What Marvel’s New ‘Secret Wars’ Event Means For Upcoming Superhero Movies
In 1985, DC Comics published ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths,’ a 12-part miniseries that literally destroyed the company’s comic book universe and rebuilt it from the ground up. The series makes for convoluted reading today, but that’s because it was never intended to be pure entertainment. The series was part of a grand plan to take the DC Universe’s convoluted, dense history and shatter it into little pieces, letting the company pick and choose which past events actually happened and building a new superhero landscape where everything made sense, more or less.
And now, history seems to be repeating itself, albeit, across the aisle. Last year, Marvel Comics announced the ‘Secret Wars’ event and yesterday, they explained exactly what this series is. We’ll get into the nitty-gritty in a moment, but it seems to involve the destruction and rebirth of the Marvel comic book universe as we know it. Yep, the Marvel superheroes are getting their own ‘Crisis’ and like that famous DC event, there’s probably an ulterior motive. You don’t break something unless you have big plans for how you want to fix it. If you’ll allow us to turn on our little speculation machine, we’ve got some ideas on what the new Marvel universe is going to look like.
When the fighting stops and Marvel Universe reboots, we’ll most likely be looking at a Marvel Comics Universe that looks a whole lot like the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
‘Secret Wars,’ which will be written by Jonathan Hickman and drawn by Esad Ribic, is actually the grand finale of the saga Hickman has been telling in the pages of ‘The Avengers’ and ‘New Avengers.’ Over the past few years, a secret group of Earth heroes (including Iron Man and Doctor Strange) have been secretly saving the Earth from “incursions,” bizarre, cosmic events where universes collide with each other and destroy everything and everyone in both dimensions ... unless the inhabitants of one world destroy the other one first. It’s heavy stuff. Anyway, ‘Secret Wars’ begins when the traditional Marvel Universe collides with the Ultimate Marvel Universe (the completely separate universe launched 15 years ago that was never intended to crossover with the regular Marvel universe but this is comic books, so it’s best not to ask), shattering both worlds and creating a new “Battleworld.” Naturally, everyone is going to fight a lot, but eventually, the dust will have to settle and the Marvel Universe will be remade. Here’s Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso’s statement on the event:
This is putting an endcap to decades of stories and starting a new era. When you see the scope of the event, [you will] see what we’re willing to do. This is a place where we’re going to be bringing new pieces onto the board and taking old pieces off. You guys will be yelling and screaming, loving and hating in equal measure.
To be fair, the honchos at Marvel hype every single major crossover event as a world-changing-can-never-be-undone-kill-everyone-style event, but ‘Secret Wars’ feels different and the timing is right. Remember that Disney now owns Marvel. They write the checks for the movies everyone loves. Disney, more than anything, is the master of synergy. Cold, ruthless, clever, evil, and genuinely admirable in its audaciousness synergy. Note how they wiped out the entire ‘Star Wars’ extended universe with the wave of a finger when they acquired Lucasfilm. Note how they then immediately got ‘Star Wars’ back under the Marvel banner and announced a line of new comic series (and novels and TV shows), making sure that every fan knew that these new stories mattered and that everything going forward would matter. Disney made it clear: the new movies and the comics (and everything else) all carry the same weight. You’re going to have to read and watch ‘em all.
See where we’re going with this?
It is no secret that modern comic books have been bending over backwards to look more like the movies based on them. Tony Stark started acting like Robert Downey Jr. Star-Lord got a Chris Pratt makeover. Old, white Nick Fury was gradually replaced by his long lost son, who looks an awful lot Like Samuel L. Jackson. The comics have even begun to look ahead. Recently, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, the mutant superheroes who have been X-Men villain Magneto’s children for decades, were revealed to be Inhumans. Who weren’t Magneto’s kids at all.
It’s no coincidence: Marvel/Disney own the rights to the Inhumans (and have a movie out in a few years) and they don’t own the rights to Magneto or the X-Men, but they are introducing Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch into their mutant-free movie universe with ‘Avengers 2.’ Disney and Marvel are playing the long game here. They’ve planted seeds for a Marvel universe that won’t have to rely so heavily on characters and concepts that are owned by rivals like 20th Century Fox. Like we said: evil ... but totally admirable.
Hell, Hickman even killed off Namor the Sub-Mariner in the most recent issue of ‘New Avengers.’ And guess what? Universal owns Namor.
So this is where we peer into the abyss and make a prediction about the conclusion of ‘Secret Wars.’ We could be wrong, but we’ve been following Disney and Marvel Studios for too long to not have our suspicions.
When the fighting stops and Marvel Universe reboots (because that’s what this is and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise), we’ll most likely be looking at a Marvel Comics Universe that looks a whole lot like the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Don’t expect to see too many X-Men (except the most popular ones). Don’t expect to see much of the Fantastic Four at all. Expect to see a lot of Inhumans, though. And don’t be surprised when the likes of Captain Marvel, Black Panther and Doctor Strange become new central players (they have new movies coming out).
It’s awfully crafty. The ever-popular Marvel movies and the always-struggling comics (such is the constant state of the sequential art industry) could mirror each other, elaborate on each other. Imagine a Marvel comic book universe where stories are tested out on paper, adapted into movies, and then republished into fancy schmancy new collection that act as movie tie-ins. Synergy.
It’s impossible to over-emphasize this: this is a speculation. Educated speculation from people who have spent far too many hours watching movies, reading comics, and analyzing corporate decisions from major film studios, but speculation nonetheless. But it makes too much sense! When the DC Universe rebooted (again) a few years back with the New 52, sales saw a huge bump as new readers flocked to their local comic shops, eager to get into comics without the previously necessary legwork. After all, the biggest hurdle to getting someone to pick up a comic is the decades-long backstory that makes some storylines impenetrable.
That initiative was ultimately a failure because the New 52 was a creative disaster plagued by terrible books and the newbies fled. But Marvel? Marvel has never been better. Their books are eclectic and fun, with some series delivering epic superhero action while others are essentially humor comics. Talented writers and artists are doing groundbreaking work, telling stories that appeal to readers of both sexes and all ages. If Marvel opens the door to movie fans and maintains this streak of quality in the face of whatever major universe-shifting plans its parent company has, they could do what DC couldn’t: they could actually get new people to try out and stick with comic books. After all, if every person who saw ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ actually went out and sampled the comics, the folks at the top of the company would start laughing and never stop.
This is the kind of move that will undoubtedly anger old school fans (who will complain, but will keep buying comics anyway), but Disney must see those Marvel movie receipts and wonder why they can’t squeeze more out of the source material. When ‘Secret Wars’ is over, the Marvel universe will surely be a simpler place, a place where casual fans can jump in and out without having to worry about getting lost. Major events will be undone. Dead characters will be revived. Entire identities will be changed. Nick Fry will always have been Samuel L. Jackson. Heck, they’ll even throw longtime fans a bone by reinstating Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson’s magically dissolved marriage (don’t ask). It’s a great time to be a superhero movie fan, but it’s a downright weird time to be a superhero comic fan. All we can do now is wait for the wars to be over and see what happens next.