I haven't done one of these in a while, because if you look too long into the solicitations, they start to stare back.
With all the access we have to spoilers, reviews, previews and other online chatter, it can be difficult to enjoy what's in front of you when you're already thinking about what's to come three months from now, let alone when the next event is going to hit. But that next event is coming, along with a enormous overhaul of the Marvel line, so let's hop in the time machine of this year's June solicitations and try to find a road map for the end of the world.
First off, 33 series will reach their "616 finales" as a result of Secret Wars, with some returning in one form or another. The list is extensive, with some titles cleared away for redundancy after two Marvel NOW launches, probably a few canceled for poor sales (I'm looking at you, Avengers World), and then you see this: The Amazing Spider-Man. But let's think of this another way, as in the long, long ago of the 1990s, Marvel canceled every one of its bestselling X-Men titles. The whole line was scrapped ... and retitled under "Age of Apocalypse." Yeah, there was no Uncanny X-Men or Adjectiveless X-Men anywhere, but we did have Amazing X-Men and Astonishing X-Men, so it was a name and a theme change for the larger event. So while the announcement might sound the air-raid sirens that something super-drastic has happened, it probably hasn't. Post-Secret Wars, we'll probably have a new Spider-Man book with a new #1 on the cover (ugh) and a new creative direction.
This means Dan Slott might not be writing Spider-Man anymore; Brian Michael Bendis is leaving the X-Books as of Uncanny X-Men #600. These two events may not be related in the slightest.
Secondly, as far as I see it, Secret Wars is going to force arcs on all the books that want to participate. The first arc is "Last Days Of," a banner on the titles "ending" as Secret Wars destroys the 616 universe as we know it. June's "Last Days Of" titles include Silver Surfer #13, Ms. Marvel #16, Black Widow #19, The Punisher #19, Magneto #19, Captain America & the Mighty Avengers #9, and Loki: Agent of Asgard #15. What kind of sucks about these titles pulling a "Last Days Of" is that some of them are very young (Congratulations! Your world ends at Issue 9!) and a few of these books (Silver Surfer and Ms. Marvel in particular) are really new-reader friendly.
Imagine if you invited a new friend over to your house, only for her to bring along a tide of very complicated pals. I'm not saying she shouldn't be involved in Secret Wars (although other books should; I'll get to that later). I'm just saying it's going to be complicated. And sad. Oh, so sad. This isn't the first time Marvel has played with the idea of the end of the world or the end of its franchise titles, but The End was a series of minis that kind of existed outside the regular books. You could read them if you wanted, but now its all part of the show and not everyone wants to watch something they love die. At least, people who don't watch The Walking Dead.
The next phase is what I like to call the crazy-pants phase or as Marvel titled it, "Battleworld." This is just all of your What If? and Elseworlds ideas thrown into the blender. This is a a great playground for creators and fans to enjoy all the different facets of their favorite characters, and a nightmarish hellscape of Diamond orders for retailers. Some books are going to have numbers that transfer well, others are going to be complete guesses at what customers are going to want to read, so please be kind to your local comic shops in June, and make sure they know if you're going to be checking out any of this weird nonsense.
Trust me, it's the good kind of nonsense, though, and a fun time to explore some new characters you've never seen before and may never see again. Highlights include Thors by Jason Aaron and Christopher Sprouce (THOR COPS!), Ghost Racers by Felipe Smith and Juan Gedeon (FAST AND THE FURIOUS FLAMING SKULL HEADS!), Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows from Dan Slott and Adam Kubert (DAN SLOTT WILL NOT STOP TROLLING YOU), Giant-Sized Little Marvel: AvX from Skottie Young (YAY, KIDS STUFF!) and 1872 from Gerry Duggan and Evan "Doc" Shaner (I AM A HUGE WESTERN NERD). The last thing that caught my eye was that Marguerite Bennett, currently writing Angela: Asgard's Assassin with Kieron Gillan, will go solo with Years of Future Past. Angela has been pretty good, and I'm curious to see how Bennett's style can influence a well-known classic X-Men story.
There's more, lots more, with each "Battleworld" title spinning out of control until it hits the wall and Marvel sees what sticks. But then there are the Professor and Mary Anne of Marvel, grouped as books that will not be participating in Secret Wars (at least not as of June). Sure, a lot of these are their licensed books (sorry, folks, Star Wars is not going to be in Secret Wars), but there still remain some outliers in the Marvel Universe. None of these titles is on the cancellation list, either (aside from one, but I'm getting ahead of myself), so please consider these a safe haven if this summer's event is just too much.
Moon Knight and Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier will keep rolling along in their weird little way, which makes sense. While Bucky might have been more easily combined into Secret Wars, considering he's in a "secret war" as the new Watcher on the Wall, both books are offbeat and have their own little orbit even now. Entering Secret Wars would only drown them in a lot of other noise, and their creativity would be lost. All-New Hawkeye counts as well, mostly because it's gone so far off the beaten path that I have to remember that Hawkeye is an Avenger. A lot of that distance (good and bad) has to do with Fraction/Aja making Clint Barton an individual entity with episodic adventures and Hawkeye being a very late title that we don't mind waiting for.
Silk, Spider-Woman and Spider-Gwen are also free of the summer event, making their own little pocket of Spider-themed tales. These three solo women's titles are great entry points for new YA readers, hitting an awesome demographic and introducing them to the world of Marvel at a comfortable distance. Because if you're just starting in comics and are already a little hesitant to grab an X-Men comic off the wall, the last thing you want to do is stare down the tsunami of Secret Wars. I'm a little surprised that Ms. Marvel didn't make this group, but it does seem to be spider-themed, and Kamala's story can be for the adventurous readers who want to take on that tsunami head on, making for a balanced move on Marvel's part.
Rocket Raccoon is on the cancellation list, but we are getting Groot #1 from Jeff Lovelace and Brian Kesinger. Both are newcomers to comics, but advanced in their fields (Kessinger works for Disney Animation and Loveness is a writer for Jimmy Kimmel Live!). Switching out one part of the cosmic duo for another is fine and, again, makes for some light, funny reading in the wake of the dire seriousness of Secret Wars. Howard the Duck also stands aside from the event, as the HDIC probably couldn't care less about the status quo. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl rounds out the shameless fun trio as I believe these three titles will be the most important books in the Marvel Universe in June. Even if you do want to read Secret Wars for all the cross-dimensional madness that will ensure, even if you do love watching everything die and legacies end and universes get crushed, there will be a moment when a break for some comedy and lighthearted fun will be a glass of water in a bleak desert for the Marvel fan. On that day, Squirrel Girl will be there.
It's so weird to come to the end of the solicitation list and not see the X-Books or Icon titles before ther trades, but that's just how crazy Secret Wars is going to get. Take a look at the list for yourself and chime in with what you're looking forward to in June. Excelsior!