Was anyone else expecting something bigger? When Tuesday came around and the big announcement from Marvel was finally revealed, we all learned that … well, Secret Wars is going to happen and the multiverse is going to do battle on a Battleworld to see what reality makes it out alive. When I type that out, it sounds crazy-exciting, but when it’s revealed as this big surprise, it falls a little flat.
We’ve been prepping for this series of events since Marvel NOW!, when Jonathan Hickman took over the Avengers books and put us on a very wordy adventure toward universes colliding into one another. Longtime readers sort of just assumed that was the direction they were going to go, whether through reading the books with a keen eye — Oh, hey! That’s why they called Hickman’s run “Avengers World”! I just got that! — or other announcements made before Tuesday.
I’m certainly not trying to say it wasn’t a big announcement; multiversal collision and universe dominance is kind of the biggest concept you can get until you start pitting multiverses against multiverses, and that won’t happen, no matter how much we might want to see Daredevils fight Batmen. It’s just that the announcement isn’t a surprise. It makes too much sense, what with all the radical continuity changes of late. The Ultimate Universe has gotten pretty far off course, and it deserves to go live on a farm somewhere and be happy. There are already multiversal characters appearing throughout the Marvel Universe, so the idea that we might wrap all of this up on a Battleworld is a cool direction to be heading in.
But this is just the facts of the announcement. We haven’t even gotten into the angry ranting and the wild conjecture! Join me, won’t you?
Conjecture says this is going to be Marvel’s New 52, and that all the other Earths and universes are going to collapse down into one with a variety of survivors to fill out a new universe to tell stories in. With multiverse characters all on one planet, canon would be in a state of flux. Sure, Tony Stark may be Iron Man, but who is this Tony Stark? It would allow writers to have more of an imprint on the books they’re writing now, and make these creators possibly the most important in this era of Marvel. Imagine if all the What If? comics didn’t end in horrifying catastrophe and were pulled from to create a new Marvel Universe. Like Daredevil and Elektra as a couple without all of the baggage? Well, they both show up from Earth What-Have-You clean as a whistle from ninja cults and resurrections, and live on our new Earth. It’s a surprising amount of freedom given to creators considering how rigid comic books can be, so I can see why the Bullpen is super-excited and thought this announcement was going to knock our socks off.
But it didn’t. Because this idea (all conjecture at this point, mind you) is, well, kind of dumb.
Again, I have to make sure this is understood: I have no idea how Marvel is going to get from where we are now to post-Secret Wars. All I do know is what they’ve told us — battling multiverses! — and what I can guess, thanks to my slavish devotion to reading dense Hickman Avengers comics. Secret Wars is coming, no matter how silly I think the result might turn out, so to chide something that doesn’t even really exist yet, and will eventually exist no matter what I think or say, is doubly dumb on my part. But you can’t write a column about waiting and seeing and being rational, so let’s talk about the multiverse.
The fact that a multiverse or parallel Earth or alternate universe is an actual concept in science is awesome. Mind you, the jury is still out as whether it’s an actual possibility, but it’s fun to think about, right? Comic books come with baggage from every other issue before it, even the No. 1 issues, so scrapping all of that and saying “This is Earth 456!” has to be incredibly freeing for writers and readers, to some extent. Both DC and Marvel are known for their multiverses and numbering systems that go with them. As we can look at our own history from a different perspective by using a multiverse concept, comics history can know itself by creating a world where X didn’t happen or Y was the dominant choice made. Miles Morales can meet Peter Parker, and they can learn a little something from each other’s experiences. Cable can fight Nate Grey, and it can feel like two totally different people despite similar backgrounds. The Captain Britain Corps can exist and set a unifying concept for the title of Captain Britain.
A multiverse also means multiple starting points for new readers, who I can assure you, do not care if this is Earth 456 or Earth 2256 when they pick up that first issue. If a comic is good, that comic becomes that reader’s world, and like sports, becomes a sort of home team. Case in point? The ’90s X-Men animated series. Yeah, it’s a cartoon, but it is the X-Men for an entire generation of comic readers. That TV show had its own style and take on popular X-Men events and could be considered more popular than the books published at that time; it’s very easy to see them as separate universes, despite their similar histories. When current comics get too complicated or mired down in their continuity to be considered “new-reader friendly,” multiverse books can step up and reinvent the wheel.
My vote is that, once Secret Wars is said and done, it plays like a game of musical chairs. To eliminate all other multiverse concepts seems too slash and burn and, as the Distinguished Competition knows, it doesn’t always go according to plan. We can shuffle around the casts of our various universes and settle them into new worlds and homes and then everyone goes their separate ways with a multiverse still intact, just feng shui’d a little. It would still explain the big deaths and changes to the current storylines and allow new characters to plug in those holes or explain why Wanda and Pietro aren’t Magneto’s kids or whathaveyou and allow the multiverse to go on as a concept for future use. Because, let’s face it, “We have to go back … to BATTLEWORLD!” is an awesome tag line for another mega event
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