Secret Wars exposed
The Marvel Universe is dead! There is only Secret Wars. This is Marvels biggest comic book event in years. To put the premise as concisely as possible, the classic Marvel Universe is colliding with the newer Ultimate Universe, and both of them will be gone. For those coming into Secret Wars fresh, the Marvel Universe is the one created by Stan Lee and artists like Jack Kirby - the foundation of everything Marvel. The Ultimate Universe was created in 2000, to bring in new readers and debut revamped versions of popular characters, most notably Ultimate Spider-Man.
What happens in Secret Wars will apparently lay the foundation of the Marvel Universe for years to come. I think its a great jumping-on point for new readers because its a fresh start - a huge unknown with the potential to rewrite everything. Here are ten Secret Wars books that will be essential reading as this huge event kicks off.
Hang on - what actually is Secret Wars?
Secret Wars is what happens when these two fictional entities collide, leaving behind a reality unlike either of them, known as Battleworld. 33 of Marvels most popular comics, like Amazing Spider-Man and Avengers, will end. So whats left?
Battleworld is a landscape made of different parts of Marvels history, and the setting of Secret Wars. Marvel has even made a map of it. Different storylines from Marvels past literally occupy parts of this world; they describe it as a patchwork planet. Think of it like this: the 2006 comic book story, Civil War, literally occupies one nation in this immense world, co-existing with many others. Its Marvels history built into one mighty realm. During Secret Wars, Marvel will tell the stories of Battleworld in a host of new comic book series, which launch across the next three months.
Ready to get started with the comics? Click on, brave traveller...
First issue release date: May 6
Youll need to read the main book to keep track of whats going on, of course. This is a story that writer Jonathan Hickman has been building towards ever since he started writing both The Avengers and New Avengers in 2012. Secret Wars has been in the planning stages for that long; its anything but an improvised event.
In the first issue, out now, we see the heroes of the Marvel Universe and Ultimate Universe having a climactic showdown, bringing both of their universes to an end. Then, in the second issue, well get a first proper look at the Battleworld, which sets the stage of every book launching during the event and changes the course of the Marvel universe forever.
Old Man Logan
First issue release date: May 27
The superheroes are long gone, but a much older Wolverine lives on in the Wastelands, a kind of messed-up Marvel future where villains rule. Think Unforgiven with Wolverine, because thats basically what Old Man Logan is - a one-last-job vision of the X-Man, originally conceived for the story of the same name back in 2008 (one of the best Marvel has ever published).
Dont worry if youve never read it. This sequel stands alone, and sees Wolverine attempting to bring order to this chaotic world - which is now further complicated by the events of Secret Wars, and the creation of Battleworld. Old Man Logan is intriguing because in the regular Marvel Universe, Wolverine died last year. Is this Marvels way of bringing him back, via the coolest iteration of the character ever?
First issue release date: July 7
You mightve heard the name Civil War in recent months, given that it forms the basis of the next Captain America movie, out in 2016, which will feature Cap fighting Iron Man and will force the rest of the heroes to take sides. This Secret Wars book revisits the idea at the centre of Mark Millar and Steve McNivens hugely successful 2006 event book Civil War: Steve Rogers and Tony Stark divided over a matter of superheroes being forced to disclose their identities (Iron Man for, Cap against), but blows it up into a much bigger story.
In Secret Wars, instead of that fight being tidily resolved after a few brawls, this new Civil War reimagines it as a conflict that never ceased. Its now a six-year war, where Tony Stark is president and Steve Rogers is a general, with the nation broken in two over their different ideologies - its taking the concept as far as it can go and sounds like one of the larger-scale Secret Wars spin-offs.
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows
First issue release date: June 3
A few years ago, Marvel made the divisive decision to erase Peter Parkers long-running relationship with Mary Jane Watson out of continuity. This caused a loud internet upset thats never quite gone away. Since then, though, Marvel has published some of the best Spider-Man stories Ive ever read - Spider Island, Superior Spider-Man, Spider-Verse, all of which are worthy of the character.
But some readers never forget, and it finally seems like thats being addressed. In Renew Your Vows, we get to see Peter Parker not only married to Mary Jane, but with a child, too (in the comics, Peter and MJ had a child that died many years ago). It underlines the extent to which Secret Wars is allowing creators to explore every major storyline in Marvels history - and writer Dan Slott has promised that whatever happens here will affect the Spider-Man that emerges from Secret Wars.
