Review by Frank Plowright
There may be multiple reasons for buying an expensive Omnibus edition in preference to the standard trade paperback, but a major selling point is the opportunity to see first rate artwork at a far larger than usual size. Except with Secret Wars there isn’t any first rate art. That’s not entirely down to pencil artists Mike Zeck, who draws most of the core story, or Bob Layton, responsible for the remainder. One only has to compare these pages to Zeck’s work elsewhere to see that he’s operating under restricted conditions, whether self-imposed or instructed. Secret Wars was aimed at the younger end of Marvel’s audience in 1984, and that means the relentless monotony of everything being absolutely clear with no cleverness allowed, figures shown from a distance and lots of them to the panel. The art does a job, but without any spark, and if you like the artists there’s plenty of better representations of their work.
An Omnibus sometimes supplies content not available in the standard edition, which is the case here. Two spotlights deal with what seem the random inclusions of Enchantress and Titania in the main story, neither among the first rank of Marvel villains. In the real world this was surely down to a desire to have female action figures accompanying the Secret Wars comics, and the Marvel of 1984 wasn’t overflowing with credible female villains. Dan Slott and Paul Pelletier’s background for Titania adds pathos, while Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz attempt the same for the Enchantress, but it’s clumsily produced. The other added stories are from the What If…? line. What might have happened had the Venom symbiote controlled Spider-Man is extrapolated by Danny Fingeroth and Mark Bagley, and only has a good ending to recommend it. Jay Faerber and Gregg Schigiel explore a world 25 years after only some returned from the Secret Wars. This has its moments, and although only vaguely connected to Secret Wars, spotlights a new generation of heroes. Still, the added content isn’t good enough to justify the massive price difference between the standard edition and buying an Omnibus.
That really only leaves the original content, then. The idea of so many heroes and so many villains transported to another world for a year is great, and Jim Shooter’s plot employs some interesting twists, but it’s also padded and resolutely aimed at younger readers with no concessions to anyone older. In hindsight only the changes to Spider-Man’s costume were of consequence, and subsequent costume changes have diminished that novelty. The pedestrian execution further diminishes enjoyment. Anyone who thrilled to Secret Wars in their early teens back in 1984-1985 will presumably be transported back to happier times, but the standard trade could manage that just as well.