“A George divided against itself cannot stand!" - Seinfeld
Now of course there is no ‘relationship Marvel Universe,’ and no ‘Coffee Shop Marvel Universe,’ but nevertheless, Marvel Comics is signaling its headed for (another) division of some kind later in 2016 with their second “Marvel NOW!” go-around.
Marvel loves divisions, of course, almost as much as they love branding terms like “All-New” and “NOW!”. The original Civil War remains their most successful event to date and the inspiration for this year’s big-screen Captain America threequel.
The publisher has returned to the hero vs. hero dynamic several times since – Avengers vs. X-Men and Schism come to mind, and there’s been an uneasy conflict between the X-Men and Inhuman worlds for some time now. Heck, their first ever "event" was the hero vs. hero Contest of Champions based on a decidedly more innocent 'versus' concept.
And of course we’re currently in the midst of the latest hero showdown, Civil War II.
So it should come as no surprise that the premise of the fall’s “Marvel NOW!” is by all indications a fracturing or shattering of the superhero community of some kind, along whatever divisive lines it leads to.
But what is the nature of the divide? Perhaps somewhat apropos, we’re a bit divided ourselves here at Newsarama as to the possible nature of the coming Marvel divide. That’s why we’re going to put our cards on the table and throw all the alternative theories out there.
So without further ado…
1.) A Philosophical Divide.
This is basically ‘What if the Civil War II doesn’t get a tidy ending.’ Or alternatively, “What if Civil War II is open-ended.”
Sure, the series concludes after seven issues, but that doesn’t mean the conflict does. The battle lines between the respective ‘changing the future’ versus ‘protecting the future’ factions are hardly even drawn yet, so who is to say everyone will kiss and make-up by the end?
Now that Marvel has self-acknowledgely embraced TV-like seasons, having an extended ‘Civil War’ in the hero community outside of a limited series and tie-ins isn’t at all inconceivable, and they’re already test-run that dynamic with the X-Men “Schism” storyline, in which faction of X-Men teams led by Cyclops and Wolverine, respectively, became the ‘regular,’ albeit temporary status quo within the X-Universe.
Of course, that leaves the matter of which side all the heroes fall on if it extends to an overarching theme of their entire line. That’d come down to somewhat arbitrary divisions, and that might be difficult to define, and therefore brand.
Which brings us to...
2.) A Generational Divide.
This is where the teasers Marvel has released so far come into play. In addition to the Diamond Previews cover showing the youngest Avengers – Ms. Marvel, Nova and (Miles) Spider-Man burning their Avengers ID cards – and the Civil War II #6 cover with Miles seemingly battling Steve Rogers, the five “Divided” teaser images released so far suggest a possible generational divide.
Maybe not so much a generational divide in terms of age, but a generational divide in terms of status/stature/experience within the Marvel Universe hero hierarchy.
While Ms. America and Ms. Marvel, two very young heroes, appeared on the top of two of the teaser images, they are somewhat established, with Ms. Marvel being an Avenger and Ms. America an Ultimate (and former Young Avenger).
The heroes featured on the flipped bottom of the images are all new, lower-tier or inexperienced in some fashion or another. The new hero Mosaic, Slapstick, Riri Williams, Prowler and a potential Victor Von Doom-Iron Man would all fall under… well, let’s call it “outsider” status.
Their opposite numbers – Steve Rogers, Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, Black Panther, and Ms. America, respectively are all what could be called “establishment” heroes.
If those two keywords are beginning to ring familiar, keep in mind Marvel has repeatedly played up the parallels between Civil War II and the United States’s current political climate/election cycle as “outsider” Donald Trump takes on the “establishment” candidate Hillary Clinton.
With this iteration of “Marvel NOW!” kicking off in October, it’d debut right during the heart and heat of the November election cycle.
And that’s the sort of cultural zeitgeist opportunities Marvel loves to latch onto.
This theory isn’t without its holes, however. Again, the Previews cover showing Ms. Marvel breaking from the establishment - i.e., the Avengers - isn’t a perfect fit with the teasers, given Ms. Marvel plays the theoretical establishment role opposite Riri Williams in the teasers, so that’s why we have a third theory backing it up.
3.) A Quite Literal Divide.
Sure, Marvel loves their philosophical divides, but they also love their alternate Earths-Worlds-Realities too.
From the original Secret Wars Battleworld, to the New Universe to the Ultimate Universe to Age of Apocalypse to House of M to last year’s Secret Wars Battleworld or even the possible future of Marvel 2099, there’s rarely a few years that go by that Marvel isn’t dabbling in some new world somewhere.
Offshoots of the main Marvel Universe often pay big commercial dividends, at least for a while.
Sure, Secret Wars did away with the Ultimate Universe just last year, but could the “Marvel NOW!” “shattering” … the “divide,” be a creation of a new world/reality that could co-exist in addition to and perhaps even in opposition to the mainstream Marvel U?
We don’t yet know the nature of extent of Ulysses’ power. Perhaps he doesn’t see into the future, perhaps he sees into, or even creates, alternate realities/timelines?
Think of a hybrid between the New Universe and the Ultimate U – a mix of new and established characters, but not established in the Spider-Man, Iron Man doppelganger sense, but not established as in former C-list characters like Slapstick and Prowler, who find themselves on an Earth without veteran establishment heroes, who must step into the vacuum to become the Iron Mans, Caps, Spider-Mans and Avengers of their world.
Marvel could effectively use this new world as an extended audition for potential inevitable incorporation into the mainstream MU. Fans always love getting into the ground floor of new universe. Consider a scenario is which the Prowler doesn’t need to co-exist in the same New York as Spider-Man, but has to fill the role of Spider-Man in a NYC of his very own. In words – instant A-list status, at least on this new version of Earth, with the breakout stars and concepts to be co-eventually opted into the main MU down the line at the start of 2017’s “All-New, All-Different Marvel NOW!”
So what do you think? Which “Divide” math seems to add up?