Marvel Confirms a Convergence of Universes in ‘Secret Wars’—But What Does It All Mean?
Everything changes and nothing will ever be the same again. At a live filmed announcement at Midtown Comics in Manhattan on Thursday afternoon, Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso and executive editor Tom Brevoort announced a new status quo for the Marvel Universe, with worlds colliding to form a mish-mash of continuities that will be the setting for all Marvel comics from May 2015 onwards.
Most of what Alonso and Brevoort announced was already known or guessed at; Secret Wars, an eight-issue series by Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic, marks the culmination of the incursion story that Hickman began at the outset of Marvel NOW with Avengers #1 and New Avengers #1 back in late 2012, and will brings together multiple continuities and alternative universes in a single “Battleworld”. What's new in all this is the confirmation that this event reshapes—some might say “reboots”—the Marvel Universe for the (foreseeable) future.
The announcement is available to watch on YouTube, above, complete with technical difficulties and a 13.5 minute delay.
For those who haven't been following Hickman's Avengers, Brevoort offered a brief recap of the existential crisis at the core of those titles; the Marvel multiverse has been collapsing, with parallel earths colliding. In each incursion either one Earth must be destroyed or both realities will cease to be.
Secret Wars #1 sees the Marvel Universe's Earth—popularly called Earth 616—collide with the Earth of the Ultimate Universe. The heroes of both worlds will try to prevent their mutual destruction, and Brevoort admitted that by the end of the first issue they will fail. The resulting “Battleworld” will be a melting pot of different universes that will forge the new Marvel Universe.
Brevoort said that the idea for this new Secret Wars predates Hickman's Avengers run, and may even predate his Fantastic Four run. He said, “It's difficult to imagine something that would be larger in scope, in scale, than ... Secret Wars,” adding, “What we'll do to top it, I don't know.” Alonso stressed that every Marvel event during the Marvel NOW era has been created in a way that was “mindful” of what was coming with Secret Wars—presumably that's especially true of the current multiversal event Spider-Verse.
This means that the concepts that Marvel trailed back in October all represent part of the new merged continuity, including zones of Battleworld based on Avengers vs X-Men, Age of Ultron, Civil War, House of M, Age of Apocalypse, and many more -- including a world in which Peter Parker is married to Mary Jane and the pair are raising their daughter, May. Each of these concepts also represents one of the new titles that Marvel will publish. An interactive map of Battleworld is available to explore on Marvel.com.
Alonso took pains to stress that these books will be the Marvel Universe books, all in continuity with each other in a state of convergence. “The Marvel Universe is Battleworld, and every world we're going to introduce you to, all of which will be familiar... every single piece of this world is a building block for the Marvel Universe moving forward. None of these stories are Elseworlds or What Ifs or alternative reality stories. They're not set in the past or the future; they're not set in an alternative reality, they're set in the reality of the Marvel Universe, and all of them will have legs. The stories will not end and you'll go, ‘well, phew, that's over’ ... They will import new things into the Marvel Universe moving forward.”
This new status quo invites all sorts of questions, such as, how will characters interact between Battleworld zones, and how many New Yorks will there be, and how many versions of the same character will be running around? Alonso mentioned that this set-up would allow Marvel to bring back Gwen Stacy (which the company has already done); Brevoort said there could be multiple Gwen Stacys.
The strength of this approach is that it gives Marvel a broader playground. The weakness may be in creating an unrecognizably alien Marvel Universe in which nothing feels consequential. Marvel may want to quash the notion that some stories matter more than others, but ultimately a Miles Morales or Gwen Stacy-led Spider-book set in a different corner of Battleworld may feel no more essential to Marvel fans than a Morales or Stacy book set in another reality. The new status quo may also be needlessly confusing; it's not clear if the multiple parallel realities on one planet will eventually reconcile, or if there will simply always be potentially infinite Gwen Stacys running around on a planet that looks nothing like our own
Secret Wars will kick off with a zero issue for Free Comic Book Day on May 3rd, which will also contain the first part of Marvel's Attack On Titan crossover story, presumably set in an alternate reality that will then be wiped out or merged with Battleworld. The first two issues of Secret Wars will both ship in May, with covers by Alex Ross. The second issue will be giant-sized, and will feature a tour of the new Battleworld.
As previously announced, Marvel is partnering with collectibles company Gentle Giant, trading card and games maker Upper Deck, retailer Hot Topic, bobblehead giant Funko, and toy maker Hasbro to create merchandising for Secret Wars.
Marvel will make further announcements over the next two weeks, including titles and creative teams. The new status quo will be published under the collective title ‘All-New Marvel’.