Longtime Marvel Comics fans may be familiar with the villain known as the Beyonder. In 1984, Marvel Comics launched Secret Wars, the company’s first event that incorporated all of its properties. At such a grand scale, regular villains were not enough. Marvel needed a threat so big that it could unite all of its characters, heroes and villains alike, and so the Beyonder was born.
Introduced as an unfathomable being from another dimension, one that was beyond the regular Marvel Universe, the Beyonder was simply omnipotent, and he could play with the lives of even the most powerful characters, including Galactus, as if they were toys in his hands. Recently, Marvel announced the return of the Beyonder as the antagonist in a new Defenders: Beyond series from Al Ewing and Javier Rodriguez, releasing in June 2022. As such, the origins and history of the Beyonder as Marvel’s most powerful villain have never been more apt for revisiting.
The Beyonder First Appeared In ‘Secret Wars’
Originally, the Beyonder was the supreme being of another reality, dragged into the Marvel Multiverse by a failed scientific experiment that transformed Owen Reece into the Molecule Man. Once there, he began to observe this strange and fascinating universe, and in turn, his own nature changed. He was curious about how mortals experienced desire, something that he previously lacked, and wanted to make an experiment of his own. During Secret Wars, he kidnapped a large group of superheroes and supervillains and transported them to a planet he created, called Battleworld, where the two factions would battle, with the promise to grant any wish to the victors. In this way, the Beyonder would observe if the strongest drive for mankind was good or evil. In the end, Doctor Doom was briefly able to steal the Beyonder’s power, and after recovering it the creature returned his captives to Earth and apparently vanished.
Secret Wars (by Jim Shooter, Mike Zeck, and John Beatty) was actually developed after the toy manufacturer Mattel approached Marvel with the intention of creating a new line of toys from the publisher’s characters. The event would serve to advertise and push the product, and the limited-edition Secret Wars series became the best-selling comic book series in 25 years. This inspired Marvel into doing company-wide crossovers every year, a practice that still continues today, and has expanded to the point that there are now several events running at the same time.
The Return of the Beyonder
In fact, Secret Wars was so successful that Marvel followed it up with a sequel just four months later. No longer content with just observing, the Beyonder wanted to experience the lives and struggles of these fascinating inferior creatures firsthand. He manufactured a physical body and interacted with many other characters, heroes and villains alike. The Beyonder’s unlimited power and his drive to experience desire like a human were a dangerous combination, which prompted the Molecule Man to take advantage of a moment of weakness and destroy the Beyonder’s physical form, releasing his energy into another universe. Secret Wars II was not nearly as successful as its predecessor, but Marvel still would not let the Beyonder alone.
In Fantastic Four vol. 1 # 319 by Steve Englehart, Keith Pollard, Joe Sinnott, and George Roussos, the Fantastic Four and Doctor Doom travel to the Beyonder’s universe, where they meet the Molecule Man and two other “supreme” beings, Kubik and the Shaper of Worlds. In that story, it is revealed that the Beyonder was actually the result of a failed attempt to create a Cosmic Cube, a construct of almost limitless energy that a mysterious race of extradimensional beings, the Beyonders, “gift” to lesser species to stimulate their evolution. The energy of this Cube was split between the Beyonder and the Molecule Man, hence why the former felt incomplete and tried to fill that void with his Secret Wars. The Beyonder and Reece finally fused together, and they evolved into a “mature” Cosmic Cube, just like Kubik and the Shaper.
Enter the Illuminati
The Beyonder’s story changed once again thanks to the Illuminati, the secret cabal of heroes who have been secretly running things behind the scenes in the Marvel Universe. In New Avengers: Illuminati # 3, by Brian Michael Bendis, Brian Reed, Jim Cheung, Mark Morales, and Justin Ponsor, Professor Xavier revealed that he read Beyonder’s mind during the first Secret Wars, and he found out that he was, in fact, an Inhuman mutant, who acquired his godlike abilities after entering the Terrigen Mist. The King of the Inhumans, Black Bolt, was also part of the Illuminati, and he ordered the Beyonder to simply leave their universe, thus retconning the end of Secret Wars II.
This was, however, retconned once again, during the buildup to Marvel’s second event called Secret Wars, which finally explained the truth about the Beyonders. In New Avengers # 30 (by Jonathan Hickman, Dalibor Talijać, and Rick Magyar), Hank Pym returns from his exploration of a collapsing Multiverse and reveals the Beyonders are the reason behind the Incursion and the progressive death of all that is. He also says that the Beyonder previously encountered by Earth’s heroes was “a child unit” that still had to develop fully. In an interview with CBR, Jonathan Hickman clarified that the Beyonder encountered by the Illuminati was just a construct, thus removing the Inhuman origin story. This also returned the Beyonder to his original status of a creature that was superior even to the many Marvel’s cosmic beings.
What Happened to the Beyonders?
During the second Secret Wars, all the Beyonders were lured out and destroyed by Doctor Doom, who later absorbed their power and salvaged what was left of reality after the Incursions. This should have been the end of the most dangerous threat the Marvel Universe ever faced, but there are hints that the Beyonders might have survived in some form or another. The Beyond Corporation, a shady conglomerate has been strongly implied to be run by a completely different group of Beyonders that survived Secret Wars.
What about the original Beyonder, then? His involvement in the upcoming Defenders: Beyond series could be part of a larger confrontation of the Marvel Universe posed by writer Al Ewing and artist Javier Rodriguez. Considering that Ewing’s ties to the Beyond Corporation as the writer of the Captain America and the Mighty Avengers series, it is possible that this new series could connect the Beyond Corporation to the Beyonder and finally reveal what happened to Marvel’s most powerful villain.
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