Like the modern movie industry, the comics industry is really big on announcing things. Nary a month goes by without some comics publisher somewhere (usually Marvel or DC) announcing something. ‘Here’s a big title you should totally be excited about!’ they say. But ask them questions—as one is wont to do when a Big Exciting Announcement is made—and then they get really gun shy. “Wait and see,” they say. Because they actually are going to answer your question, eventually. Just in the form of another announcement.
Ever since last October’s New York Comic-Con, Marvel’s Big Announcement was Secret Wars, a particularly loaded phrase in Marvel Comics history since it is also the name of a massive 1984 series that—despite literally being a giant toy ad—was actually pretty effective at getting people into comics. But after that announcement was made, Marvel went silent on the matter, effectively telling fans to talk amongst themselves while they slowly released a bunch of mysterious teasers. Said teasers were eventually kind of explained, even if that explanation didn’t really make sense.
Today, January 20, 2015, is the day Marvel has chosen as the day things are allowed to make sense. Here is the secret behind Secret Wars:
They’re going to destroy the Marvel Universe.
“We’ve never done anything like this, ever,” says Marvel’s Senior Vice President of Publishing Tom Brevoort, referring not just to Secret Wars’ story, but its scale. According to Brevoort and Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso, every division of Marvel has been involved, and every creative team at Marvel has known this was coming. That’s important, since Secret Wars will really mess things up, since it starts with The Avengers failing to save the world and watching it be obliterated.
Maybe I should back up. Quick recap:
Secret Wars is the grand finale that writer Jonathan Hickman has been building to over his three-year tenure on Avengers—it’s actually pretty good. Hickman’s story has been built around what he calls “incursions,” which are slowly wiping out alternate universes with respect to the universe where most Marvel comics are set in (they call that earth, the “main” one, Earth-616. 616 for short). An incursion occurs when one universe collides with another, and the Earth of each universe is always the point of contact. At this point, one Earth must be destroyed, or both will, and their respective universes go with them.
It’s big, heavy, doomsday stuff, and has allowed Hickman to explore really difficult moral quandaries in his Avengers stories—should our heroes destroy another innocent world to save our own? Are they still heroes if they do? The results have been fascinating. They’re about to get crazier.
According to Brevoort, the final incursion will bring together Earth-616 with Marvel’s 15-year-old Ultimate Universe (Marvel’s turn-of-the-century reboot of it’s entire universe geared towards making its characters more accessible to new readers. Miles Morales, whom you may have heard of, is from the Ultimate Universe). The heroes of both worlds fail to stop the incursion, and in the ruins of this and every other incursion, the Battleworld will form—a new world, stitched together from the various universes teased at by all those posters. Which, by the way, will all be titles launched during Secret Wars, replacing a number of current series. You wouldn’t be crazy for thinking that this sounds really familiar. (And not just because we kind of called it months ago)
“The Marvel Universe as you know it is done,” says Brevoort. “The Ultimate Universe is done.”
Instead, the events of Secret Wars will forge a new Marvel Universe, one that will allow Marvel to pick and choose elements from its 75-year history. Just don’t call it a reboot.
“Our history is not broken,” says Editor-In-Chief Axel Alonso. “If anything we’re trying to build upon it … We don’t expect all our moves to make everyone happy, but we think it will make for a really fascinating read through ‘Secret Wars’ and beyond.”
For those looking for a quick primer, Marvel will be releasing Secret Wars #0 on Free Comic Book Day—May 2—which will get you up to speed for the big kickoff with Secret Wars #1, available May 6.