First issue release date: May 20
As Secret Wars begins, the old Avengers team is gone. The book and the team no longer exists. A-Force is, for all intents and purposes, the Avengers in Secret Wars, composed of quite an eclectic mix of characters like She-Hulk, X-Men pop star Dazzler, the Inhumans Medusa and about a hundred others, judging by the cover. The idea was to create a team of heroes from various backgrounds and see how their personalities and methodologies fit together. At the start of the book, the A-Force will be protecting a small island called Arcadia on the outskirts of Battleworld, thats seemingly one of the last peaceful bastions of civilisation in this landscape.
A-Force comes from writer G Willow Wilson, who created the acclaimed Ms Marvel book, and Marguerite Bennett, as well as artist Jorge Molina. Its the first all-female Avengers team, an idea that will hopefully stick around once Secret Wars has ended.
First issue release date: June 10
For me, theres been no better and more consistent Marvel book from the last few years than Jason Aarons Thor. In the Secret Wars series Thors (plural), gods of thunder from various Marvel realities team up to police Battleworld. In the line-up, youve got the newest, female Thor from the current Marvel books, Frog Thor, Beta-Ray Bill and my personal favourite: old king Thor, a one-armed, eyepatch-wearing eccentric who rules Asgard in the far future.
Jason Aaron equates Thors to something of a cosmic detective drama, where the group travels across the Battleworld, solving uniquely weird and shocking crimes. Given that various Thors feature prominently on the cover of Secret Wars #2, this will likely be essential reading for those following the main series. Aaron describes it as basically me doing a cop story, but with hammers instead of guns. Sold! Theres even going to be a Groot Thor, based on the Guardians of the Galaxy tree creature.
First issue release date: May 20
In 2000, Marvel made the radical and brilliant move of creating a brand new universe, where it could release stories featuring iconic characters without the clutter brought on by decades of continuity. The Ultimate Universe, as it is known, was a big success and titles like Ultimate Spider-Man changed the way all publishers thought about comics appealing to a broad audience.
15 years later and now with its own somewhat complex continuity, the Ultimate Universe is dying alongside its older brother. This is its last gasp, from two of its creators, Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley. What happens to the majority of its characters, like alternate versions of Captain America, or Thor, is a mystery that this book should reveal - what we do know, however, is that the newest Spider-Man, Miles Morales, will escape his dying universe and survive Secret Wars. Hes one of the stars of the All-New, All-Different Avengers roster that is coming after this event finishes - the existence of which is the only thing we know about Marvels post-Secret Wars universe so far.
Age of Ultron vs Zombies
First issue release date: June 24
In the case of a lot of these Secret Wars books, the appeal is seeing iconic Marvel characters in new, exciting situations. Age of Ultron vs Zombies is a book where Im sold on the title alone. In this zombie thriller from brilliant veteran writer James Robinson and artist Steve Pugh, theres a war-zone between Ultrons part of Battleworld and the world where Marvels zombie population roams. Here, a pocket of mankind, including Marvel heroes like The Vision and Wonder Man, are trying to hold off both sets of enemies.
It sort of sounds like a Marvel version of horde mode from Gears of War, and itll feature reams of Marvel villains in undead form - the announcement alone showed off flesh-eating variants of Kingpin, Bullseye and Spidey foe Kraven The Hunter. Looks like a lot of fun.
Guardians of Knowhere
First issue release date: June 17
Its not just the planet thats thriving with superpowered activity in Secret Wars. Theres a moon orbiting Battleworld: Knowhere, the giant space head world seen in detail in last years Guardians of the Galaxy movie. In Guardians of Knowhere, its the grim backdrop to a sci-fi mystery story, where Guardians Drax, Rocket Raccoon, Gamora and Angela protect those who need it in this skeezy locale. Here, theyll face some form of mysterious new villain, who youd expect to be a pretty rotten apple if theyre hanging out on Knowhere.
If you enjoyed last years Guardians of the Galaxy, this seems like a pretty good place to jump in and see what the characters are up to in comic book form.
First issue release date: May 20
One of my favourite Marvel books of the last few years was the Spidey story Spider-Verse, which threw together every version of Spider-Man ever as they fought against dimension-travelling vampires (I know that sounds ludicrous, but trust me, it was great. Comic books!). In this Secret Wars series, a bunch of the best Spideys reunite for a mostly New York-set story thatll feature a number of Spidey villains, too, including a version of Norman Osborn that may or may not be evil.
The specifics of this story are shrouded in mystery, but its the potential team dynamic of this Spidey line-up that Im excited about the most: Spider-Gwen (Gwen Stacy from an alternate universe where Peter Parker died, and a brilliant contemporary reinterpretation of the Spider-Man concept), Spider UK (Spider-Man saying British things), Spider-Man Noir, the Spider-Man of India and Spider-Ham (a pig that is also Spider-Man). If its anything like Spider-Verse, itll be a fun team-up book that reaffirms why Spider-Man is a pillar of the Marvel Universe.