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Everything Ends: Our Thoughts on Marvel's Secret Wars and Beyond

Comic Books

Everything Ends: Our Thoughts on Marvel’s Secret Wars and Beyond

Everything is about to end, at least in the world of Marvel Comics. Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers saga has drawn to a close, and now there is only Battleworld. Until September, anyway.

Throughout the intervening months, nearly all of Marvel’s regular series will be canceled and replaced with titles detailing the doings on the new patchwork planet. It’s a bold move, like Age of Apocalypse on Pym particles.

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But will it succeed? Do we find these concepts interesting enough to read about while pressing pause on everything else? How do retailers feel about this gamble? And what will come out the other side? Could it be the dreaded “R-word”?

Natural questions that everyone asks, and the natural question-askers here at AiPT! are not exceptions. Some of us bashed our heads together, like worlds colliding, and here’s the resultant melange of thoughts.

secret wars #1

How interested are you in following Battleworld for four months? Any replacement books you’re especially looking forward to?

Dave: This alternate dimension stuff has been Jonathan Hickman’s bread and butter for so long I can’t imagine this isn’t their send off to the concept. I, for one, am very bored with the concept as a whole, partly because it’s been so overdone, but also because it’s gotten so big. The idea of bringing all these alternate dimensions together is a fun idea though, especially for those who love characters not in the 616. It’s also nice for Marvel to have a series like this as it validates all these elseworld stories and makes them matter more.

However, the whole event is basically a straight competition with DC Comics, who have their Convergence storyline hitting right now. It’s also a bit similar to the thing that kicked off the New 52 and their Pandora character. Sure, they aren’t exactly the same, but it feels like the big two are doing something so similar why bother reading either.

Marvel has a long history of their heroes fighting one another. I imagine some are seeing this as a Secret Wars sequel only there are way more chips on the table. So in that respect this series brings with it some nostalgia.

I have faith their main event book will be coherent enough to enjoy. That said, so often the tie-ins suffer, partly because they have so little time to flesh out their stories, or so little story to fill the 3 or so issues most tie-ins run. We shall see, but if there’s anything Marvel has a long history of, it’s their events becoming a bit of a mess as far as tie-ins are concerned.

Jordan: Personally, I don’t really mind any idea a company has for an event/story. Almost any idea could work as long as the execution is fine and the higher ups don’t meddle too much. That being said, I’m very much indifferent to this whole event as a whole. It could be because I have a very low opinion of Hickman’s books that were leading up to this for multiple reasons, the fact that I have read his last event (which was shockingly boring and decompressed), and that I’m just very tired of events from Marvel in general. They haven’t had a good one in years and I’ve got a bad feeling about this one as well.

As for tie-ins, the only ones I’m partially interested in would be Old Man Logan and A-Force, but not because they sound interesting. It’s only because I’m interested in parts of the creative teams on the books. Honestly, most of the tie-ins don’t sound all that appealing or even like they are going to matter that much in the end (like Convergence I feel), so it’s hard to really get that invested or excited about any of them.


Nick: I like the idea from a conceptual standpoint. This reboot (and yes, no matter how you rebrand this, it is a reboot) serves as a great last hurrah for some beloved alternate universes/story settings, while also streamlining things a great deal. Where my opinion might differ a little more than most is that I’m looking forward to some of the offshoot series more than the main one. That’s mostly due it being orchestrated by Jonathan Hickman.

Now, now… put down your torches and pitch forks and allow me to explain. Jordan and I are two of the only people I know who are willing to publicly admit how much we haven’t enjoyed his work on Avengers. I know that makes me look like a simplistic dolt. But to me, it feels like his plotting was so in love with/weighted down in its own complexity that it often crushed the story beneath it. Hickman’s a brilliant guy, but I just I don’t know if his style is right for me… which makes me more than a little wary of this event. Hell, the guy used his tie-in issues for Original Sin, a pretty straight-forward sci-fi murder mystery, and turned it into a (headache inducing) time travel paradox. Just imagine what he could do with Howard the Duck!

Dog: Some people complain about regular titles being “derailed” during big event stories like this, but to me, it’s part and parcel of existing in a shared universe. You take the good with the bad; if you want Spider-Man to guest star every now and then, you can’t try to jump out of the sandbox when the terrain starts to shift.

And really, this is the kind of off-the-wall nuttiness that can only happen in comics. I’m too old to be a millennial, but I must share their attention spans, because I like when things are shaken up every now and then. I enjoy a nice, long-form story as much as anyone, but I also love being pushed out of my comfort zone and seeing what happens when a crazy concept takes over and connects things that might not otherwise be related.

It doesn’t get any crazier than blowing up the world and letting several dozen realms from different universes fight it out over the remains. That’s why Kieron Gillen’s Siege might be my most anticipated Secret Wars title. A ragtag group, trying to contain the insanity of Ultron drones, zombies and the Annihilation Wave with a wall and an armory full of Cyclops clones. That’s the kind of s--t this medium was made for.


Will readers buy into this concept? Will Secret Wars end up helping or hurting retailers?

