The Marvel Comic Universe Ends in May with "Secret Wars"

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“The Marvel Universe as you know it is done.”

Tom Brevoort, Senior Vice President of Publishing and Executive Editor at Marvel, spoke those words earlier today during a press conference at Midtown Comics in New York City (YouTube embed below — the conference starts around 13:31). “The Ultimate Universe as you know it is done.”

Brevoort, along with Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso and Junior Sales & Communications Administrator Chris D’Lando, confirmed that the fictional universe populated by such superhero icons as The Avengers, The X-Men, Spider-Man and Squirrel Girl would soon undergo a radical reconstruction, culminating from recent storylines in Avengers and New Avengers. Within those series, worlds from multiple universes have been colliding, obliterating each other in the process; the only way to avoid annihilation is for one world to destroy the other. Brevoort and Alonso revealed that the last two worlds to collide will be the traditional Marvel Universe as well as The Ultimate Universe — a separate world and publishing line introduced in 2002 that presented streamlined versions of Marvel characters to attract new readers.

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All of these disparate threads wind into a new miniseries called Secret Wars. As Brevoort noted, “It sounds like typical Stan Lee hyperbole — there’s nothing wrong with typical Stan Lee hyperbole — but it is difficult to imagine something that would be larger in scope and scale then what we’re doing with Secret Wars.” The actual Secret Wars title will be written by Avengers scribe Jonathan Hickman with art by Esad Ribic and covers by Alex Ross.

So what does this mean? Unlike competitor DC Comic’s New 52 relaunch four years ago, Marvel isn’t making an entirely fresh start as much as a huge Girl Talk mixtape comprised of different timelines and universes occupying the same pages. Instead of destroying each other, the traditional Marvel Universe and Ultimate Universe will merge into one new entity — but they’ll also invite other Marvel universes to their party. Such pocket realities include the Marvel Zombies (the heroes shuffle after brains and eat their family, much to their regret), The Age of Ultron (smart robots hunt organic flesh for coopting), The Age of Apocalypse (a big blue mutant with an “A” on his belt throws the human race into a concentration camp) and Old Man Logan (Wolverine fights an incestuous Hulk who’s taken over the Playboy Mansion…no, really). This may sound incredibly overwhelming, but as each reality exists on one globe called “battleworld,” expect these conflicting nationstates to clash until a new status quo emerges. And who doesn’t want to see country/western Hulk fight zombies?

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An event of this magnitude has seen ample foreshadowing throughout multiple titles in the last few years. Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers both alluded that the Marvel Universe earth was bound for some bad quantum physics, what with all of the time-traveling and dimension hopping within its orbit.

This new shift could also provide Marvel with a new degree of flexibility to mold its movie and comic universes in tandem; the publisher has already switched The Avengers characters Quicksilver and The Scarlet Witch to non-mutants to avoid any legal issues with 20th Century Fox, who hold the license to marvel’s X-Men properties. With a rebooted universe, the movies and comics can grow together without decades of continuity to interfere. Alonso and Brevoort mentioned an unprecedented level of coordination with different departments to achieve this event, so you can bet the branch that produced the third highest grossing film of all time might have been involved.

Are you confused? Don’t worry: so are we. The bottom line is that Marvel has employed two very talented creators to craft a complex, batshit crazy comic book event that will sever every loose end of every story told in its publishing line. (Also: Alonso basically said that deceased Spider-Man girlfriend Gwen Stacy will be exiting her coffin). The more interesting question is what this chaos will birth after the series concludes.

Secret Wars #0 will be available for Free Comic Day on May 3rd.

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