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Marvel Secret Wars II by Jim Shooter - Comic Book Review

As with all reviews on this website, our goal is not to provide a complete overview of the book; rather, it is to examine how the book relates to the meaning of life.

Secret Wars II is a nine-issue comic series that was published in 1985-1986 and was written by Jim Shooter. The series was a squeal to Secret Wars, that was published in 1984-1985. The collection features the antagonist, the Beyonder, as he searches for meaning and purpose as an omnipotent being in a multiverse which he doesn't understand.

The Beyonder is a near omnipotent being from another universe, a universe in which he was everything. A pin hole opened in his universe and he was able to see through to our fictional universe. He saw that the beings in this new universe had something called desire, because they were incomplete. This perplexed him because he was all there was in his universe, he was complete. People in this new universe sought money, power, other people to fill the holes within. But, as the Beyonder would try all of these, he would realize that none of them led to his fulfillment.

When the Beyonder does obtain money, power, and even world domination; at the end of the day, he still feels an emptiness within. So he seeks a companion, he seeks love. But goes about it the wrong way, he tries to force it, which backfires and just makes him more hated.

Since he has the power to control all beings, he can also make any being love him. Yet, in doing so, there is no satisfaction. So he gives up on the idea of love. After all, what could an omnipotent being care what a protoplasm thought about him?

Next, the Beyonder believes his purpose may be in helping others, and yet, even here he feels as if he should be doing more. Dave, a former reporter that was doing nothing great with his life, runs the Beyonder's new organization which is dedicated to helping others, and in doing this, Dave finds some purpose to living.

Although the Beyonder is trying to do good, he is admonished by our favorite superheroes as he is interfering with free will. He's just too powerful, and can solve any of the world's problems ... essentially, putting the superheroes out business. Their reasoning here, that an omnipotent being helping others interferes with free will, is true, but also contradictory. Many of the world's problems, e.g., hunger, war, etc. actually limit free will, as those living under those conditions are more limited to how they can live, what they can achieve, who they can become, etc.

It came to pass that the Beyonder realized there was only one purpose worthy of him, worthy of the champion of life—and that purpose was to defeat death, the thing most feared by most all living creatures.

What we then see is something interesting, and something that is also debatable. Mephisto, one of the most iconic and recognizable villains in the Marvel universe, despairs over the thought of the Beyonder ridding the multiverse of Death. Mephisto tells the Beyonder that in making all beings immortal, life would lose its meaning. Yet, in reality, this likely wouldn’t be the case—after all, most religions believe in some form of an immortal soul. Immortality would affect and probably change the meaning of life, but not eliminate it.

And, so it goes, after defeating Death, the Beyonder let's others convince him that it was a bad decision. Since nothing can die, doing anything is pointless. To bring Death back, he needs a willing mortal, Dave volunteers, and becomes the new embodiment of Death.

The Beyonder goes to an island to mope around contemplating his place in the multiverse. During this meditative state, he realizes that his very presence helped so many others find their place in the world, their purpose. Thus, helping people find their purpose becomes his purpose in life.

Of course, this doesn’t work out so well for the Beyonder when he meets a Native American named Puma, who believes that his purpose in life is to kill the Beyonder. This shatters the Beyonder’s belief that his purpose is to help other people find their purpose.

Later in the series, the Beyonder becomes very upset with the idea of incompleteness and the emptiness that it brings. So much so, that he contemplates destroying the multiverse. Here again we see the Beyonder talking to Spider-Man about life only having meaning through its finiteness. Having tried just about everything else, the Beyonder decides to give it a go, to become mortal. When he does, the Molecule Man decides to strike—the two clash and duke it out. The Beyonder, not fully mortal yet defeats the Molecule Man, and the Beyonder finishes the process—joins humanity, becomes mortal. Except the Molecule Man isn’t completely finished, he returns and finishes “Baby” Beyonder off, sending all of what remains of him into the beyond, another universe that will give rise to life from the energy of the Beyonder. This renders the Beyonder’s life meaningful, gives some final purpose to his existence.

Overall, this was a really fun, philosophical read that highlighted a lot of the absurdities of human desire and the emptiness that fulfillment of those desires can bring. How many of us have sought so long, so hard about a particular goal, only to achieve it, and then wonder what to do next? In addition, it explores, from a human perspective, what a god-like being of near infinite power may experience in relation to the finite.

If you read the book, what did you think? What did we miss? Comment below and let us know.

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