Marvel Comics' SECRET WARS – What We Know (and What We Don’t)

Marvel's new SECRET WARS
Credit: Marvel Comics

On the opening night of the 2014 New York Comic Con, Marvel announced what they say is their biggest and most ambitious comic series ever: Marvel Super Heroes: Secret Wars. Name sound familiar? It should. Marvel Senior Vice President of Publishing Tom Brevoort told USA Today that the original 1984 series of the same name is the “prototype” for Jonathan Hickman, Esad Ribic and Marvel editorial have planned for the 2015 series. While it’s far from the first time Marvel has revisited the metaphorical well of Jim Shooter and Mike Zeck’s Secret Wars in story or simply in name, what Marvel is betting that will make this event more special, at least in its initial marketing, than other events they and other publishers do with increasing regularity. Not much is known yet, however, of what 2015’s Secret Wars will be outside its writer, artist and that admittedly epic teaser image by Alex Ross. We have a few answers, but also many more questions that are floating around.

Credit: Marvel Comics

What We Know

The Basics: The Secret Wars series is 12 issues, written by Jonathan Hickman and drawn by Esad Ribic. Marvel Comics President of Publishing Dan Buckley says, "every story in every book is leading into Secret Wars." The story has been teased as linking all of the time-travel/alternate reality stories that have been in Marvel Comics over the past several years.

Over Two Years In the Making: In an interview with Newsarama’s Lucas Siegel, comics writer Brian Michael Bendis says that the idea of 2015’s Secret Wars goes back to even before Hickman took over the two primary Avengers books in December 2012, and has been an ongoing topic inside Marvel going for virtually every summit for the past two years. Hickman is known to be a detailed and immaculate planner of his work – even going back to his first Marvel series, Secret Warriors in 2009.

The X-Men Are In On The Secret: Despite having no X-Men on the massive Alex Ross teaser image Marvel released at the beginning of New York Comic Con, Executive Editor Mike Marts told Newsarama that the X-Men are “massively involved” in this pinnacle event for Marvel. There’s been concern and speculation that Marvel was distancing some of its characters whose film rights are owned elsewhere (specifically Fox and the X-Men, Fantastic Four) from its top events in order to invest time and energy only in characters it owns all rights too. So others can keep asking that question, but Marts does say the X-Men are in 2015’s Secret Wars. Bendis added to that, saying his "Secret Wars tie-ins are so potent," and further confirming that his "broken time travel" storylines would tie into it.

Everyone Counts In Large Amounts: There are 33 characters in the massive Alex Ross image released with the Secret Wars announcement, and Brevoort says that "None of it is random and none of it is brand new."  That means everyone, from Ghost Rider 2099 to Obnoxio the Clown will be apparently getting a moment to shine in this series. That being said – remember in Marvel’s most recent event, Original Sin, some of the characters seen in the series’ eight main covers didn’t even appear in the actual story.

Dead & Back Again:Although readers just saw Wolverine’s death in, you guessed it, Death of Wolverine, during a the Saturday Retailers panel Marvel said that Wolverine would be featured in seven months’ time in Secret Wars. Given the apparent criss-crossing of universes evident from the Secret Wars cover however, it could be simply an alternate universe Wolverine – although he’s already deceased in the most visited other reality, the Ultimate Universe.

Tchotchkes: When Marvel announced Secret Wars, it talked more about the merchandise than the actual story. The original Secret Wars featured a heavy toy tie-in from Mattel, and 2015’s Secret Wars will feature products from Hasbro, Upper Deck, Hot Topic, Funko and Gentle Giant. Marvel already has long working relationships with each of these companies, but it’s assumed this means they’ll each be making products related specifically to Secret Wars itself.

It’s Tied To 1984’s Secret Wars… somehow: This 2015 event borrows it’s name from the 1984 event series, and in USA Today Brevoort says that 31-year old miniseries is the prototype for Hickman’s story. USA Today’s Brian Truitt reports it will have “familiar” “aspects and elements”… but what does that mean? That brings us to our next point:

What We Don’t Know

How does it happen? We know – wait until you read the first issue. But at some point, Marvel will have to give some inkling as to the kick-off of what Secret Wars is. There’s seemingly a trail of breadcrumbs leading from the fracturing of the timestream in Age of Ultron, the subsequent incursions in New Avengers, and the wider rifts being exploited in Spider-Verse and the pages of All-New X-Men and Ultimate Spider-Man and Ultimate FF and other events... but to what? Could Secret Wars be the end point where more major universes, say the Earth X universe, the Ultimate Universe, or other universes come to bear against the main “616” universe in a contest of champions (pun intended) to save their universe?

Who’s the big bad? The antagonist of Secret Wars is unknown at this point, and in the Marvel manner it’s being poised as if the heroes are fighting amongst themselves – a popular formula as seen in Civil War and Avengers vs. X-Men. While that could be the case here, it’s not definite. It could be the aforementioned Beyonder, or perhaps given the dimension- and time-hopping seemingly evident in the story it could also be someone along the lines of Kang – who coincidently has been featured heavily in the recent Uncanny Avengers series.

Where’s the Beyonder? The Beyonder has been a key figure in every Marvel series titled Secret Wars – even the 2010 all-ages series Spider-Man & The Secret Wars which retold the tale from Spidey’s perspective. The omnipotent being, who has occasionally been written to either be an Inhuman or a sentient cosmic cube, hasn’t been seen in a major way since crossing paths with the original Illuminati back in 2007 but has made spot appearances as recently as late 2013. Given his powerset, he’s a hard character to write as he has few limits – but given the time-breaking, dimension-breaking proposition Secret Wars is promised to be, maybe he’s just the thing to add to the equation.

What will happen in Marvel’s regular books during Secret Wars? In the original Secret Wars series, there were no real tie-ins with Marvel’s ongoing books; the new issues that came out during the event jumped ahead to show what happens when their characters returned from the off-world event. It’s interestingly coincidental that the lead-up to next year’s Secret Wars, “Time Runs Out,” borrowed that strategy, but flipped it; with Avengers and New Avengers they jumped ahead to get ahead of the current event (Avengers & X-Men: Axis). But what will Secret Wars mean to the regular ongoing books as Marvel undergoes this over-arching, seemingly multiverse-spanning story?

Just how big is it? Brevoort has said this is “the biggest thing” Marvel’s ever done. Not to toot Marvel’s horn, but they’ve done some big things before – Chris Claremont and Jim Lee’s X-Men #1 selling over a million copies, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby kickstarting a new age with Fantastic Four #1, the original Secret Wars already did 12 monthly issues in 12 months, and the Exiles criss-crossing dimensions like it’s a walk in the park in the early 2000s and Spider-Man doing Spider-Verse currently. So what will be bigger about it than those examples, or anything else in Marvel’s 75 year history? Perhaps it's a combination of all their prior events, like recent teasers have led us to believe .

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