Earlier this morning came the big news announcement that Marvel Comics’ major 2015 event, SECRET WARS, would be… everything most people had predicted. , Set for May this year, Secret Wars would mark the end of the Marvel Universe as we know it and the Ultimate Universe as we know it.
Secret Wars #1
Cover art by Alex Ross
Yes, that’s right, after over 50 years, the Marvel Universe is coming to an end. But not really.
You see, while both Universes will be sacrificed during Secret Wars, a new, better world – a “Battleworld” – is being created in its place. In fact, Marvel has just released an interactive Battleworld map.
So if we’re truly saying bye to the Marvel Universe, why am I, a lifelong Marvel fan, not too worried?
Firstly, there is no change in continuity!
One of Marvel’s main draws is its dedication to continuity. Unlike DC’s New 52 reboot, which drastically altered the origins and histories of many beloved characters and teams, Marvel has never thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Sure, there have been constant tweaks, ret-cons and the occassional “let’s pretend that never happened” in order to not feel beholden to history – like having Tony Stark be captured by terrorists in Afghanistan instead of Communists in Vietnam. But largely, no one’s origin has been tweaked beyond recognition. Even if your name is Jessica Drew.
So even with Secret Wars and Battleworld, all that has happened in the Marvel Universe has still happened. The Marvel Universe characters (presumably only those that get transported over) will technically still remember everything they’ve been through. Think of it as how 2009’s Star Trek is in continuity, because Leonard Nimoy’s old Spock remembers everything from his universe.
Secondly, it’s not like “All-New Marvel” is really going to be “All-New”.
When September comes around and the “All-New Marvel” label kicks in, I doubt we’re going to see THAT much change. The current slate of “All-New” books has never strayed too far from their source material. All-New Captain America still has Steve Rogers in a supporting role. All-New Thor still features the Odinson. Even All-New Ghost Rider, set in East Los Angeles, isn’t free from Johnny Blaze. Here’s my guess why that is never going to change.
One of the things that really appealed to me about the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) was how much the movies were faithful to their comic book counterparts. For the most part anyway. Yes, certain characterisations were way off, like the Mandarin, or Drax. And the omission of certain characters still stings, like Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne not being founding members of the MCU Avengers. But in all fairness, those are the only differences in an otherwise brilliant series of movies that manage to stay true to their comic book roots without losing their mainstream appeal.
Marvel knows it has a rich treasure trove of characters. It has committed to ride the MCU wave till at least 2019. So anything they do right now on the comics front is a potential moneymaker in Hollywood. They’re definitely not going to suddenly discard the essence of what makes them tick, and risk the MCU’s long-term profit for Secret Wars‘ short-term gains.
But it’s the loss of the Marvel Universe as I know it!
Avengers #44 and New Avengers #33
Interlocking Cover Art by Dustin Weaver
Maybe it’s just because I’ve been reading Sean Howe‘s excellent work, Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, and realising how my 20 years as a Marvel fan are really just a tiny part of a much greater adventure that sees history repeating itself more than we suspect.
Maybe it’s because 20 years ago, my own journey with Marvel Comics began with Captain America “Volume 2, Issue 1″, arguably their lowest point in their modern history. Marvel was facing the prospect of bankruptcy, and their classic characters like the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, which weren’t doing well sales-wise, were being unceremoniously dumped in a little storyline called “Heroes Reborn”. For an excruciating year, their origins were re-written and all semblance of continuity went out the window.
If I had been the fan I am today when I read those storylines, I would probably have thought Marvel had lost its mind. But I wasn’t. Instead, I was just an excitable teenager rediscovering comic books, but now empowered with the ability to buy them on my own. The re-written origins and the lack of continuity were not obvious to me – a new fan. By 1997, Captain America had a new #1, this time from the creative team of Mark Waid and Ron Garney, and I had found myself hooked into a fandom that would go on to define the rest of my life.
So, in summary, I’m not too worried. Marvel has nothing to lose and everything to gain by making this change in Secret Wars, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.