Collects: Beyond! #1-6 (2006-7)
Released: January 2008 (Marvel)
Format: 144 pages / color / $14.99 / ISBN: 9780785120131It’s a hard sell to get readers in the 21st century interested in a miniseries based on the Secret Wars. It’s even harder when you don’t go for nostalgia or play it for laughs. And if you include the Space Phantom, like writer Dwayne McDuffie and artist Scott Kolins did in Beyond!? That is setting a high degree of difficulty.
But McDuffie’s work is partially successful. While he uses the “abduct heroes and villains” bit from Secret Wars, taking them to a bizarre outer space planet and inciting them to fight one another, that isn’t difficult enough. No, no. He uses Sean McKeever’s Gravity as a viewpoint character, and he works in relative newcomers the Hood and Al Kraven. The cast also includes veterans such as Hank Pym, the Wasp, and Spider-Man; relatively C-listers like Firebird and Deathlok round out the crew.
But it doesn’t work out that well. The story’s relatively innocuous, running from squabbling heroes to Space Phantom to a technobabble-fuelled escape after a fight with a lesser-used Marvel cosmic power. It’s been done before, and although this is done fairly well, it’s forgettable. Also, McDuffie kills off two characters, explaining away one and assuring readers the other will return, adding to the inconsequential feel of the book. Additionally, Hank Pym seems to be acting out of character, and that’s not the same Hood that’s been showing up in Brian Bendis’s Avengers. (Then again: possible Skrull involvement. Also: definite Bendis involvement.)
Kolins’s art does the job well enough, but it seems a bit a bit fiddly for a big story with cosmic players. Kolins seems a better fit for something more ground level — Daredevil comes to mind, or maybe Iron Fist / Power Man. Let me be clear: Kolins does a yeoman’s job, and he occasionally shines (I particularly like the scenes in Limbo), but I think there are probably better fits for McDuffie’s story.
Still, this just screams “missable.” I know McDuffie probably wasn’t allowed to do much earthshaking in such a minor miniseries, but if you can’t give a creator the license to give the final kibosh to Gravity, the Hood, or Al Kraven (or Firebird, for that matter), you aren’t letting him do all that much. On the other hand, I’m just going to ignore the throw-away death of Bi-Beast on the first page of the story, so what do I know?
Rating: (2 of 5)