Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Writer: Jim Shooter
Penciler: Mike Zeck (#1-3, 6-12), Bob Layton (#4-5)

Twelve-issue epic featuring a heap of Marvel super heroes and villains getting transported to a patchwork planet by a god-like being to fight each other to the death to win whatever their hearts desire.

I read this in the wrong order when I was a kid, because it was only mid-way through this series that I got into Marvel comics, so over the past 11 weeks I've re-read it all chronologically. The only issue I'm missing is the first one, but thanks to the Marvel UK reprint I was able to include that, plus its additional (and anachronistic according to Amazing Spider-Man #252) UK-only opening.

And it's awesome. Author Jim Shooter pulls no punches as he lays the story open to be shaped by whatever the individual characters would do. Simple good guys versus bad guys? No, there are really three factions here, plus about 20 personal agendas, and a continual barrage of mind-blowing scenarios. Rarely did I find myself wondering "Why didn't this character use that power to achieve the other purpose?" Frankly, almost every time they'd done it.

A few moments do feel tacked-in. The eventual origin of Spider-Man's new black costume in issue #8 is so brief and inconsequential that it must have been something of a let-down when first published, seven months after the outfit's first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #252 which chronologically follows this series. There are also some forgettable cliffhangers, as though the storyline found it had just run out of pages at inconvenient moments.

That said, the cliffhanger to the penultimate issue must be the greatest in Marvel history.

The evil Doctor Doom has, to all intents and purposes, finally become God. The assembled super heroes (and Magneto) are all voting on whether to pointlessly try to fight him, even though their every thought requires his permission. Everyone – Captain America, Wasp, She-Hulk, Captain Marvel, Hawkeye, Iron Man, Storm, Wolverine, Rogue, Nightcrawler, Cyclops, Professor X, Hulk, Thing, Spider-Woman, Spider-Man, the Human Torch and Mister Fantastic (and Magneto) - are unanimous that they must at least try, all except poor tortured Colossus. His is the final vote.

So, Doom is god, and the heroes are all dead. How on Earth (or wherever) do they get out of this one? The answer, if you can ignore Doom's flawed omniscience, is nothing short of genius.

This is one war I'm glad they didn't keep secret.


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