Thursday, May 21, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Secret Wars Battleworld #1

I imagine that when the world ends, I’ll either be in a bar or sitting naked in my bathtub with a bottle of whiskey in both hands. I don’t think that everyone in the Marvel universe thought that far ahead after the events of Secret Wars. They tried and failed to stop the final incursion between their world and the rotting corpse that is Ultimate Marvel. But the end of the world doesn’t mean the end of the story. The Disney overlords who aren’t content swimming in a pool of Age of Ultron money will never allow that.

With the entire Marvel universe in ruin, only Battleworld remains. This creates the kind of fucked up setting that is usually only found in a Stanley Kubrick movie. It’s like Marvel took a drunk off the streets, pumped him with tequila and meth, and had him chop up random bits of various Marvel universes into a singular clusterfuck of a world. Seeing as how I blacked out for two days and woke up in a ditch in New Orleans last weekend, I have my suspicions. But in this singular clusterfuck, there are characters from multiple worlds coming together to explore this new world. Secret Wars Battleworld #1 offers a taste of what we can expect in this singular clusterfuck of a world. Since the tequila and meth are now out of my system, I’m ready to give a fair assessment.

It goes without saying that there are a lot of fucked up versions of characters that were fucked up to begin with. I won’t say Frank Castle is the most fucked up in the Marvel Universe, not by a long shot. But he’s still a man who needs more therapy than an army of Dr. Phils. But in one nook of Battleworld, there’s a version of him whose body and soul got hijacked by Dr. Strange. In his defense, he was battling an army of vampires and not the ones that sparkle either. It still sucks for Castle, which is probably why he decided to give the finger to Dr. Droom’s rules about staying within your own damn fucked up AU. There’s not a whole lot of background info given on him or his world, but it’s just enough to make this story function without the aid of LSD.

Whatever his story or the reasons for being stuck with Dr. Strange, Frank Castle is still a guy who tends not to give a shit about draconian laws, even if they’re passed down by a unholy uber-powerful Dr. Doom. As a result, he gets a visit from a team of familiar faces representing Dr. Doom’s version of mall cops. This includes the Hulk, Wolverine, Spider-Man, and Ghost Rider. With a team like this, Paul Blart might have actually been a watchable movie. They basically tell him that he’s been crossing borders and in Dr. Doom’s world, that’s like punching the President in the dick.

This sorcerer Punisher doesn’t have a spell that allows him to punch Dr. Doom in the dick, but he does have spells that make for a pretty awesome fight. He can still conjure guns. He can still channel his inner Rambo. But having the Sorcerer Supreme at his disposal certainly has its advantages. He’s able to de-Hulk Bruce Banner and freeze Ghost Rider. I’m sure he’s disappointed that he couldn’t do this with a big ass gun, but I think he’s learned from Tony Stark that big ass guns can cause more problems than they solve. That or Tony Stark is just a lousy shot.

It’s still nice fight that shows how the Punisher makes use of his powers as the Sorcerer Supreme. It’s still not all that epic. It feels rushed and underdeveloped. But it gets the job done. A version of the Punisher armed with the powers of the Sorcerer Supreme shouldn’t be a fair fight. Like giving Jason Vorhees a machine gun, there’s only so much would-be camp counselors can do.

But like Jason Vorhees, one victim is always going to come back to bite him. This time it’s Wolverine. After what it took to kill him in 616, the power of the Sorcerer Supreme isn’t quite as efficient in taking him out. That makes the battle between Wolverine and the Punisher a bit more engaging, but not by much. It’s not because the Punisher doesn’t have the power either. He really doesn’t try to win. Even when Dr. Strange offers to help him, he doesn’t really give a shit. So when Wolverine comes in for an attack, he opts to just use a spell that blows himself up.

If it sounds crude and unnecessary, don’t quit drinking. It is, but for a reason. It’s not a good reason, but it’s still better than any reason my landlord gives for jacking up the rent. The Punisher doesn’t care much for living under Dr. Doom’s absolute laws. He didn’t even care much for living under America’s laws. Since he can’t shoot a god-powered Doom between the eyes, he’ll settle for going down fighting. It’s still pretty crude in that it effectively ends his story in a suicide-by-cop type deal. That’s really not Frank Castle’s style, even if he is dealing with Dr. Strange’s shit. It makes for a flashy finale, but it has no real impact. It’s just one of the many benefits of Battleworld. It’s basically as flexible as fan fiction, minus all the horrible grammar.

Having blown himself up, the Sorcerer Supreme Punisher is no more. It’s probably for the best. Punisher armed with that much power would’ve created a world where quality blow was impossible to get. Wolverine even pointed out that Castle had a death wish. It further limits the impact of the fight, but in a place like Battleworld I guess that’s to be expected. With so many version of other characters running around, I’m sure some get tired of that shit real fast.