Nick: This isn’t your yearly/bi-annual Marvel event. This is a reboot.

I’ll say it again: This. Is. A. Reboot.

But it’s not a RESET — continuity stays the same and marches forward. But when you relaunch over half your library and eliminate/consolidate a sizable portion of said continuity, it’s a reboot…and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

I’m not much of a DC guy, but some folks seemed to really hate the New 52 simply for how it discarded everything into the multiverse. Marvel, on the other hand, is pulling their multiverse into one very cool place before blowing it up. This allows for some great storytelling opportunities with something for everyone. It also serves as a great culmination of Hickman’s planetary incursion thread he started in Avengers (see, I don’t hate the guy!)

Dave: I’m going to take a guess here and say sales will be all over the place. Huge fans of Spider-Man 2099 will flock to that book, others to groupings they love, but I highly doubt everyone will be buying into every single series.

Jordan: The sales for the main book and A-Force are going to be fine. I have yet to see Marvel bomb when it comes to an event, so the main title shouldn’t have many problems selling. The other books are probably going to vary a lot depending on the creative teams.

Dog: Anecdotally, it sounds like you guys are right on. On the one hand, Peter Dolan of Middletown, N.Y.’s Main Street Comics says he’s ordering more than he normally would of everything, as there’s been a lot of advance interest in both the main series and the tie-ins. But not everyone’s looking for everything; the Spider-Man fans are jazzed for Renew Your Vows, the Hulk fans are excited for Planet Hulk, etc.


Conversely, Adam at Dark Tower Comics in Newburgh, N.Y., tells me he’s ordering the bare minimum of everything, as it’s “easy as hell to get burned” on something like this. He’s worried that he’ll get stuck with stacks of things that don’t sell. I should note, though, that this is a lower volume store, and when I asked specifically about Renew Your Vows, Adam didn’t even know what I meant. So take it for what it’s worth.

Looking at the hard data, though, it’s starting to seem like retailers were cautious early and are becoming more confident as we get closer. According to Bleeding Cool, 20 of the top 25 advance reorders this week are for Secret Wars-related books. After already selling out of its initial half-million copies, the first issue of the main series has gone back for a second printing.

Is it a reboot? What will the Marvel Universe look like this fall? Will some of these titles really continue?

Jordan: Is it a reboot? At best, it’s a very soft reboot where they’ll be able to start a ton of new number one issues (because Marvel loves their number ones). They’ll definitely be changing up a lot of status quos by the end of this, probably to make them more similar to their cinematic universe, but I don’t expect we’ll be starting from scratch with this universe.

Dog: Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso still insists the universe’s history doesn’t need fixing, but as time goes on, he lets slip more and more that new characters, concepts, regions and who knows what else will work their way in. If characters are combined and everyone remembers everything any version of them has experienced, is that a reboot, or just a rejiggering? I don’t know.

As Dave said, it’s funny how Marvel and DC Comics tend to parallel each other, often coincidentally. Even though Secret Wars has been in the pipeline for years, I kind of think Marvel going forward will treat continuity much like DC has said it will. A tight group of main titles (Avengers and such) overlapping and showing each other’s consequences, while everything else sort of does its own thing. Alonso has already said the X-Men will more-or-less keep to themselves once the world is restored.

And I think replacing everything with these fun, continuity-light stories for the next few months is Marvel’s attempt to recondition readers that not everything has to “count” for them to enjoy it. The mood is already shifting — with the success of self-contained stuff like Hawkeye, Spider-Gwen, etc. — and this may be how the company communicates to everyone else that they don’t have to know where everything “fits,” either.


Then you can have the cake of a shared universe and eat it, too. And maybe books like Old Man Logan and Planet Hulk really can continue, as they want us to believe they will, without all the OCD hand-wringing. Do you really need to know why a story about Captain America battling gamma monsters as he rides Devil Dinosaur is “important”? It’s freaking bad-ass! If it sounds good, read it!

Dave: Funny thing is Captain America was involved in a Devil Dinosaur story two years ago. I think this event is going to end where we left off, with a few fan favorites sticking around, but everything going back to the way it was in the 616. More often than not these events allow some escapism and rejiggering of our characters only to have it all go back to relative normal. The only difference is they hand pick a few changes so that things feel a bit different, but not that far off.


…and I’m really not sure why some folks feel that’s a bad thing. It’s not like Marvel’s wiping the slate clean. Like I said before, they are consolidating and eliminating through telling a story. If you ask me, that’s the exact way a reboot should be done–not with ‘reality punches’ or different continuities multiplying under the guise of alternate, bygone settings.

Look, I loved the Ultimate Universe, but it had definitely run its course. Same goes for many of the other brands/realities being given a last chance to shine this summer. Instead of continuing to beat them to death, the best parts of each (like Miles Morales from the Ultimate U) will stick around. The rest will get to wave farewell to mainline Marvel continuity in dramatic fashion.


Dave: Nick uses the word reboot like he’s Mel Gibson at the end of Braveheart. There. I said it.

Nick: Only instead of gutting my intestines, Marvel will be gutting my wallet this summer.

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