Review by Ian Keogh
On the face of it Spider-Man: Secret Wars is a real head-scratcher. Created 25 years after the original Secret Wars phenomenon, it’s a longer examination of Spider-Man’s participation in the events of the Beyonder abducting so many heroes and pitting them against each other. The question for many will be “Why?”
Paul Tobin’s method is to revisit and extend moments featuring Spider-Man from the original story, in some cases working up extra material from just a single panel, but largely expanding on more critical scenes. Much of the first chapter, for instance, takes place with a mountain dropped on top of the superheroes. In the original story it occupied them for just two pages, but Tobin extends that, inflating the problem and the superheroics, while tying it in with Spider-Man’s earlier distrust of the Hulk. If the scene needed to be expanded, then it’s competently handled, but the question remains.
While Tobin’s writing fits the tone of Secret Wars, Patrick Scherberger decides not to mimic Mike Zeck’s art, using a cartoon style he’s obviously more comfortable with, and Art Adams seemingly an influence. The stylistic choice of Spider-Man with a strange point on the back of his head is inexplicable, but get used to the style and Scherberger puts effort into the people and surroundings, more than Zeck did for much of the original version. Clayton Henry supplies some pages toward the end, all very competent, but noticeably different.
From the second chapter on Tobin feels more inclined to take his own path, and these are better stories. More intriguing, but less action-oriented, is the second chapter of Spider-Man and Ben Grimm wandering around Denver (for some reason also transported to Beyonder’s Battleworld). Doctor Doom is up to something, but what? The Enchantress, someone Spider-Man has barely (if ever) dealt with over the years, features in an interesting character study occurring during the attack on Galactus, and Tobin makes good use of what was later revealed about his new black costume. There are some funny moments continuing the theme of illusion in the final chapter, and a clever twist, but it’s otherwise ordinary.
It should also be noted that Spider-Man: Secret Wars is very much aimed at the fan who’s intimately familiar with Secret Wars as it jumps about the continuity with little explanation and no bridging sequences. To pad the whole thing out, Jim Shooter and Zeck’s series-opener from 1985 is also included, and it suddenly elevates what Tobin’s been doing.