But Frank Castle’s death did have one notable effect. It freed Dr. Strange’s soul from Castle, which meant he was in need of a new host. And since Wolverine just happened to be at ground zero, he decides to hitch a ride. This way, he gets more booze and sexier women. I guess if anyone wins here, it’s Dr. Strange. He still has to tag along while Wolverine is acting as Dr. Doom’s pit-bull, but it could be worse. He could be bound to Howard the Duck’s body.

That’s the end of the first mini-story in this issue. The second involves something a little less emo, but only to the extent that someone like MODOK can go goth. Yes, this walking Mardi Gras float gets to have some fun in Battleworld too and he’s not nearly as pessimistic as Frank Castle.

In a lab in one of Battleworld’s warzones, which I’m guessing is somewhere outside a version of Detroit, MODOK has created a machine that can transport multiple versions of himself from across Battleworld. Like Frank Castle, he’s basically spitting in the face of a god-powered Dr. Doom. He would probably be better off trying to sue Apple, but it’s not like MODOK has ever fully thought his plans through. He’s designed for killing, not being proactive. He leaves that sort of shit for villains who don’t make people laugh or think someone gave them bad acid.

Careful thought aside, MODOK’s machine works. He’s able to summon an army of twisted AU MODOKs that look more like cos-players than equals. There’s one that looks like Spider-Man. There’s one that looks like Hulk. There’s even one that looks like a really fat version of Mr. Chow from the Hangover, although I imagine his dick is the same size. It’s a fucked up assortment of MODOKs, but that’s exactly what makes it work. Unlike the Punisher, it’s not meant to be serious. How can anyone take a giant floating head seriously to begin with? Unless their Power Rangers, this might as well be one of Deadpool’s dreams that don’t involve tacos.

MODOK tries to rally his fellow MODOKs into joining him in the fight against Dr. Doom. And by joining him, he basically means they should all follow him so he can basically take Dr. Doom’s place. Let’s face it, MODOK is about as subtle as George W. Bush on crystal meth and has as much charisma as Ben Stein on valium. His other selves aren’t all that inspired. Hell, they would’ve been more inspired by watching an old Mighty Ducks movie. They start bickering and arguing, as only clones and AU characters can. It’s like a sitcom, minus the cocaine in between takes.

It only gets too fucked up, even for MODOK, when he confronts a version of himself that looks like a baby. And it’s not the cute kind of baby that makes a new viral video every other day or so. This is a crazy, homicidal baby version of MODOK. It’s not nearly as adorable as it sounds. This seems to be the final straw for MODOKs duplicates. Any plan that involves a crazy baby is just too fucked up, even for MODOK. Like Spider-Man and clones, MODOK and other versions of himself just don’t work.

It leads to a massive MODOK vs. MODOK vs. MODOK brawl. It’s every bit as fucked up and entertaining as it sounds. Like giving a bunch of drunk monkies an unlimited supply of spray cheese, it’s just a chaotic and crazy scene. Like the fight with the Punisher and Wolverine earlier, it’s not a fight that’s going to have a lot of impact. This sort of shit isn’t exactly going to undermine Dr. Doom’s god-like power. But it’s still entertaining and funny. Where else are we going to see MODOK kick is own ass for once? And the guy doesn’t even have an ass in the first place. That just makes this all the more appropriate.

Eventually, MODOK and his army cause enough of a racket for Dr. Doom to take notice. That or Dr. Doom had to stop laughing his ass off long enough to send the Thor Corps to investigate. He must have been laughing pretty hard because by the time they show up, all the MODOKs are dead or defeated. The entire facility is in ruins as well. There’s only one MODOK left and he’s more than eager to surrender. He’s capable of taking on the Hulk. He’s even willing to take on the Avengers. But after a battle against versions of himself that include a giant baby, he’s done.

This issue doesn’t really move the overall plot of Secret Wars forward, but it doesn’t attempt to and it doesn’t have to in order to be awesome. The scope and scale of Secret Wars is way too fucking big for one series. Even tie-ins can only accomplish so much. Battleworld has so many domains and so many characters that trying to fit them all into one narrative would be like trying to perform brain surgery while having an orgy at the Playboy Mansion. This story gave us two short yet entertaining stories. They’re not going to do anything other than amuse Dr. Doom, but they do offer some nice insight into the workings of Battleworld.

And like any other domain that doesn’t take place in a 1950s sitcom, there are some fucked up neighborhoods. Areas that have Frank Castle as the sorcerer supreme and MODOK recruiting multiple versions of himself are like the streets in a city where all the strip clubs are based. They don’t make the same contributions as others, but they still play a role. In the same way no society can function without a place for men to get a good lap dance, Battleworld can’t function without perspective. These perspectives are easy to overlook, especially for those who don’t read their comics sober. But it’s a nice bonus level of sorts. I give Secret Wars Battleworld #1 a 6 out of 10. If nothing else, this issue taught me that if mankind ever masters multidimensional travel, then I’m better off not knowing how fucked up my alternate selves are. Nuff said!


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