Marvel Comics is doing some very cool stuff in all of their books, and all of those books tie into their newest event, Secret Wars. All of their comics, all of their stories, are truly in a state of limbo right now… but that allows the creative people working on those comics try all sorts of new and interesting things.
I used to avoid the larger comic publishers for years and years, often because of their product-wide events, but when Jonathan Hickman started writing the Avengers and New Avengers a few years ago it kind of revived my interest in Marvel in general. Hickman is one of my favorite comic writers and is also the author of the main Secret Wars title. And it has been great to see how what he did in his Avengers books led directly into what he is doing now with Secret Wars, and how what he is doing now affects the future direction of Marvel Comics, their characters, and the fictional universe at large. Damn, its been so good!
I guess I should say that I will probably have spoilers from here on out.
Marvel is making some big changes and updates to their whole line of books. Its normal for comic publishers to do this from time to time because after a few years, a character’s storyline can become convoluted. The more support characters you add, and the more writers you get working on those characters, the more convoluted it can become. Then trying to merge all of these characters into one common universe that might have hundreds of creative people working on and developing each month… well, I expect that can be hard to manage. One way that writers sometimes avoid creating problems and inconsistencies in these characters is to place them into a new and alternate fictional universe. Related to the original, but slightly and intentionally different. An alternate universe where the writer can explore new ideas without having to worry about how it’ll affect everything else their comic book publisher might be putting out or the long history that has come before. Over time, this can become convoluted and confusing too. Up until Jonathan Hickman’s work on the New Avengers, Marvel had an almost infinite number of these universes. It was what came to be known as the Marvel multiverse.
In the New Avengers, Hickman began to destroy that multiverse. In New Avengers story, these different universes started to overlap and sort of phase together until they destroyed one another. There were ways to save each separate universe, but not without destroying the overlapping alternate earth.
Like I said, spoilers…
With only a handful of worlds and universes left, it is discovered that a race of god-like beings called the Beyonders are responsible for the destruction of the multiverse. A number of different Marvel characters confront the Beyonders trying to stop them and, although most of them fail and are killed off, in the end the Beyonders are stopped by Doctor Strange, Molecule Man, and Doctor Doom.
This final battle ends up destroying the multiverse, but also allows Doctor Doom to steal the Beyonders power. With that power, Doom is able to salvage and save pieces of those final alternate earths and creates a new earth out of them called Battleworld, with Doctor Doom becoming a sort of demiurge god.
The surviving pieces of these alternate earths each have different rules and rulership. Because they each come from alternate universes, you might see multiple versions of individual Marvel characters you’ve known over the years. For instance, there is a whole geographical location pieced from the Marvel Zombie universe, with its own Spider-man, Iron Man, and Hulk. The Marvel Zombies might be next to a chunk from the world Planet Hulk (a.k.a. Greenland). And the overall Battleworld is policed by the Thor Corp, an army of alternate versions of Thor. Maybe it just sounds too strange, and maybe I just think it because I grew up reading Marvel comics, but it is really cool and well done.
Very highly recommended!
This Secret Wars shake-up is only half-way through right now, but will culminate sometime in the fall. I don’t know how the Marvel universe will look once it is done, but we can already see hints in their newest marketing. One thing that is sure, the X-men and mutants in general will play a much smaller role going forward. And so will the Fantastic Four. Probably because Marvel sold their movie rights years ago and can’t get them back, so now they are downplaying them in the comics. Corporate decisions, who knows…? Like I say, I don’t know how the rest will play out, but if the last few years are any indication, it’ll still be pretty damn cool!
The first Secret Wars was a Marvel event that happened in the 80s when I was a kid. In that event, specific Marvel heroes were snatched up and teleported to another Battleworld created by a child Beyonder. I loved that book so much as a kid, although now it is hard to read and not nearly as enjoyable as an adult. Still, this 2015 Secret Wars event is a sort of homage to that older event, and that’s cool…