death by Superboy-Prime.

Johns should have developed these elements (the symbolisms of the various death scenes) to make his story work thematically and to give it greater connotative meaning, but he didn't. Infinite Crisis is filled with possibilities that were never realized (not even in the “corrected edition” that collected the series as a graphic novel) because Johns didn't seem to know what he had. Instead, the entire Infinite Crisisproject was a mess from beginning to end.

3. Millennium
by Ray Tate

Millennium was a crappy mini-series DC sludged onto the racks in 1988. The main idea behind the book was to recreate the Guardians of the Universe or band together a new lousy team of seventh tier characters. Take your pick.

Earlier, the Space Smurfs and their hot mamas the Zamorans went into limbo to have space sex. Representatives of the Guardians and the Zamorans chose a baker's dozen from the planet earth to experience the ultimate evolution and take over their duties. 

The Pre-Crisis Guardians used to be stand-up little blue guys. The Guardians of old would have never picked a racist nor an archvillain to represent the best of the best. However, these two yucks were not the most memorable of the New Guardians.

The character I recall the most was the AIDS infected Gay Gypsy Guy. AGGY was a horrible creation. For one thing, he looked like a Scooby-Doovillain. I can just imagine the scene. After Scoob and the Gang capture him in quick-drying cement, Freddie rips off AGGY's outlandish disco get-up and his bizarre finger-in-light-socket Mandrake mask and unveils "Old Mr. Haney!" It always puzzled me why AGGY never cured himself of AIDS. He now had the power. Just stupid I guess.

The Manhunters attempted to prevent the birth of the New Guardians. The Manhunters, both space-themed and terrestrial vigilante, were created by Jack Kirby; the latter with his partner Joe Simon. Before the Guardians established the Green Lanterns, they enforced the law through the Manhunters. Trouble is robots get twitchy, and before you know it, they start trying to take over the universe. 

DC editorial mandated that one or more characters in each Millennium tie-in title had to become Manhunters. Some Manhunters like Commissioner Gordbot could be destroyed. Others like Lana Lang were brainwashed from childhood. 

The Lana Lang folly emphasizes why the Smurfs abandoned the Manhunters. The robots planted Lana Lang because they predicted that Superman would grow up on the Kent Farm. Superman in fact is instrumental in destroying a whole truckload of Manhunters in a related issue of Justice League International. The Manhunters could have prevented that by simply having Lana kill baby Kal: "New baby's dead, Ma."

Is Millennium the worst DC produced? Are you kidding? Every time you think DC can't lower the bar any farther, they dig a trench. Millennium serves as the mold for bad mini-series. Bad plot execution. The creation of worthless characters that form a worthless team. Fucking up continuity. Hack writers and editors deciding to maim or kill off fan-favorite characters created by better writers and artists. Alas, Laurel Kent. Taking a Jack Kirby idea and sullying it. Lack of reason for Big Stupid Event occurrence. Yes,Millennium was prescient in the very worst sense. May this mini-series feed the slugs.

2. Secret Wars II
by Ace Masters

He desires to understand. He desires to experience so he may understand. He is the Beyonder! In his universe he is all, and all powerful. In ours he is supremely powerful. Powerful enough to have a Geri curl perm and NO ONE will call him on it.

Secret Wars II, the epic nine issue limited series, takes the Marvel Universe's experience with the Beyonder and makes it more personal, as the conflict moves from Battleworld to Earth. Or at least more personal is the intent.

It gets off to a weak start as the first thing Beyond does in his attempt to understand our world is turn a bitter, self-loathing, world-hating writer (Stewart Cadwall) into his greatest desire – Thundersword! As Thundersword, Cadwell destroys NBC (even though he works there), CBS, McDonald's and every place he believes is the denegation of society.

Social commentary of the Thundersword character and his actions aside, watching a guy in yellow armor destroy LA believing he is doing a good thing just doesn't work.

It's not that it's a bad idea, it's that it falls into the same plot hole as many stories: poor execution.

