Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Story: Bill Mantlo
Art: Steve Ditko & Bob Layton

One of the strengths of such a mammoth crossover-series as Secret Wars II must surely be the many different ideas that multiple creators can bring to the one project.

Had just one author written all 30-odd issues, then the omnipotent Beyonder's adventures might well have become a bit samey.

However, one of the dangers of such a mammoth crossover-series as Secret Wars II must also be how similar are the ideas that multiple creators can unknowingly bring to the one project.

The pages of Rom #72 seem to include both tendencies.

On the one hand, artists Steve Ditko and Bob Layton refresh the Beyonder with an awesome original look. The opening pages present us with him in the form of an eerie glowing sentinel, striding through the storm-torn sky like some impossible cross between a Greek god and a 1950s B-movie robot.

On the other, the story explores the main characters' reactions to having their greatest desires fulfilled. Just like in Daredevil #223.

Still, I can't blame two different authors for both being inspired by the same good idea, even if it can rob the Beyonder of some character-development.

Although this issue was advertised as taking place after Dazzler #40, the Beyonder's unfamiliarity with the feeling of desire suggests that this makes more sense a little earlier on in the saga, specifically before his heartbreak in Secret Wars II #4. (In fact I'd place these events during that issue, between pages five and six)

Spiking the canon even further, the omniscient one nonsensically disguises himself as a blond guy to gain our heroes' confidences and find out what their greatest wishes are. Again, I'm not sure if this appearance is intended to be the same 'Steve Rogers' look that he took-on in Captain America #308 or not, but on the basis of Rick Jones' non-recognition of him, I'll guess negatively. (comicbook characters are notoriously poor at recognising each other in different outfits anyway)

When he does get exposed, he actually reveals his identity by transforming back into his 'David Hasselhoff' look and clothes, despite the fact that there is noone present to recognise them.

From this point on, Mantlo's script is outstanding.

The Beyonder grants Brandy's, Rick's and Cindy's initial wishes, but once they realise that this is a practical experiment, they can't help but take their desires, and their responsibilities, more seriously.

Brandy becomes a Spaceknight again, but upon quick reconsideration realises that she'd trade that in for Rom to receive his humanity back instead.

Rick is cured of his cancer, but his second thought is for all the other sufferers in the world. Faced with also achieving his personal goal of becoming a super hero, he quickly develops a messiah complex and realises that he can't save everybody.

The bottom line for both of them - and I think this is key in the One From Beyond's quest - is that they need to have limits.

But what of young 12-year-old Cindy? Her brain has been cursed with housing the mind and memory of the wraith that murdered her parents. Her immediate wish is to be cured of this daily torment. Given a moment to reflect afterwards though, can you guess what her second, much more desperate, wish is?

Yes, author Bill Mantlo knows just how well-worn this idea is, and he knows that we know too.

So he toys with us.

Cindy: "All I know is that there's one wish I want granted more than anything! I wish I had my parents back! Can you do that?"

Rick: "Cindy, no! They're dead!"

Brandy: "Dear Heaven, it's like the wish made in 'The Monkey's Paw' -- where a boy was raised from the dead but not brought back to life!"

Beyonder: "Some things, child, are impossible -- even to one from beyond."

Rick: "Thank goodness!"

Beyonder: "Fortunately, this wish of yours is not one of them!"

So the Beyonder dispatches Brandy and Rick into Limbo to use their new superheroic abilities to actually find and bring back Cindy's parents. Along the way Brandy gazes upon the enormous crowd of souls belonging to every human the wraiths have ever slain, potentially including her own parents, friends and fiancé.

Rick: "What do we do? Ask the Beyonder to restore them all? That raises the question of consequences again! To everyone on Earth these people are dead! Life may have gone on without them, widows having married, orphans going to adoptive homes!"

To cope with the circumstances, they actually try to create some self-imposed limits upon their own understanding, by focusing solely upon little Cindy's wish to receive her parents back.

After they have both returned to Earth, the Beyonder holds the two glowing spheres in his hand. The atmosphere is heavy with guilty doom.

Rick: "... and those glowing spheres -- they're Cindy's parents?"

Beyonder: "Their stolen life forces, yes."

Cindy: "Mommy? Daddy?"

Beyonder: "They were once. They can be again. If you wish it."

Cindy: "I do! Oh, yes I do!"

Rick: "Cindy, are you sure...?"

Brandy: "She is sure as a child can be! For her there are no consequences -- only the promise of happiness! Perhaps for that reason she can make a choice that we could not!"

Beyonder: "Go ahead, child. Make your wish, and that which you wish for shall be yours!"

Well, you know it all ends in tears.


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