Sunday, June 2, 2013


As part of the 30 Days project, I’ll be reviving Gone&Forgotten for a short article every day throughout the month. It’s June 2, and Your Humble Editor is revisiting a previous subject, it’s…

I covered Secret Wars 2 many years ago in this very same blog and walked away from that one dissatisfied; I actually enjoy most of the comics which I review on this site (Solson excluded, across the board, hanging’s too good for’em), if not for raw enthusiastic incompetence then at least for an ambition which trumps ability. In my review of Secret Wars 2, I came away only with a keen, baffled sense of unease. The only high point of the review, by my recollection, involved me trying to cuss the staples right off the spine.

Recently, tho, I came across a comment regarding Chris Tucker’s portrayal of Ruby Rhod in Luc Besson's The Fifth Element - legitimately one of my favorite films – which gave me pause to reconsider Secret Wars 2. Specifically, the author suggested that Ruby Rhod was Besson's vision of the heterosexual male sex symbol of the future, a complete inversion of the macho, gruff, silent hero as portrayed in that same film by contemporary action hero Bruce Willis.

Luckily The Beyonder understands our human concept of "holding it"
I’m not saying I subscribe to the theory completely –I’ll save the specifics for the blog I run about arguing the semiotics and portrayal of race in Luc Besson films, which is to say nowhere – but at the very least it was an epiphany. I understood for the first time was author/editor Jim Shooter was trying to accomplish.

That put me in the mind of this: When The Beyonder chooses to incarnate himself in a human body in Secret Wars 2, he makes a duplicate of Captain America’s alter-ego, the blonde, blue-eyed brick shithouse Steve Rogers. He takes the body of this classically handsome, muscular idealized hetero-masculine male figure and spends the remainder of the series and crossovers either inverting or caricaturizing its paradigm. By the end, he’s got Rogers’ beefy body jeri-curled and decked out in bleach-white pleather tracksuit so that he looks like an enormous singular white male Klymaxx immediately following an enormous multiple white male climax.

This is how the story meetings went
With the idea that Shooter was tickling the underside of paradigm, Secret Wars 2 seems to have been intended as a broad cultural and social satire - the immediate Trust Fund offspring of the thoughtful and lurid work produced under the influence in the 1970s by Bullpen writers like Moench, Starlin and Gerber. If there are any significant distinctions between the purple prose of Marvel’s Seventies catalog and Shooter’s pet crossover project it lies in the scope, scale and the fact that all those other writers spent their teenage years expanding their consciousness with mind-altering drugs and Shooter spent his teenage years being terrorized by Mort Weisinger.

As a satire, its ambition is breathtaking, not only because it audaciously takes place as a multi-issue major crossover involving the company’s best-selling books well inside canon, but also because of the scale of the cultural and philosophical parody; Suburban domesticity, the entertainment industry, fandom, fast food, limousine liberalism, agnostic holisticism, asceticism, a potshot at airplane seats and that’s just in the first issue.  He’ll go on to cover pop culture, conspicuous consumerism, solipsism, hedonism, existentialism, criminal ethics, abortion (!), spiritual morality, secular ethics, transcendentalism and generally the folly of the human condition while making hay of the tropes of the super-hero genre all in the company of well-meaning but tunnel-visioned human helpers (including a watered-down version of Funky Flashman who was himself an amped-up version of Stan Lee so … Stan Lee).

That none of it is done very well is almost beside the point, the ambition is so tremendous as to be noteworthy. A major round of applause for a glorious catastrophe, Secret Wars 2…

1 comment:

Andrew Ducker said...

Aaah, so it's Marvel's Stranger in a Strange Land?

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