That's the problem with Secret Wars II in general, poor execution. It is not a bad concept or idea it's just that the execution of the project doesn't live up to what it could have been.

There are some good things to Secret Wars II. The best thing is the pace of the story, Shooter's scripts are well paced, a fast read and a lot happens in each issue without feeling like things are overblown. If written today, the main Secret Wars nine issue limited series would probably cover two years or more!

Al Milgrom's art is the best experience about Secret Wars II. It is at one time reserved, personal, intense and epic. It is pure artistic storytelling that does more than just capture and tell the story of the Beyonder, it capture the essence of the Beyonder and the changes he goes through during the story.

A better name would the Saga of the Beyonder. As it is, for the most part, a story about the experience and growth of the Beyonder, with the Marvel Universe as side characters. Unfortunately the experiences are somewhat incomplete and the growth is stereotypical – from starting out childlike to world-conquering to being unfilled to deciding that the only thing left to do is destroy all of existence. It all feels 'done before.' Even in 1985.

In the end the experience of reading Secret Wars II is parallel to the experience the Beyonder has in the series: underwhelming and leaves one wanting something more.

1. Onslaught
by Michael Deeley

The story began with such promise. Professor Xavier, founder of the X-Men, has gone insane, transforming into the armored monster Onslaught. I remember reading that comic the week it debuted. I was shocked! The founder of the X-Men has turned evil! This would change the X-Men forever! And the story only got bigger. Soon the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, and other heroes joined the battle against Onslaught. He took control of Sentinel robots and took over New York City. He kidnapped Franklin Richards and Nate "X-Man" Grey, adding their powers to his own. Onslaught ultimately grew so powerful he became a being of pure energy. The only way our heroes could stop him was to absorb his energy with their bodies and have the X-Men kill them.

Wait.

Yeah. That's exactly what happened.

Let's back up and list off everything about this story that sucked. Besides the '90s era art and writing that hasn't aged well, Onslaught's powers remain vague and ill-defined. It's implied he's physically taking people into the astral plane, but that shouldn't be possible. He also claims to be absorbing others' superpowers. How? Is he controlling their minds? The more you think about it, the less sense it makes. 

And the ending? When I first read that ending, I thought I was missing a page. The smartest, most powerful people in the Marvel Universe and the best idea they can come up with is a mass suicide? I guess their options were limited facing an entity of pure thought and energy. It's not like they had any scientists with experience containing exotic energies. Or a god who could open inter-dimensional portals to siphon it away. Or mutants with energy-manipulation powers. Heck, even a guy with an armor made from advanced technology could help out. Too bad there was no one like that at the fight. Just Reed Richards, Dr. Doom, Thor, Iron Man, Black Bolt, Magneto, Cable, Bishop, Hank Pym and the Scarlett Witch! 

This outbreak of mass stupidity can only be explained by editorial edict. Before the crossover's ending, Marvel had decided to cancel Fantastic FourAvengersCaptain America and Iron Man. These series would be relaunched under the creative direction of Jim Lee and Rob Leifeld and their respective studios in Image Comics. Marvel was farming out thier oldest characters to their newest competitor.

Let that sink in.

Marvel thought it was a win-win. All the hard work of creating comic books would be done outside of the company. The fame of the artists' and the relaunch would boost sales. But for readers the message was clear: Image won.

The victory was short lived. The "Heroes Reborn" comics produced by Lee and Liefeld were terrible. Liefeld couldn't stick to a publishing schedule, so Lee's Wildstorm Studios took over the entire line. And everyone knew it was only a matter of time before the heroes returned to their home universe. Sure enough, 13 months later, the status quo was restored. The "Heroes Reborn" comics are remembered as failures; a low point in an already troubled decade.

I could go on. How Mark Waid's great run on Captain America was cut short by this crossover. How he ultimately quit when they gave the book to Leifeld. The many plot holes in the story. How it was already planting seeds for the next X-men crossover. But this has gone on long enough. "Onslaught" is a stain on Marvel Comics history. A dark stain that readers have been trying to rub out for years.

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