The real covers (above) and the vastly inferior UK cover…
What hasn’t already been said about this year-long maxi series, which is often billed as the first standalone event in comic book history? Not much. So I’m not going to go on and on about here. Instead, just some bullet points on what made it so much fun and so important:
· Spider-Man got a new costume, which was biologically based and eventually became Venom. And we got hints, if we knew to look for them, right from the start…
· The whole thing took place between two months of comics, which meant readers suddenly saw references to the series without actually having read it—which meant it had obvious importance, made people curious, etc. In my view, a brilliant publishing strategy.
· It was ostensibly done to launch a new produce line of action figures.
· In this series, Klaw becomes an infantile weirdo (but it’s nicely done), and it’s the first time we see Dr. Doom rising to cosmic power levels. First, he steals Galactus’ powers. Then, because he’s still hungry, he tries to take Beyonder’s virtually unlimited powers. Doom’s goals are twofold: (1) He really likes being the toughest guy in the room and (2) he wants to get his mommy’s soul back from Mephisto.
· There was a prior line-wide event book, The Contest of Champions, but the stakes and implications weren’t at this level—I see that book as a trial run for this mega story.
· This is the comic where Hulk has a mountain dropped on him.
· Magneto becomes “chaotic good.” Or, at least, “chaotic neutral.” We see him identified by the cosmic being Beyonder, who organizes the big event, as a “good guy,” but the heroes of course reject his participation. It represents the beginning of a shift of Magneto’s role as “arch-villain” into a much more complex character.
· Another breakout character in this book is Molecule Man. This is the first time we see him as a hugely powerful individual, with virtually unlimited expansion.
· We are introduced to a new Spider-Woman who has psychic web powers (she creates physical webs with her brain). She’s in the adventure by virtue of her piece of Earth being yanked by Beyonder to become part of Battleworld, which is formed by fragments from various planets.
· Doctor Octopus’ brain breaks in this series. There’s some specifics around it, but basically he can’t take Doom and Molecule Man and others being so, so, SO much more powerful than him, and his ego shatters. This leads to him being put in a mental institution at the end of the series. It gives a sense of the relative power levels of a “major” bad guy like Ock versus the true giants of the Marvel Universe.
· Hulk breaks his leg and is in a cast for some of the issues that follow this series. Not a huge, long-lasting effect of the book, but another one that made readers of just the Julk book curious enough to want to find out how his leg got broken.
· Thing decides that he likes being on the Beyonder’s world more than Earth, in part because he can change from rocky to human here at will, so he stays behind to have a series of adventures that will be told in his solo book. This makes way for She-Hulk to become the fourth member of the Fantastic Four.
· First appearances: Beyonder, Spider-Woman II, Titania, Venom (as Spider-Man’s black costume), Volcana.
Creators: Jim Shooter and Mike Zeck