Monday, July 19, 2021

The Coming Of Galactus! The Rise Of Doom!


When it comes to Marvel's Bronze Age tales of the 1980s, I don't often come across raves or even much discourse regarding that period's notable and heavily promoted event, the 1984-85 twelve-issue limited series Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars, which, at the time, was reportedly a financial success and sold more copies than any other comic in the previous twenty-five years. Almost nine years ago, the PPC featured its own review of the series as a whole--and while ultimately questioning the premise of the concept along with its outcome and immediate impact, there were also some positives to consider, though your own mileage may vary.

It seems clear that the story's selling point was in the select groupings of heroes and villains which were assembled on a newly-created planet to engage in a number of conflicts with each other, on a scale that went (forgive the word) beyond what could be found in regular monthly titles being published. (The scenarios being found in the 1977-1984 What If series, still being sold at the time, were perhaps the series' closest equivalent in that regard.) Yet if you look past the window dressing of the hero/villain battles (where, let's face it, only one group is going to be able to meet the Beyonder's condition to "slay your enemies" in order to claim the reward being offered), there were two characters in particular whose activities arguably made for more compelling reading--individuals who were literally worlds apart in power, but whose struggles coincided and came to overshadow the main focus on the heroes who were caught in the middle of it all.

We know from the story's first few pages that the Beyonder has split the super-beings that he's transported into two groups, sorted by "the nature of their desires." Curiously, however, Magneto has been placed in the heroes' group, likely due to X-Men writer Chris Claremont's initial effort to reform him--while Galactus has inexplicably materialized among the evil-doers, despite countless instances in prior stories that have maintained that he is (again, forgive me) beyond good or evil. And so we're left to assume that the desires of Galactus somehow align with those of Dr. Doom and his ilk--though how the Beyonder can conclude that Galactus values the same selfish goals of super-villains above his own pressing needs is a little like having the reader try to hammer a square peg into a round hole.

Just how out of place Galactus is among these assembled low-lifes begins to become apparent when Ultron asserts himself and follows his mantra to decimate the human life he finds himself among--and Doom, realizing the danger of Ultron's threat to even himself, makes use of the Molecule Man to manipulate the scene in order to gain the attention of Galactus. From there, neither Ultron's arrogance nor his power can help him.

It's then that the Beyonder makes his startling announcement to everyone present, intended to motivate them into attacking each other in order to gain a reward he believes will (presumably) appeal to both groups. But in reality, the desires of Galactus are unique, and he has no intention of jumping through the Beyonder's hoops in order to realize them--while there is another whose own impatience, along with his hunger for power, compels him to seize an opportunity when it presents itself, albeit all too briefly.

(As a matter of trivia, it's worth noting that it was Galactus who coined the Beyonder's name.)

For himself, and for the reader, Dr. Octavius has all but confirmed Doom's true agenda in this story--and though Galactus clearly is pursuing his own agenda, Doom appears to realize that keeping close tabs on Galactus might well provide the means to achieve his ends.

Doom goes on to consolidate his position among the villains as their unquestioned leader--which was expedited by applying his own skills to the damaged Ultron and making the deadly construct his personal bodyguard. From there, Doom's activities in this series are on par with whatever satisfaction we derive at seeing how the heroes are coping with their situation which, unfortunately, includes its share of casualties and setbacks. One such setback sees Captain America and his group having to abandon their base of operations and take refuge in a village, one which happens to be within view of the figure of Galactus standing vigil on a mountaintop, where all efforts to contact him are rebuffed--even as the planet devourer's plans become apparent.

For Doom, however, the moment is ripe, as he sends his forces in a vicious assault against the heroes; and when the X-Men join the heroes in the fight, and Storm summons a fierce gale to aid in their defense, he seizes the moment at the point when the sudden storm distracts Galactus in order to covertly gain entrance to Galactus' world-ship and begin his search for an advantage--a no doubt daunting task on such a construct, even for Doom.

Eventually, in a curious twist to this series by writer Jim Shooter, Doom comes across the villain known as Klaw, the Master of Sound, who has become a muttering lunatic and trapped on the ship following an encounter with Dazzler. To gain himself more time on the world-ship before being discovered and expelled by Galactus, Doom sends word to his cronies via Klaw to set in motion explosive, spreading planetary eruptions which will demand the attention of Galactus (why, I have no idea--why would eruptions become a hindrance to Galactus consuming the life force of a world?)--but Doom makes a near-fatal underestimation of the ability of Galactus to nevertheless perceive his presence.

Doom's incapacitation precedes the heroes' all-out attack on his base, where they're finally able to capture and imprison their deadly foes--some of whom have injured the She-Hulk to the point of near-death. It also comes at a time when Cap and his forces must move against Galactus before it's too late; yet Reed Richards has reservations, and suddenly finds himself in an audience with a suddenly amiable Galactus.

Meanwhile, Doom recovers while in his cell, and has at last devised the means by which to achieve his goal. And guess which muttering lunatic is the key to his plan?

Back at the site of battle, Reed returns, as confused as ever as to how to proceed against Galactus, baffling his allies in this struggle. It's a perplexing set of scenes which Shooter presents, especially when lined up and presented together which shows Reed still grappling with his thoughts both before and after his meeting with Galactus. Given that Cap and the others decide to fight regardless, what exactly has been accomplished here if even Reed isn't sure of the point he's making?

And if that seems confusing, guess which husband and father relents and decides to do the very thing he was adamantly opposed to?

So, to recap:

Reed is a force of the universe, just as Galactus is. Check.
Also, just as Galactus is an instrument of death, Reed is a universal champion of life. Check.
Reed was torn between allowing Galactus to destroy the planet, including everyone on it, in order to see his threat ended forever one way or another when he confronts the Beyonder--vs. fighting to take down Galactus, thus saving the lives of everyone on the planet. Check, and check.
We aren't privy to whatever Galactus spoke with Reed about, but apparently it settled none of Reed's doubts about what to do about Galactus. Check.
Reed helps in the effort to bring Galactus down, confident that it can be done considering how depleted his power has become. Check.

Regrettably, however, Cap's forces are still under the impression that it's the energy conversion device of Galactus that is their primary target--an error which allows the escape of Galactus to space, where he will gain the energy he needs by consuming his own world-ship, thereby setting in motion Doom's plan to outmaneuver all of them.

Earlier, you'll recall being mentioned in so many words that when everything finally hit the fan, it would be Doom and Galactus who would be the crux of how things would go down in this series--and they would be the ones to watch.

That's carried us through the first ten issues.
For this story's climax, our focus is sharpened to include the instigator.

Power begets power!

No comments: